WASHINGTON – Giving Muslims and Sikhs their voice back, a new website has been launched to document hate crimes, physical threats and profiling against their minorities in post 9/11 America.
"We were all affected by 9/11, but the mainstream media has not always covered our stories," Sapreet Kaur, executive director of The Sikh Coalition, one of the groups spearheading the effort, told CNN.
The new website, titled "Unheard Voices of 9/11," was officially launched online last Friday.
It sent a call for people to share their experiences about being discriminated, targeted and demoralized because of their spiritual and cultural beliefs.
"This website is our chance to tell our stories, so that our voices are no longer unheard," Kaur said.
Finding their voices, Muslims and Sikhs rushed to share their sad stories on the website unheardvoicesof911.org, including stories from the days immediately after the attacks.
Within six days of the attacks, the FBI reported that it initiated 40 hate crime investigations into alleged murders, attacks and arson directed at Americans who are Muslims, South Asians and Arabs.
Banjot Sing, a Sikh, posted a video recalling how a police officer questioned him and a friend aboard a train out of Manhattan because a fellow passenger "thought we were dangerous."
Rabia Sajid, a Muslim victim of bigotry, described a man pulling up in a car in New York and yelling, "Go back to your country, otherwise I'm going to kill you."
The New York resident, who is affiliated with the South Asian Youth Action group, said the pastor of a church where she was being tutored, and later police, suggested that she should take off her hijab so she wouldn't be targeted.
The hard decision was one of her biggest regrets, being forced to take off hijab, a part of her Muslim beliefs, to avoid discrimination.
"We didn't face the problem, but we were running away from it by trying to change our identity and who we are," Sajid said at an August hearing in New York City, portions of which are now on the "Unheard Voices" website.
"We don't know how to face the problem ... I don't know what we can do."
Decade of Fear
Stories told on the website summarized a decade of discrimination and bigotry against religious minorities in the post-9/11 era.
"These 10 years have been pure fear, being scared of the next step, being scared of the next place we're going to go ... what my brother might face, what my dad might face, what I might face," said Manpreet Kaur, 21, from Oak Brook, Illinois.
"It's that fear that, everywhere we go, something might happen because we are Sikh - because our men wear turbans, because we look different, because our names are different."
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Bigotry was not on the personal level only.
Several high-profile cases of hate crimes and cases in which Muslims and Sikhs faced opposition to projects due to their religion and heritage also reflected the rising discrimination.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
Moreover, US Muslims have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
More recently, the leaders of a growing Muslim community in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, proposed building a new 52,000-square-foot structure with a mosque, gym, playground and cemetery.
The Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved plans in May to build a community center and mosque in southeast of Murfreesboro.
However, the plans have met a fierce opposition from locals.
Last month, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said communities should be able to prevent such mosques from being built. He later apologized.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center has showed that the majority of Americans know very little about Islam.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll has also found that more than half Americans already hold negative views about the faith.
That fear was still apparent in the repeated visits by FBI agents which many victims regard as sowing widespread distrust against authorities among Muslims and others.
"In my community, people are very afraid - that's the reality," Anoop Prasad, a northern California resident who works for the Asian Law Caucus, said.
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