SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Twenty years after September 11th, Muslims and Sikh’s still face discrimination and increased hate crimes.
“We were so sick and tired of it,” said Mirza Yawar Baig from the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, reactions fueled bigotry and violence towards innocent Muslims and Sikh’s in America.
“One of the finest examples of why stereotyping is so terrible and I think that’s what happened and to some extent it continues,” said Yawar Baig.
In 2000, the FBI recorded 28 hate crimes against Muslims. Then in 2001, there were 481. While hate crimes against Muslims have decreased now. It’s never gone back down to pre-September 11th levels. According to the Sikh Coalition, in the first month after the 9/11 attacks, they documented over 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikh Americans throughout the United States.
“I hate to say, we have to live with it. I hope not. I hope it goes down. I hope people see some sense,” said Yawar Baig.
The week after September 11th, three people were murdered because of islamophobia. One of them was actually Sikh but targeted for wearing a turban. Some people confused, and continue to confuse, the two religions after the attacks, unintentionally fueling discrimination towards the Sikh community as well as the Muslim community.
“A lot of misidentify happened. People see a guy walking with a turban and they start attacking them. It was a very horrible time,” said Gurninder Dhaliwal, Treasurer of World Sikh Parliament.
Dhaliwal said he noticed the shift in attitude towards himself and other Sikh’s within a week after September 11th.
“I don’t think they care if you’re Sikh or Muslim, soon as they see the brown skin, it’s like everybody looks at you like, ‘Who are you? What is your identity?’ It’s changed. Time’s have changed,” said Dhaliwal.
While the terrorists who committed September 11th claimed to be Muslim, they do not practice or represent the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.
“Islam does not teach this. The fact that these people had Muslim names means nothing, what they did is haram, these people who are killing innocent people, they’re not going anywhere to get to any paradise. They are going to burn in the fire,” said Yawar Baig.
Now, members from both communities are hoping that after 20 years of an uphill battle against discrimination, people will just be more kind.
“We are all family. We are all related to one mighty god. So I want to tell one message to the world. Besides spreading hate, spread love,” said Dhaliwal.
Both Baig and Dhaliwal say the western Massachusetts community has been very welcoming since they’ve arrived. Dhaliwal told 22News the Holyoke community, where he runs Dino’s Pizza, is like a family to him.
Full interview with Miraz Yawar Baig. Hear his memory of where he was on 9/11/2001, what he thinks of the views of Muslims after the attacks, and what he has to say about the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center.
Full interview with Gurninder Dhaliwal. Hear his vivid memory of 9/11/2001. Dhaliwal would regularly have been down by the World Trade Center for his job at the time, but just happened to be helping a friend in Queens that day.