George Takei Compares Syrian Refugee ‘Hysteria’ To WWII Xenophobia

By Sameer Rao Nov 23, 2015

Actor and activist George Takei, star of the new Broadway musical "Allegiance," recently made headlines for criticizing a Virginia mayor who justified banning Syrian refugees by citing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Now, Takei’s talking about where these themes intersect with his life and work. 

"Allegiance" is inspired by Takei’s own experience with internment—his family spent four years in three WWII-era internment camps when he was a child. Takei appeared on MSNBC yesterday to talk about both his family’s experience in the camps, and the similarities between that time and now. His analysis drew on Congress’ later reevaluation of the internment camp policy:

In the 1980s, Congress created a comission to examine the reason why something so unconstitutional happened. And they found that it was three things: One, racial prejudice. Two, war hysteria. And three, lack of political leadership. And the same situation applies to our time today.

He later addressed his criticisms of Roanoake, Virginia, mayor David Bowers, saying that Bowers’ remarks exemplified the similarities between both eras of mass hysteria:

Our musical, "Allegiance" is very relevant to our times. When someone like Mayor Bowers can make that kind of—first of all, ignorant statement, saying that it was "sequester of Japanese nationals." We’re Japanese Americans, American citizens. And it wasn’t being sequestered, we were imprisoned in barbed-wire prison camps, sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us. No question about it, it was a prison camp. And political leadership, in Congress as well, to be stampeded like this. To, with a broad brush, characterize all Arab-Americans as terrorists, all Muslims as terrorists? We have a very intense vetting process, and that has got to be understood. And political leadership has to be responsible leadership, and enlightened leadership. 

Check out Takei’s full statements on MSNBC.