A community hearing on the impact that 9/11 has had on members of the Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities will take place at the .
Attendees will have the chance to hear from civil rights advocates, victims of prejudice and Congressman Michael Honda and . The event's purpose is to raise awareness about ethnic and religious justice in the area.
“The hearing will help shed continued light on civil rights violations,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director at the San Francisco office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “In the last 10 years, hate crimes, employment discrimination and law enforcement harassment, have increased.”
A study called “Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States,” published by CAIR and the , reported that anti-Muslim behavior increased immediately after 9/11 but leveled off. After the election of President Obama, however, the tone shifted among certain groups, and anti-Muslim sentiments have become more mainstream and vocal.
“We will humanize the stories as well as move elected officials to action,” said Billoo.
To be sure, other groups beside Muslims have been stereotyped by the actions of the Islamic terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001. South Asians and Christian Arabs have also suffered from prejudices in today’s post-9/11 world.
“It's unfortunate that many communities are suffering as result of this,” said Billoo. “This is not something that is exclusive to the Muslim community.”
For example, some male followers of Sikhism, an Indian religion, have also had to deal with varying degrees of abuse because they wear turbans.
“I was subjected to additional searches at the checkpoint,” said Amardeep Singh, co-founder and director of programming of the Sikh Coalition, who flew from the East Coast on Thursday. He will speak at the public hearing in Mountain View as a representative of his organization. “My turban is no more capable of carrying a dangerous device then any other piece of clothing.”
Singh said that after the brutal attacks of Sept. 11, he's been forced to endure a more rigorous security check at the airport. Officers of the Transport Security Agency usually ask him to pat down his own turban. After complying, an officer will swab his hands as a security measure.
“Why are government resources being put toward extra searches for members of my community?” asked Singh. “What the government is saying to everyone, in the public view, is that there is something particularly dangerous about our headdress.”
Residents from Mountain View who belong to communities that have been most affected by such prejudice look forward to the event. Some of these inhabitants see the open forum as a positive step toward fighting ignorance and promoting cultural understanding.
“It is a giant leap in the progression of understanding a human being,” Kalwant Sandhu, a Sikh resident from Mountain View and chairman of the city's Human Relations Commission. “This is a small step in the sense that we are getting together, but in the context of humanity it is a giant leap, because we are beginning to talk.”
- What: Community hearing on discriminatory effects post-9/11
- Where: , 266 Escuela Ave., Mountain View
- When: Saturday, 12:30-4 p.m. (Press Conference begins at 12:30 followed by the hearing at 1 p.m.)