August 27, 2011; Source: The Link | In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, there were incidents reported around the U.S. of violent attacks on people of South Asian descent. For example, in New Jersey soon after the attacks, Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh who wears the mandatory Dastar, or turban, was “accosted by individuals who insisted that he remove the ‘dirty curtain’ on his head,” according to a report in The Link. Khalsa’s attackers were apparently in search of someone to harass who looked like what they imagined the 9/11 hijackers to look like. The Link story goes on to say that “after [Khalsa] reported the incident to the police, his attackers threatened to beat him to unconsciousness and threatened to kill him.”
The South Asian community in the U.S. is fast-growing and extremely diverse. It includes individuals with ancestry from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, as well as members of the South Asian diaspora around the world. The region is home to followers of a wide variety of religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism—as well as Khalsa’s faith, Sikhism.
Khalsa lived in Jersey City, one of the major centers of South Asian immigrants in the U.S. At the end of July, a nonprofit called South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) organized a hearing in Jersey City to address issues surrounding the 9/11 experience. People talked about the anti-Asian backlash of the time and shared good news as well, such as the resolutions approved just the night before by the Passaic and Teaneck, New Jersey boards of education to enforce the state’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” and to train students and employees about cultural and religious-practice sensitivity. Both resolutions were presented by SAALT.
The hearing also addressed advocacy strategies such as replicating the Teaneck and Passaic resolutions, working with media outlets to raise awareness of religious practices, building partnerships with other ethnic and religious communiti