National Insecurities, the attack on Sikhs and Islamophobia in America
Release Date: 11/1/2012
On September 15, 2001, just four days after the attacks on The World Trade Center, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot dead while planting flowers at his gas station in Mesa, AZ. He was a Sikh. Sodhi’s was the first fatal hate-crime of the post-911 hysteria. Producer Jason Da Silva chronicled this heinous crime in his 2005 film National Insecurities, part of Deep Dish TV's award winning series Shocking and Awful - A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation
Excerpts from “National Insecurities”, part of Deep Dish TV’s “Shocking and Awful” series.
Western violence and racism continues to victimize the Sikh community. It's latest casualties: five men and a woman preparing for religious services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012. They were brutally murdered by white neo-nazi former U.S. army intelligence (sic) soldier. "Another crazy loner" the corporate media explains. Is that the truth? Or is the culpability much more deeply linked to the ideology of violence and the politics of cruelty that seem part of the fabric of this country?
Ignorance in the U.S. about the people and religions of the world is profound. How could it be otherwise given the ravings of vampire politicians and the quality and content of the corporate media that provide the bulk of the information people consume.
Since 911 the bulk of organized hatred and phobias have been directed at Muslims. But there have been scores of attacks on Sikhs. Of course, Sikhs are not Muslims. Sikhism was founded in 15th century Punjab, the region now divided between India and Pakistan. In fact, the British division of India in 1948 and the transfers of millions of people to create the predominately Muslim state of Pakistan resulted in often devastating conflict between followers of Sikhism and Islam.
Yet those unfamiliar with the religion oftentimes confuse Sikhs with Muslims. Sikhs grow their hair long as a symbol of respect to God, and the men wear turbans and have beards. As Jaisal Noor points out in his Democracy Now! report on August 5th, 2012, "the Sikh vision of society is an egalitarian vision. They oppose the Hindu caste system. And the idea behind the Sikhs’ turban and uncut hair is to make them distinguishable, and that’s exactly why they were targeted after 9/11"
Even when the distinction is noted, a not so subtle racism is apparent. Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blogger, in his coverage of the Oak Creek shootings stated that Sikh’s are “often unfairly targeted” as Muslims, which prompted the response, “Does that mean that Muslims are fairly targeted?”
The Deep Dish TV 1992 series Beyond the Browning of America explored the racial profiling and injustice that continues to victimize people of color in the U.S. Violence against immigrants is not new to the United States, nor is lumping together people of color who “all look the same”. After 9/11, the United States government began targeting people of color who “appeared to be Arab” or Muslim. Some of these attempts were outright bigoted and conscious; for example, the imprisonment of Arabs and Muslims without trial.
Highly disturbing and problematic practices, they only increased fear of the other
and reinforced Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment. The government and government officials claim to not target minorities and people of color in “random” searches or, as seen in NYC, stop-and-frisks. While government and law officials hold this claim, whether they are aware of it or not, statistics show that they do
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) heightened security at airports post 9/11 and says that they do not racially-profile travelers. Instead they “randomly screen” passengers. There is nothing random about it. Someone chooses who and when to conduct a random search.
Government and law officials hold “safety” of the public as an excuse for these acts, which they claim are not racial, and some people believe it. Whose safety? Statistics show that race does have an affect on who is targeted. When safety is the reason given for these acts, it creates an atmosphere in which racial profiling is suddenly acceptable.
We don’t have to go back even 100 years in the U.S. to remember the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The U.S. War Relocation Authority’s propaganda film below clearly shows defense of isolation and division of Japanese-Americans within the United States.
It is sad that tragedies have to happen to show that Islamophobia and racism still very much exists in this country. In a place where it’s easier to get a gun than health insurance, we should be asking ourselves where we go from here.