1. Hate mail, physical threats and harassment against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and South Asians: From SAJA (South Asian Journalists Association) e-mail discussion list.
It's Thursday morning, almost exactly 48 hours since the WTC attacks began. As the focus of the coverage and the investigation shifts toward South Asia, the South Asian community in the U.S. is receiving attention in ways it never has before. Anger about the attacks is causing SOME Americans to lash out at Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs and South Asians in general.
Reports of hate mail, physical threats and harassment and worse are coming in from various cities. It is crucial that we not add to the confusion by spreading unconfirmed reports. We are doing our best to get as many facts as possible. Please be patient as we sort through all this and DO NOT PANIC. PLEASE DO NOT SPREAD UNSUBSTANTIAED E-MAIL MESSAGES.
Below you will find articles from the NYT, Newsday & Rediff that give you a hint of what's happening. The case of the Sikh pulled off a train by police is especially disturbing.
SAJA HQ itself has received vicious hate mail and at least one SAJA Executive Board member was verbally abused while reporting in Queens.
SAJA, led by its president JYOTI THOTTAM and the Executive Board is doing several things.
1. A guide for the media on covering the South Asian community (and for the public to understand desis better) will be on http://www.saja.org by Thursday afternoon.
2. Connecting the media with sources who can provide a South Asian perspective on the attacks and the aftermath.
3. This Saturday, Sept. 15 from 11 am - 1 pm at Maharaja Restaurant (230 E. 44th St, btw 2nd & 3rd Aves), we are going to hold a panel discussion with senior journalists about the terrorist attacks and how the South Asia community has been covered. Details coming to http://www.saja.org
4. Coordinating a South Asian community press conference in Washington that will take place on Thursday or Friday. Will let you know more as soon as we have it.
In advance of the material being published on SAJA.org, couple of coordinates you can use.
1. SAJA-NY contacts: Jyoti Thottam, firstname.lastname@example.org (she will be out of town starting this Saturday) Sreenath Sreenivasan, 212-854-5979; email@example.com
2. AALDEF contacts: Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is collecting reports of bias attacks and hate crimes against the South Asian community: 212-760-9110 http://www.aaldef.org
Of course, all of this is happening while we know dozens of desis are injured/dead/still missing after the WTC collapsed.
Sites such as http://www.nyhug.org and http://wtc.ny.com are building databases about the victims & survivors.
More information en route soon.
Regards, Sreenath Sreenivasan | http://www.sree.net }
The New York Times
Sept. 13, 2001
Arabs and Muslims Steer Through an Unsettling Scrutiny
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
On a quiet block in Brooklyn Heights yesterday, a small cluster of men and boys gathered inside a mosque for afternoon prayers. Outside, a man drove past slowly and yelled, "Murderers."
In Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, during the peak late-morning shopping hours, just a few women visited stores in their long gowns and veils. Usually, on such a sunny morning, they would have been everywhere. But word had gone out across the country for women in hijab, as the identifying veil is called in Arabic, to stay in.
At Bellevue Hospital Center, a Muslim father from New Jersey trolled for news of his 25-year-old son, last seen Tuesday morning on his way to work on the 103rd floor of 1 World Trade Center.
And as a Sikh man was trying to flee Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, he found himself running not only from flames, but also from a trio of men yelling invective about his turban.
The lives of ordinary Arab- and Muslim-Americans - and surprisingly, those who are neither Arab nor Muslim but look to untutored American eyes as if they might be - were roiled in these ways.
American Muslim groups, vastly more integrated into American society today than they were at the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were swift to denounce the terrorist acts. Around the country, interfaith prayer meetings have already been held in several cities, including one in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, last night, with Muslim leaders joining other clergy members to voice support for the victims.
A coalition of Muslim advocacy groups in Washington exhorted Muslim doctors to aid victims and urged Muslim-Americans to donate blood. They urged mosques to take extra security measures and encouraged "those who wear Islamic attire" to consider staying clear of public areas.
Some mosques closed their doors out of fear. The Islamic Center of Irving, a mosque in suburban Dallas, had its windows shattered by gunshots. One mosque in San Francisco found on its doorsteps a bag of what appeared to be blood.
And in Alexandria, Va., a vandal threw two bricks through the windows of an Islamic bookstore; handwritten notes with anti-Muslim sentiments were found attached to the bricks.
While Muslims' lives were clearly changed, also changed were the lives of people who had nothing to do with the Islamic world but who might appear alien to untutored American eyes. Indian women chose not to wear their flowing, pajama-tunic outfits. Sikh men, with their religiously prescribed beards and turbans, reported being accosted. They said they were apparently being mistaken as followers of Osama bin Laden, pictured on television with a turban of a different sort. In Providence, R.I., yesterday, a Sikh man in a turban was pulled off a Boston-to- Washington train by the police. In Richmond Hill, Queens, one Sikh man was beaten with a baseball bat; two others were shot at with a paint- ball gun. Police arrested two men.
"Quite frankly, it's worse for us because they keep showing these pictures of bin Laden on television wearing a turban," said Mandeep Dhillon, a lawyer in Menlo Park, Calif., and an advocate for Sikh rights. "It's making us incredibly vulnerable."
Amrik Singh Chawla, a financial services consultant who was chased by the three men in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, sprinted onto a train and landed in Brooklyn, where he slipped into a shop, stuffed his turban into his briefcase and wore his hair in a ponytail for the rest of the day. "I'm like terrified for my life now, not just seeing people flying out of buildings, but for my own life," Mr. Chawla said.
In New York, police officers stood sentry outside many mosques. The most popular Arab and Muslim shopping strips - one along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, another along Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens - were lined with police. Outside a mosque on Steinway Street late yesterday morning, a man stood with a homemade placard that read, "Get out of our country." At a makeshift memorial at Union Square, a spat broke out over a favorable comment about Islam.
Nowhere was the apprehension of ordinary Arab and Muslim New Yorkers as apparent as it was yesterday at the offices of the Arab- American Family Service Center in Cobble Hill. Its executive director, Emira Habiby-Browne, a Palestinian-American, had yanked the group's name off the front door early Tuesday morning. Yesterday afternoon, she had bolted all the doors that led to her office and holed up inside with a legal pad and a telephone.
Two kinds of calls came in, she said. There were threats. One man said, for instance, "You should all die for what you've done to my country."
There were requests for guidance. An Arab woman called, wanting to donate blood but afraid to step outside in her traditional hijab.
Another stopped by the office, bewildered about how to speak to the parents of her son's friends - or what to tell him about how to handle himself.
Ms. Habiby-Browne spent much of the afternoon lining up her staff to head out to schools with large numbers of Arab children. Even her staff psychologist was wary of coming in. "My concern is the children when they go back to school," she said. "I don't know if they'll know how to respond."
Indeed, she was already weary trying to come up with the right things to say. She had said them all before - during the gulf war, during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in the days after Oklahoma City. "Has anybody thought about the Arabs who work in the World Trade Center?" She wondered aloud. "This is a community like any other community. They vote. They pay taxes." Her throat was running dry at this point. "Arab-Americans who are here chose to be here."