Washington, DC | www.adc.org | September 10, 2021 – Commemorating the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States twenty years after it happened is opportunity for all Americans to reflect and remember. First and foremost, we remember the nearly three thousand innocent victims who perished on that day, and the hundreds of thousands more who lost their lives in the senseless wars that followed. We must also remember the victims of hate crimes who were killed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks — individuals were attacked simply because they looked Arab or Middle Eastern.
Twenty years later it’s time for America to acknowledge that Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians faced serious and significant backlash immediately after the attacks. Our community members were targeted simply because of their perceived race or national origin. It was only a few days after 9/11 when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, was murdered in Mesa, Arizona – the first 9/11 backlash fatality.
Many of our community members still to this day do not feel completely safe and secure in their own homes, places of worship, or at work. Many still face discrimination, are targeted because of their cultural background, and some are even violently threatened or abused. We have watched as anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia moved from the fringes of political discourse to the driving force behind mainstream political platforms, candidates, and xenophobic movements. We regularly see politicians on every level of governance engage in Arab bashing and bigotry without facing any consequences. This shift to the far right in political discourse over the past twenty years has put all communities of color in danger of violent hate crimes and attacks.
Immediately after the attack the United States government went on to roll back the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. The government engaged in open profiling of our community, and expanded surveillance of community members, business, and places of worship. These actions by the government contributed to increase the perception of fear and vulnerability of the entire community. We are still impacted, now more than ever, by Post 9/11 policies including the PATRIOT ACT, NSEERS, and expansion of government surveillance powers. For two decades the expansion of government surveillance and overreach under the guise of national security has gone almost completely unchecked; targeting primarily Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. It is time to rein in the post 9/11 surveillance programs and restores our rights and liberties.
Twenty years after 9/11 it is time for the nation to grasp with the mistakes made in the reaction to the attacks. This can be done while still remembering and honoring the innocent lives that were lost on that day. We need to learn our lessons from the unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to Guantanamo Bay, the legalization and embracing of torture, suspension of due process, weaponizing of immigration, expanded surveillance and police powers, and the PATRIOT ACT. We as a whole need to also work to rectify all the mistakes made immediately after 9/11. No community should feel left out or targeted based on the color of skin, national origin, or religion. All Americans should feel free to live without the threat of government overreach and surveillance. Arabs and Muslims in our homelands also have the right to live their lives without the fear of American bombs or bullets in their homelands..
We at ADC will continue to work on addressing all issues, and doing what we can to ensure that the mistakes of the past 20 years are not replicated.