Anti-Arab Bias Incidents on Increase


Newsday (New York), September 13, 2001

This story was reported by Samuel Bruchey, Alfonso A. Castillo, Theresa Vargas, Steve Wick, Emi Endo, Sid Cassese, Erik Holm and Pat Burson and written by Burson.

Saira Ahmed, an American of Pakistani descent, said she has been afraid to leave her Syosset home since Tuesday's attack.

Like many Americans, the acts by suspected Middle East terror cells on U.S. soil left her with a faltering sense of security. But like many with Arabic looks, the attacks also left her anxious about her neighbors who she feared might suspect anyone with those features. "I wear the traditional scarf, and I'm absolutely afraid to leave the house because I don't know how people will show their emotions toward me," said Ahmed, 20.

While government officials say specific Mideast terrorists cells are suspects in the attacks, local Sikhs, Arabs and Pakistanis are reporting to police and community leaders that they are being targeted for violence or are afraid they will be.

Nassau and Suffolk police reported several incidents of violence directed toward Middle Easterners, or those perceived to be. The Mahmanawaz Grocery on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset was the target of an apparent arson early yesterday morning, police said. "If the same community that welcomed me can turn around and look at me like that, then I have to put all my dreams and the way I used to think back in perspective," said owner Kamal Kahn, who emigrated from Pakistan 13-years ago. "I'm still a foreigner."

Brian Harris, 29, of Selden, was arrested in Suffolk yesterday for menacing as a hate crime after he waved a pistol and shouted ethnic slurs at an attendant at the Citgo Gas Station in Ronkonkoma. The handgun was actually a pellet gun, said Suffolk Bias Crimes Bureau Commander Robert Reecks, but Harris also had two shotguns and ammunition in his car. Reecks said that Harris did not specifically mention the attacks but said he would not rule them out as a possible motive.

Anti-Arab sentiments swelled so quickly that in many instances it didn't matter who the victim was. Amrik Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban, said four men chased him Tuesday as he fled lower Manhattan to return home to Hicksville.

Nassau and Suffolk police said they were monitoring mosques in both counties. "We're hoping not to have any further incidents," said Suffolk Police Chief Philip Robilotto, "but we want to be ready in case we do."

But yesterday evening, Suffolk police made another arrest. Adam Lang, 76, of Huntington Station, was arrested after he tried to run down a Pakistani woman in his car outside the Walt Whitman Mall, police said.

The woman ran to safety, and Lang was charged with first degree reckless endangerment, a hate crime. Police said he jumped out of the car and screamed that he was "doing this for his country."

Copyright © 2001, Newsday, Inc.

Back to September 11 Main Page