[Reader-list] hate

Ravi Sundaram ravis at sarai.net
Thu Sep 13 12:41:01 IST 2001

I got this from the new york times. Brings back memories of what life was 
like here in 1993 after the Babri Masjid demolition.


Arabs and Muslims Steer Through an Unsettling Scrutiny

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."

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