Sikh Americans and 9/11

Topics: Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, Hate crime Pages: 7 (2443 words) Published: May 14, 2007
Even though Sikh Americans have experienced a heightened amount of animosity, it is quite a warm feeling when communities and groups gather to support victims of hate crimes as stated in this excerpt, "It has happened before in New Jersey. But this time, an act of hateful vandalism has drawn an avalanche of support for a victimized Hindu family, highlighting the growth of networks aiming to assist South Asian-American victims of bias crimes. The family of five arrived home in Wayne last Saturday to discover their house and walkways spray-painted with anti-Indian and anti-Hindu epithets. Police disclosed the incident on Wednesday, and said the family also had been targeted with hate mail and graffiti in January."(Crouse) The community responded by putting out calls and e-mails in an attempt to reach the family. This was done by Asian-American civil rights leaders after they had read about the incidents. Other local actions of support came in the form of one bank branch's offer to cover the cost of removing the graffiti and a contractor's offer to do the work for free. There are many hate crimes that have been inflicted on Sikh Americans, but it is important to realize there are positive and supporting reactions from different communities to try to alleviate this type of racism.

The support and awareness that is offered also serves as psychological help as well. Hemant Wadhwani, president of the Asian American Political Coalition says, "Expressing solidarity helps counter the feelings victims of bias crimes often have of being rejected and different culturally."(Crouse) This kind of negative racial action can have a real impact on the human mind and can definitely affect the Sikh American community. When they Sikh Americans see this kind of support, it builds their confidence and hopefully the fear will subside. Since the incidents of 9/11, different groups and organizations have grew and responded to the ethnic lashing towards Sikh Americans. Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, which has an office in Edison, called Sept. 11 a turning point for her organization.(Crouse)

It is obvious and no coincidence that violence and hate crimes have increased towards Sikhs following the events of 9/11, which is evident in the following excerpt of an article in Newsday. In the summer of 2004, Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh, was severely beaten by five men as they yelled anti-Muslim slurs. Today, he still has to go to the hospital several times a week and his injuries left him unable to work. His son, he said, was forced to leave college to work and care for him.(Friedman) Khalsa quickly insisted that legislation was needed to protect minorities who could be vulnerable after a terrorist attack or other types of racial or religious attacks. Khalsa and a friend were also attacked outside a Queens restaurant by five white men after they refused to remove their turbans, which is common bait for people who are looking to attack or harass "terrorists." The city responded to Khalsa's unfortunate experience by introducing a Backlash Mitigation bill, which is sponsored by Councilman David Weprin. This bill would allow the Office of Emergency Management to work with local city agencies including the police department to devise plans to protect potential victims of hate crimes. In addition to this, the city would air public service announcements to deter racist acts.

Often times people see the colorful turbans Sikhs wear and link them to the terrorists of 9/11. Sikh men, who customarily wear turbans and have beards, drive many of the Bay Area's taxi cabs. On Christmas Day, driver Gurpartap Singh, 58, was shot to death in Richmond in what police believe was a robbery or attempted robbery.(Lochner) This raises the issue of hate crimes towards Sikh Americans and how they are viewed in the eyes of authorities and the general public. It is interesting to note authorities are extremely hesitant to label such an...
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