Indo-Guyanese are now targets of racial hate in the US
Stabroek News
September 23, 2001

Dear Editor,

After the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the nightmare has not ended with the loss of lives for the Guyanese-American community or with the discovery of the bodies of the missing. Rather, for Indo-Guya-nese and several similar-looking ethnic communities, the terror continues.

Indo-Guyanese have been doubly attacked - they suffered casualties and lost loved ones from bin Laden's terror and have also become targets for retaliatory attacks from American extremists. The terrorists wanted to kill them because they are Americans and now extremist Americans want to eliminate them as well because they are `foreigners.' These attacks are a result of extreme hatred and intolerance for other groups by a few.

Bigotry and prejudice have become the order of the day in the US. Indo-Guyanese are being mistaken for Arab-Americans and set upon by bigots out for revenge for the attack on the US. There is a misconception among many Americans that South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, etc.) are Arabs and that all Indians are Muslims, and this may have led to the attacks against them. And American bigots make no distinction between Indo-Guyanese and South Asians when they rain blows on them.

In the media and at public rallies, Indo-Guyanese as well as many other communities strongly condemned the September 11 massacre and lined up to donate blood and participated in the rescue effort under way at the WTC. Hundreds of Guyanese marched in Queens last weekend for peace. Many also heeded the President's call during the evening of national remembrance on September 14 and lit candles in front of their homes.

Also, Guyanese were part and parcel of every effort to pray for and to rescue the victims of the terror attacks. Guyanese showed their patriotism by flying the American flag on their cars and in front of their houses. Like other Americans, they are also devastated by the tragedy. Yet they have been attacked for their ethnicity and have become victims of harassment, intimidation, assault and death threats.

Many incidents of harassment and physical abuse have been reported throughout the city at work, at school and in the streets. Indo-Guyanese are targets of racial hate and racial epithets including in Richmond Hill, the heartland of the Indo-Guyanese community. Some of my relatives and friends were also made victims and had to run for their lives. Also, it is reported that many mosques and temples had been stoned and are now being given round-the-clock protection by the New York police. A Guyanese temple and masjid were attacked in Richmond Hill and a Sikh gurudwara in Richmond Hill also sustained damage with many of its worshippers attacked by hooligans who chanted "bin Laden" at them. The irony is that many Guyanese had gone to the

temple to pray for the victims of the terrorist attack and instead they became victims of another kind of terror unleashed by racial zealots Also, various places are plastered with anti-Indian graffiti as well. Ambassador Odeen Ishmael and Consul General Brentnol Evans have confirmed many of these attacks.

The racist white lynch-mobs know nothing about the finer points of comparative religion or ethnic studies. The attacks against Indo-Guyanese have been reported in all of the mainstream media and condemned in their editorials. In fact, the New York Daily News earlier in the week carried the story of one Indo-Guyanese who was severely beaten by white thugs. Consul General Brentnol Evans says he has been monitoring the attacks on Guyanese.

Moulvis and pandits have appealed for calm and have asked the city for protection. The Mayor of the city has responded positively by condemning the bigots and promising to vigorously prosecute the hate attackers. President Bush has also appealed to Americans on national TV not to view Arabs, Muslims and South Asians as the enemies. American lawmakers have appealed to Americans not to stigmatize Muslims or any community for the tragedy.

Indo-Guyanese are a law-abiding, peaceful, progressive and hard-working people. Their racial background and outward manifestation of their religious belief (growing a beard) has turned them into victims. Many Guyanese Muslims who have grown their beards have suddenly become clean-shaven in order to protect themselves from attacks from the racists. Guyanese Muslims are not religious extremists like the Taleban and the followers of bin Laden. They are not the enemy. The enemy is a few Islamic extremists who must be eliminated.

The backlash against people who appear to be foreigners in the US must be stopped. The perpetrators of hate are no better than the religious extremists who flew the planes into their targets. Americans should not stereotype Muslims and people who look Arab. Instead, Americans of all ethnicities need to focus on what they can do collectively to deter terror attacks on the US and to unite the nation for war against terrorism and bin Laden

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram