Washington: Ten years
after terrorists struck US unleashing a backlash against the South
Asians given their close resemblance to the hijackers from the
Middle East, the community has come a long way.
"Looking back, the country has changed substantially. Just after
9/11, people at large looked at South Asians with some suspicion.
Things have completely changed now," Thomas Abraham, founder
president and chairman emeritus of the Global Organization of
People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) told IANS.
"Indian American community has become very active politically," he
noted. "We have two governors and over a dozen legislatives in the
state, county and city levels. We have several people in the
administration. That is a lot of accomplishments for the Indian
Abraham recalled that after 9/11 GOPIO had asked "our community
members to be alert and cautious since the terrorists were from
the Middle East and close resemblance to South Asians."
Deepa Iyer, executive director, South Asian Americans Leading
Together (SAALT) also recalled how the organisation transformed
and expanded its mission after 9/11.
"When we saw the impact of backlash and discrimination on our
community, we realised that there was a void, especially at the
national level, of a voice dedicated to raising the perspective of
South Asians in the US," she told IANS.
"SAALT aimed to fill that void, and to bring the issues faced by
our communities 'at the table,' so to speak, especially with
government agencies and elected officials," Iyer said.
In 2007, SAALT helped create the National Coalition of South Asian
Organizations (NCSO), a network of 42 organizations that serve,
organise, and advocate on behalf of the South Asian community
across the US.
Another community organisation, the Sikh Coalition has organised
hearings on post-9/11 backlash and discrimination attended by over
200 members of Sikh, Arab, Muslim, and South Asian American
communities as well as government officials, advocates, and
Billed as the Unheard Voices of 9/11, the hearings in New York
City and Mountain View, California, featured testimony from
individuals impacted by backlash discrimination, including targets
of school bullying, job discrimination, and profiling.
(Arun Kumar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)