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Terror and its victims

By Deepak Nagpal | Last Updated: Friday, September 9, 2011 - 12:37
Deepak Nagpal
The Wanderer

When a terrorist attack happens, it doesn’t affect the lives of just those whose kin have died, but also those who are made to “suffer” in the years to come. And among these are the communities who either are in minority or don’t belong to the land.

Take the case of the US or India or any other country; the mere involvement of a few people has led to the branding of the entire community, most of the times as extremists.

It’s been 10 years since the ghastly September 11, 2001 attacks shook the US, and the rest of the world, and ever since several communities, mostly Muslims and those from Asia, have not been able to lead a normal life.

If just having a three-course meal, going to school, college or office etc constituted a normal life, then things would have been different. However, life is a very broad picture and acceptance in the society where you live and work is key to the development of a human being.

Denial of this right is the denial of right to lead a normal life. Post 9/11, several communities have faced something very similar. Whether it is the case of American and non-American Sikhs being mistaken for Afghans (due to turbans) and discriminated against or even attacked as a revenge for the deadly strikes, or the targeting of Muslims in various forms, from being branded as terrorists to facing opposition to build mosques and cultural centres anywhere, we have seen it all.

The most striking example is of Park 51, a proposed Islamic community centre that was to come up two blocks from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. However, it faced opposition from many city residents. Elsewhere, the Muslim community in Murfreesboro, Tennessee too found itself in the line of fire after proposing to build a 52,000-square-foot structure with a mosque, gym, playground and cemetery. And in Jacksonville, Florida, an Islamic centre was attacked with a bomb in May 2010.

It is not to say America – the land of hope – has stopped embracing people from all communities, caste and creed, like before, but there are testimonies to prove that America has changed, and Americans have changed, in the way they look at others.

Very recently, several organisations in the US with affiliations to Arabs, Sikhs, Muslims and others came together and started a website, called “Unheard Voices of 9/11”, to highlight the discrimination, hate crimes, physical threat, profiling etc being faced by the people in minority.

The aim: let people come out and share their traumatic experiences post 9/11 which they had to undergo due to their spiritual and cultural leanings.

It has been well documented that many Americans who were Muslims, South Asians or Arabs had to face various crimes, including murders, attacks and arson after the al Qaeda-led attacks.

Through video testimonies posted on the website, people have tried to show how mere suspicion has led to them being subjected to questioning, search or even legal action. The mere thought of one perceiving people belonging to Asian and Middle Eastern communities as “dangerous” had become sufficient ground for the American security agencies to initiate action.

While Guantanamo Bay brought to light the plight of high-profile suspects, some of whom were “real terrorists”, the sufferings underwent by the people from the general public has largely been confined to few stories in the media.

From being asked to "go back to your country” and advised not to wear burqa, Arabs and South Asians have heard it all, though painfully, after spending most part of their life in America.

Being “American at heart” has not helped them in gaining acceptance, especially after 9/11.

First Published: Friday, September 9, 2011 - 12:37

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