Rights group fears backlash against Sikhs during war
By Suman Mozumder
NEW YORK: Concerns about a renewed backlash against Sikh Americans, who had come under attack following the September 11 terror strike on the United States, has escalated after President George W Bush declared war on Iraq.
A Washington-based organisation that has been monitoring individual cases of alleged bias attacks against Sikhs since 9/11 said members of the community should take extra measures to safeguard their lives and properties from a possible backlash during the course of the war.
News reports have indicated even before the declaration of war, hate crimes against those perceived to be Muslims, Arabs, or Middle-Easterners have been on the rise in the US. In the past, Sikhs have often borne the brunt of the bias attacks due to the erroneous perception that they are Muslims or Middle Easterners or supporters of Osama bin Laden, because of the turbans that male Sikhs wear.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in its weekly bulletins, has cautioned that the war against Iraq could spark hate crimes at home.
The Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force issued a precautionary measure advisory to inform the Sikh community about the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in case of hate attacks on individuals or on gurdwaras. It has urged community leaders to renew their relationship with the local law enforcement agencies and to address the community’s concerns with them regarding the war and the possible backlash against the local Sikh community.
“I have no doubt in my mind that backlashes against the community members are most likely to occur. If it happened after 9/11, how can I rule out that it would not recur this time?” asked Harpreet Singh Toor, president of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, New York City.
Toor told rediff.com that the community was trying to get the world out that Sikhs have nothing to do either with Muslims or people from the Middle East and are perfectly law-abiding people.
His organization is getting about 5,000 lapel buttons and bumper stickers with the words ‘Sikhs Support Our Troops’ inscribed on them. But he said he was not sure how far such measures would help stop attack on Sikhs. —Rediff