Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hindus ≠ Muslims

It's been almost 11 years since 9/11 changed the overall outlook of people's perception towards each other. Since that tragic incident by Al-Qaeda in WTC, the majority of the world joined an "war on terror" against Talibans, extremist Islamic groups.

Though initially most people were angry against Islamic Taliban groups, they also began to suspect their neighbors who were of Middle-Eastern or nearby areas. Many reports claim that the so-called "hate crime" against 'brown people' (people of Middle-Eastern, South Asian descent) increased since then. Although the attack on actual Muslims have declined in the recent time, attacks on others who may look like an immigrant from those areas have increased significantly.

The latest of such attack was when 31-years old Erika Menendez pushed a 46-years old Kolkatan (India) Bengali Hindu man, Sunando Sen, into an incoming train in Queens, NY. The man did not survive from that blow even though only two carriages of the train went over his body. The woman fled the scene quickly before anyone could absorb what just happened at the platform.

The NYPD has arrested the lady two days later in Brooklyn. From the early reports from various sources, she told the investigators that she acknowledged her crime. Additionally, she mentioned to the authorities that she "hated Muslims and Hindus since 9/11".

C'mon, really? Do you not get the difference between Hindus and Muslims? Are Jews and Christians same? Should Muslims attack Christians because Jews are killing innocent civilians in Palestine? Is Colombia and Cuba the same? Venezuela or Mexico?

How long do Hindus have to bear the burden of false accusation of Muslims? How many more mistakes would people commit? Why would Hindus be targeted for something that they are not part of?

It is not new. In the recent time, another angry man opened fire in a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, only to kill several innocent, religious, devout Sikh people. What was the motive for that? Nothing but that the gunman thought those people (Sikh) were also Muslims who decimated the Twin Towers.

I myself have experienced this false accusation. On a trip to a job interview in Edison, NJ, I was asked by a white lady in the train that whether I was a Bangladeshi. The 21-years old Bangladeshi man, Quazi Nafis, was just arrested the day before. She interrogated me in such ways that she thought since my skin color is brown, I might be one of them. She asked me where I was from. I told her I was also a Bangladeshi and about 21-years old at that time. I didn't tell her I was a Hindu since she didn't ask me about my religion. The reason was that I wanted to see what kind of questions she would ask & how far would she go with it. She kept on asking me questions until her stop came. Since Nafis lived in Jamaica, NY & I happen to live in the same county, she was becoming judgmental. The fact that things like age, county of residence, birth nationality happen to be same for me & Nafis, she was just trying to come to a conclusion. I was glad that her stop came right before she was about to come to a conclusion.

The question is not that all Muslims are terrorists or all Muslims are extremists. The point is why would people, especially non-Asians, consider that Hindus or Muslims are the same thing? Are they really? Are their beliefs same? And it's just not adults who are making these false accusations. Both my brother and I were teased by other students, mainly in junior high school and high school for being a Hindu. Those were young kids, about 14-16 years old who shouted like "you fucking Hindu". For me that incident was in 8th grade when I just came into this country recently & didn't know good English. I didn't understand the meaning or the implication of their saying those things to me then. But as I learned about American politics in high school & onwards, I realized that people were being judgmental about people of brown skin color as being the same, Muslim or Hindu. Some thought Hindus were responsible for 9/11. Others thought Hindus or Muslims - all are the same. This was the exact cause for Sunando Sen.

The reason this incident struck me quite sharply is because I used to live in that neighborhood where it happened. I used to take the train from that same station. It was Sunando Sen at that time. It could have been me or someone else like me who was equally innocent as Sunando Sen and happened to be the victim of the so-called "hate crime".

In our Asian world, when Muslims kill Hindus or Hindus kill Muslims or other religious groups, the international human rights groups term such cases as "religious persecution". But when it comes to the same incident in western world, it's termed "hate crime". When "religious persecution" is published in newspaper or news channel, western world jumps in with their international Amnesty or other human rights groups to scold the 3rd world countries for being cruel to innocent people. But when the same thing happens in their country, the western nations lessen the criminal offense by terming these things as "hate crime". I may be wrong, but I think this terminology has to do with how these cases are treated. The western countries don't want to show to the rest of the world that "religious persecution" also happens in their countries.

But how long would they keep us quiet? How many more Sunando Sen or temple massacre has to happen before the western nations become serious about this? How many more false accusations? How many more loss of innocent lives?

I know it has to do with people. Government don't tell people that Hindus are the same as Muslims or vice versa. People need to be aware of the difference. People need to be aware that just because someone is Muslim doesn't mean he is also an extremist. The government has its role to play also. They need to acknowledge these incidents as "religious persecutions". By saying these as "hate crimes" and the same thing in Asian countries as "religious persecutions", they are indirectly avoiding their duty.

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