MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – At an event here Aug. 27 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harrowing stories were related of bullying in schools, workplace harassment, hate crimes based on religious affiliations and persecution by law enforcement agencies due to wearing faith-based hair coverings.
The three-hour hearing, “Unheard Voices of 9/11”, dramatically presented the decade-long impact after 9/11 on Arab, Muslim and Sikh American communities.
“Most of the bullying that I faced happened in middle school,” said Sarah O’Neal, a young hijab-wearing Muslim at the first panel on school bullying. “I was called a ‘towel head’ and some students asked me if I had relatives in al-Qaeda.” Currently a junior at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif., she added, “I felt marginalized, upset and unaccepted. I don’t want other kids to experience what I experienced in school because of my religion and because I wear a hijab.”
Navneet Singh, 16, of Redwood City, Calif., said, “I have felt isolated from elementary school onwards. In the fourth grade, I got punched in my face by a high school (student). I have been asked if I am related to any terrorist. I feel like I have to walk around with my guard up all the time.”
Speakers at the program, organized by state Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, Calif., the Sikh Coalition and the Council on American Islamic Relations, besides voicing their experiences, emphasized the need for policies and ideas to combat bigotry.