Request to Americans for Building a bridge over hatred
against Muslims and Sikhs since 9/11 spawn Tri-City
By Chris LauCORRESPONDENT and dirty T-shirt," the
caller said. It was the first of several such messages
Sundas said she received. and Sikhs say, they consistently
have been victims of hate crimes since the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. and
FORUM, Local 2 "I encourage all my fellow Americans
to join us for this forum to learn about each other
first-hand," she said.
The free event open to the public and titled
"Our Community Who Belongs?"
is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Valhalla Theatre on the
campus of Irvington High School.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer will serve
as the keynote speaker. The event also will feature
personal testimonies from several Irvington students
and representatives from the Sikh and Muslim communities.
Sikh men and Muslim women are most vulnerable to hate
crimes because of their physical resemblance to the
Arab terrorists seen on television, said Kavneet Singh,
Western regional director of the Sikh American Legal
Defense and Education Fund, who will speak Thursday
on the Sikh perspective.
Sikh men are obligated by their faith to keep their
beards and wear turbans, which are the scarves that
are rolled up as headwear. Likewise, Muslim women must
wear hijabs to cover their hair and faces.
Even Sikhs and Muslims who don't conform to traditional
dress are targets, Singh said, because of their skin
Hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims traditionally
have spiked during times of Middle Eastern conflict,
Singh continued. The Islamic Revolution of Iran in the
late 1970s and the Persian Gulf War in the 1980s both
led to increases in race-motivated attacks in America.
"During these times in history, we have seen the
exact things happen," Singh said. "When the
media portrays who the terrorists are, people mistakenly
lash out against innocent Sikhs and Muslims."
Since 9/11, there were two murders and four cab drivers
shot at in Bay Area Sikh and Muslim communities, according
to Singh's organization.
And, added Dr. Mohamad Rajabally, president of the
Islamic Society of the East Bay, there were countless
more cases of school harassment, vandalism and intimidation.
Rajabally, who sports a long beard, will speak on the
Muslim perspective at Thursday's forum.
He said he hopes to see an end to attacks on religious
communities, such as the cell phone message left for
"We still see the guilt by association, and we're
concerned about profiling," he said. "We want
to let the general public know that. We need to address
the issues and fight the stereotyping."
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