Jan 19, 2007

On Used Cars, Terrorists, and Small Businessmen

(Toledo, OH) I helped my daughter buy a car today from a business on Monroe Street called RAM Auto. Nick and Jay at RAM are hardworking businessmen who provide quality used cars for their customers (no, this is not a paid plug).

They happened to rent their building from someone involved in the so-called Toledo terror plot several years before Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim I. Mazloum were arrested on terrorism charges.

"We have nothing to do with any of that," said Nick as he filled out some title papers for me. "But the media looked us up on the Internet, saw we rented from them, and were harassing us for weeks."

Both men were reluctant to talk about the experience, saying that they just want to look forward. Nick, though, said that business was "terrible" for months after the arrests.

"They showed our business on television. Who would want to buy a car from a 'terrorist'?" he asked rhetorically, declining to quantify his losses. "We put up signs in the window saying we were not involved, but it was a long time before business picked back up again."

Things have improved in the past few months as the memory faded, said Nick.

"Thank God - we were able to survive this," he said, pausing to answer a ringing telephone.

Guilt by association is tough to defeat, especially given the fact that Nick and Jay have Middle Eastern accents. In this day and age, just looking or sounding diferent is enough to arouse suspicion.

By the way - the car runs well, so I give a hearty recommendation to RAM Auto. Maybe if Toledoans keep RAM Auto in mind when they are making a used car purchase, we can make up for the losses Nick and Jay incurred during our terror mania last year.


Anonymous said...

"Terror mania" is the right way to describe it. Notice how there's nothing else about these men. Its a shame that the car dealers got lumped in with the "terorists" just because they're Arabic.

Anonymous said...

HM, thanks for reporting on this. While at the time I thought of the other things that went on, I still said they had good deals. It is good that the good deals come with good people.

Chris Myers

historymike said...

Thanks, Chris and anonymous.

It really pisses me off when media types cast a wide net in the hope of finding a new angle.

These guys are good people, and it's a shame that they were smeared because of their relationship with one of the accused.

Anonymous said...

I not so quick to dismiss the shadow of guilt on the dealership. As my parents always said...You are just as guilty as those you hang around with.

While Nick and Jay may be completely innocent in the terror cell, the fact that that they had any type of relationship with these individuals warrented the scrutiny and investigations into their business.

Were we to assume at the time that there was no diversion of funds from the car dealer to terror cell and let them continue to do business as usual or should we have suspected that there quite possibly might be a connection that called for an investigation into their finances. Ignorence of the law has never been a viable alibi.

After 9/11, we as a society have for the most part been desensitized to the innocence of the Arab American. Just as we profile Arab Americans at the airports and train stations, we also do it at the corner carry-out. We question the motives of the Mosques, we listen in on their conversations, we watch them with a weary eye always looking for something out-of-the ordinary.

While this may not be ethical and infringed upon their Human Rights, we as an American society have been "trained" to do just such.

In my opinion, anyone who claims that they have not looked at Arabs under a different light since 9/11 are just lying. Sorta like a drug addict saying "I don't have a problem". While this may not be politicaly correct, it is the sad state of truth.

If I were to rent a house from a Drug dealer (knowingly or not) should I be suprised when then SWAT team shows up at my door step, busting down my door searching for drugs. NO! While I would hate it at the time, after the initial shock and reflecting back on the bust after a period of time had pass, I would come to the realization that the bust was completely justified. After all, I was renting from Drug Dealers!

So why I feel bad for Nick and Jay for having been caught up in the quagmire of a local terror cell, I refuse to critize the authority for laying suspect to them and doing the ensuing investigation.

I am happy that our justice system worked, that these suspects were cleared of any wrongdoing and were able to go back to their lives and business as usual. But I will not feel guilty for the authorities doing their job as well.