Community Shares Continued Loss and Solutions at Hearing
On August 20th, over 150 South Asian American community members and supporters gathered at the Artesia Community Center to reflect on the passing of a decade since the tragedy on September 11th, 2001. While the nation mourns the upcoming anniversary, community members and SAN met to mourn the local loss in South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
The hearing began with a spirit of courage as sat down to listen to two panels with unique stories from community members and advocates detailing impact that 9/11 has had on South Asians Americans. The first panel covered surveillance, racial profiling, and immigration enforcement, while the second talked about hate crimes, bullying and workplace discrimination.
“I was held at gun point and called a ‘bloody f*ing Arab’ and a ‘Stupid Muslim’ in my own Los Angeles grocery store,” says Mujibar Badal, a community member who experienced a hate crime in November 2001. “I could not walk back into that store for a year and even now, ten years later, I still have trouble sleeping at night.”
Badal continued, “I also had trouble getting the state to recognize my case as a hate crime and it wasn’t until 2007 that I received compensation from the State Victims Compensation Board. I tell my story today to remind us that hate cannot be countered with hate.”
As Manjusha Kulkarni, SAN Executive Director explained, “While some of the extreme violence against South Asians, Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs occurred immediately after 9/11, we come together here to share the way that post-9/11 policies have created an atmosphere of fear for many community members. Daily tasks taken for granted, like a young girl walking home from school or a taxi driver taking a customer around town, became difficult then and still remain difficult. Now, add in today’s growing anti-immigrant sentiment. We need to meet at this historic moment and remind ourselves what we can do.”
Los Angeles is home to the second largest population of South Asians in the U.S. Rarely do Angelenos think about how an anti-Muslim sentiment affects their neighborhoods and communities. SAN’s event brought together community testimony and dialogue in hopes of moving forward with some community solutions.
“I was supposed to migrate to the U.S. on September 11th, but when the tragedy took place, the whole world was impacted. Instead, as a high school student who grew up post-9/11, I moved to Los Angeles and began high school a month later only to be bullied by my classmates. I was transferred to another Los Angeles high school and became a leader in student groups. A week before graduation, I was told that I could not walk across stage wearing my turban. Working with community organizations, I was able to educate my peers and school about my turban,” says community speaker Harbakshish Singh.
Today, as many Sikhs and South Asians continue to face discrimination, I want young people who grow up in a post-9/11 environment to be strong and know the importance of speaking up,” he continued.
The hearing, “Ten Years After 9/11,” was co-hosted by SAN, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the State of California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CSCAPIAA). Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblymember Mike Eng, and Assemblymember Warren Furutani all attended the event and gave their own reflections on California, at the upcoming anniversary.
Judy Chu opened the hearing with a stark reminder about U.S. history and the post-9/11 environment and called the audience to action: “Let us not forget that the words ‘national security’ were used to send 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. To this day, not a single act of espionage has been proven. When these actions took place, there were not enough voices to say, ‘this is wrong and this must stop.’”
She continued, “Today, I know there are people who will raise their voices. That is why all of you are here but we cannot stop here. We must continue to speak out about the discrimination faced by South Asian Americans and other Americans since 9/11. We must make sure that it does not go unnoticed and build larger coalitions of people who will stand up when racial and religious profiling happens.”
“As we approach the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, it is important for us as a community and nation to recommit ourselves to the fundamental American value of “Justice for All,” said Assemblymember Mike Eng. “Nearly a decade has passed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, but many South Asians are still living with the lingering effects of racism and anti-Islamic fervor. I commend organizations like the South Asian Network (SAN) for their commitment to addressing these issues and fighting for the civil rights of all South Asians in California and the United States.”
Many other partner agencies attended the event, including Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council, recounting the repeated incidences of surveillance he has experienced by the government for simply being Muslim.
Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center presented the need to think about the growing rates of enforcement with programs like Secure Communities and E-Verify that also accelerate a sense of fear in immigrant communities like South Asian American communities.
Mou Khan from SAALT, a national South Asian advocacy organization based in D.C. also talked about the hearing as a way for community members to take action locally and nationally.
SAN aims to release a report from the hearings’ testimonies and participants.
The event at once recounted experiences of loss and suffering while bringing people together in Los Angeles County’s “Little India,” as a way to look forward into the next ten years with a greater sense of hope and collaboration.
About South Asian Network (SAN): South Asian Network is a community-based organization dedicated to advancing the health, empowerment, & solidarity of South Asian Americans in Southern California since 1990.
To see a livestream recording of the event, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ten-years-after-9-11-a-community-hearing