HEALING THE BAY. Kudos to Malama Maunalua. The community environmental group launched Imua Maunalua last week, an ambitious effort to bring together conservationists, business leaders, recreational interests and philanthropists to create a science-driven plan to restore ecologically troubled Maunalua Bay.

Led by Executive Director Frazer McGilvray – formerly the head of the state Department of Land and Natural ResourcesDivision of Aquatic Resources — Malama Maunalua embarked last year on the idea, which is based on successful efforts in California and Indonesia. The goal is a two-year, professionally facilitated process that will yield a plan strongly supported by the east Oahu community that surrounds and uses the bay.

Maunalua Bay, which leaders are banding together to restore through the Imua Maunalua project.

Maunalua Bay, which leaders are banding together to restore through the Imua Maunalua project.

Richard Wiens/Civil Beat

Maunalua needs the help. Persistently ranked among Hawaii’s least-healthy coastal areas, it is overfished, choked with sediment runoff and thick with recreational users. That’s why NOAA is trying to add to the bay’s status as part of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary with extra protections through a proposed special sanctuary management area.

That plan ran into a community buzzsaw over the summer, where the inadequacy of NOAA’s previous efforts to engage various Maunlua constituent groups and lack of effective partnering with DLNR were on prominent display. NOAA and DLNR are working to address criticisms and lingering perceptions from a packed town hall on the sanctuary proposal in July.

The Imua Maunalua effort should not be seen as a replacement for work on sanctuary management, but as an adjunct to that process and as an ongoing voice for bay-using constituents beyond the public comment opportunity afforded on NOAA’s plan. In a perfect world, the two efforts would be strongly aligned, given the shared interest in Maunalua Bay that drives both.

In fact, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, DLNR, the Nature Conservancy and the Hawaii Kai Chamber of Commerce are among a long list of groups supporting the Imua Maunalua. And Malama Manualua is making sure the effort is laser-focused on what participants agree is its most important outcome.

“We have no idea what’s going to come out of it on the other side,” McGilvray told Civil Beat last week. “What we do know is whatever plan the community comes up with has to heal the bay.”

Teenager Ahmed Mohamed, arrested for bringing a homemade digital clock to school.

Teenager Ahmed Mohamed, arrested for bringing a homemade digital clock to school.

via Twitter

STANDING WITH AHMED. Hawaii sets a strong standard for diversity, with its beautiful mix of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds blending in an environment characterized by mutual respect, aloha and a live-and-let-live attitude.

Racial tensions, religious discrimination and cultural bias so consistently prominent in mainland news coverage has a special dissonance in this environment. No single story has reminded us of that as vividly as last week’s appalling tale of the 14-year-old Texas boy arrested for bringing a digital clock to school last Monday that he had made to impress his science teacher.

As most of us now know, rather than being praised for his ingenuity and intellectual curiosity, Ahmed Mohamed was taken to the principal’s office, where he was interrogated by six adults – five of them uniformed police officers — over whether his invention was really a bomb. Despite his easily proven insistence that it was only a clock, police arrested and handcuffed the slender, soft-spoken boy and paraded him out of the school in full, humiliating view of his peers.

But America wasn’t having it. A photo of a handcuffed and anxious Ahmed exploded on social media. His sisters established a Twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, that by Thursday morning had amassed 85,000 followers, with a similar hashtag becoming Twitter’s top trend. President Obama drew major attention with a friendly tweet inviting Ahmed to the White House, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google executives, leaders from the International Space Station, NASA Space Camp, Reddit and Twitter and plenty of celebrities offered support, internships and more.

“Ahmed and his talents have become victims of a culture of suspicion that we must extinguish.” — U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California, a Chinese American and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

Asian-American leaders were among the many who rallied to the defense of the Muslim boy and his treatment at the hands of Irving, Texas, authorities. That treatment included one arresting officer infamously proclaiming when the boy was first brought in for questioning, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was” — despite never having met Ahmed.

“Ahmed and his talents have become victims of a culture of suspicion that we must extinguish,” said U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California, a Chinese American and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “Now, because of these racist and mistrustful responses from authority figures, students like Ahmed may be too afraid to engage and further express their creativity at school. This right here is where racial profiling and Islamophobic rhetoric lead us. What a tragedy.”

While the story ends well for Ahmed, its toxic residue lingers. What should be our takeaways?

  • The parts of America sowing seeds of fear and suspicion with incessant Muslim bating are creating an environment in which incidents like this are less surprising phenomena and more logical outcomes. Only last February, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne was roundly ridiculed for her hysterical Facebook rant in opposition to bogus stories about a Sharia Law court that had been started in her town. Should we be so shocked that her police force responded just as outrageously to Ahmed? Van Duyne and Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd inexplicably, gallingly, continue to refuse to offer any apologies or contrition in this incident.
  • Would a student without a similar name or appearance have been treated the same way? Irving police and school officials say yes, but those claims are shaky, at best. It was easy to verify that the clock they describe as a “suspicious device” was not attached to an explosive. Ahmed made no threat, had no history of misconduct and explained his invention honestly, to no avail.
  • Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The opposite is also true, and the speed with which justice triumphed in this case was in direct proportion to the number of good people who did something.

Let that latter takeaway be the most memorable and embolden us all. Anti-Muslim bigotry is as wrong as any other kind of discrimination. When you encounter it, speak up. It makes a difference.

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