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The Dark Cloud That Has Been Raining On America!
By Chaithanya Sohan
Edited by Megan Maloy

America, the free nation, is changing.

I have discovered this change through the experience of a close friend of mine. Although it is often difficult to understand a situation when it does not directly effect you, this hit close enough to home to make me realize that a problem definitely exists. My friend, a young Muslim from Pakistan, described an event that has since left him terrified. I shiver as I remember the chill in his voice as he discussed the threat that the Muslim Student Association had recently received. An anonymous person called the association with a threat, 'We are going to kill you guys.' Listening to this mortifying experience and observing the effects it had on him, I wondered what was happening. America, the free nation, was changing and the chains of terror and fear had crept into every tan skinned person. Would they be held responsible for a crime they did not commit? The loss that America felt that dismal hour on September 11th 2001 was felt not just by Americans, but by every person who was on American soil. I, a 17-year old who had laid foot on the American soil less than two months before the September 11th attacks, had prayed incessantly for the families of the thousands of Americans who were lying in the ashes of the World Trade Center. It was not just me. Thousands of people in America and all over the world prayed for all those people who lost their loved ones.

Why discriminate against people because they happen to have similar skin color or follow the same religion? Are all Arabs terrorist? Is every Muslim a danger? Am I, as a tan skinned woman, a threat to America?

The "free" land that America has been portrayed as for so long has diminished. In the name of "safety", dark skinned people have been tormented and judged. The walls of every airport speak volumes on the discrimination people face each day. Why? The reason is evident - they have a Muslim name or they were born in an Arab nation. Arab Americans have faced discrimination everywhere, from airports to schools. While discrimination by common people speaks a story of its own, the FBI - the protecting forces of our society - have been instrumental in making substantial allegations against the Arabs and the South-East Asians in general. They have also kept Arabs on a 24-hour close surveillance, tapping into their phone lines and emails.

A revealing incident took place with the murder of a Sikh man at an Arizona Gas station. The reason to his killing stands as an epitome of the hate crimes in America. He is not a Muslim, but a man from India whose only crime in life was his tan skin and the turban he wore. Nothing can justify the death of an innocent man; no apology can ever fill the void of losing someone dear.

According to an article titled 'Mom... Why do people bother you?' Muslim kids are forced to experience discrimination in schools. Children are in a confused state of mind when they hear people shouting 'go back to your country' when they are walking with their bearded father and their 'purdah' wearing mother. We could not possibly understand the things running through those little heads as they try to understand what actually went wrong with today. Yesterday they were walking down the streets of America and they were American. Then everything changed and they became alien in a country they call home. Most Americans cannot comprehend this, but as an immigrant in America, I comprehend the chills that these children experience.

According to the statistics released by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, discrimination and hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims have increased 15% in 2002 when compared to 2001. According to the Washington Post, on July 22nd, the Department of Justice has stated that they have investigated more than 500 complaints "of retaliation" against Muslims since 9/11 and have prosecuted 13 cases, with others still under investigation. According to Nihad Awad, Council on American Islamic Relations, the government has implemented and is continuing to implement policies and practices based on religion and ethnicity. At whom are we pointing fingers? The government that is not going a step further to ensure the safety of these people? Or are Muslims no longer considered 'the people of America'? Muslims, whether immigrants or citizens, are being discriminated against in America. The numbers are very alarming. I In 2002 alone, 602 cases of discrimination have been reported. Think about the number of people who are unable or are too scared to report these abuses. Some government officials have been instrumental in the rise of racism in America. One such politician, Jerry Falwell, made some cruel comments of national TV calling Prophet Mohammed a terrorist.

Some of the backlashes that took place post September 11th are as follow:

  • 21st October 2001: A Muslim man was singled out and searched several times by United Airlines.
  • 20th November 2001: A man whose first name was Mohammed was not allowed on board.
  • 3rd December 2001: A man was searched and interrogated several times by airport officials. He was not allowed on board because the captain of American Airlines did not like him.
  • 25th January 2002: A Muslim woman was refused to stay in America and complete the leukemia treatment for her daughter. They rejected her visa and she was forced to go back home.

These are just some of the many cases of discrimination towards Arabs and Muslims post 9/11.

We are not making the world a better place by conveying such anti-semantic beliefs. Religion is an important aspect to life, but what matters more is the fact that we are all human beings and we should respect and welcome our differences. It is indeed sad to see that one person like Osama Bin Laden is all it took to shake the very patriotic and united America. Sadly, we as Americans are becoming worse than Osama as we are killing fellow Americans emotionally. September 11th changed America forever. It amplified and diffused the cloud of discrimination. Ever since that day, people from SouthEast Asia and the Middle East have had to fight a war of survival. The thin thread of discrimination was pulled on September 11th by our government. Since then innocent Muslim and Arab people have been labeled as 'terrorists'. Yet the real question has not been answered: 'Are we, as Americans, any more humane than Osama?' If hurting and tormenting our brothers because of where they are from, what they look like, or what they believe is humane, then yes, we are. Every American knows the answer to the question of humanity. The real question is, will we ever live in a world that has no discrimination?

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