-Jamaica, New York
Pakistanis living in New York have been continuous targets of anti-Muslim backlash as a result of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. The attempted attack on Time Square earlier this month by Pakistani-born Faisal Shazad, has only heightened the tension.
Everyday Muslim women dressed in burqas and men wearing turbans are labeled as terrorists. This very discrimination takes place on trains, in airports and in schools.
At New Hyde Memorial High School, Muslim students are victims of discrimination by their peers. Eleventh-grader, Nateyana Blake recalls hearing students say “that person is a terrorist, look at her she has a headwrap …she’s hiding a bomb,” referring to Muslim students.
“Not all of them are bad but when someone who’s like this, who is a citizen that lives in New York or around the surrounding area does something like that, you look at people like that that way,” says New Yorker, Danielle Gardener.
Foundations Representative to the United Nations, Syed Messani hopes the negative stigma associated with Muslims will change. Messani, who is a Pakistani-born naturalized U.S. citizen, says he is disgusted that the actions of one individual represents an entire community.
“Terrorism in itself is a menace that we need to tackle and Muslims themselves are victims of it around the world,” says Messani.
In our conversation, he sets the mood surrounding the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Queens following the September 11th attack. “My father was here at this Islamic Center and would tell me that they were getting threatening phone calls,” says Messani. “The New York Police Department had their escort outside for several months just to make sure nothing happens to the community.”
Nine years later, anti-Muslim backlash has decreased but has not diminished. As for Messani, he says he will no longer live his life in defense over the actions of one individual, who shares a common origin and religion but has a different ideology.
Messani hopes the New York Muslim community can unite to voice their disgust for what has happened to their reputation and their country.