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Diverse Friends Unite Against Racist Backlash Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Abbie Zamcheck, Sep 27, 2001
Peace & Conflict   Opinions


Junior Himanshu Suri wanted to volunteer downtown, but his mother wouldn’t let him step out the door. “My parents were scared,” he said. “People don’t see a difference between Sikhs and Muslims.”

Suri, who is Hindu, was referring to the Americans who have directed their anger towards people they perceive—because of skin-color or garb—to be representative of the terrorists in this attack.

Suri is part of a clique of about 40 juniors and seniors who often congregated behind Stuy’s fourth floor escalator. While the bunch is also made up of Jewish, Christian, Sikh, and Jain students, the majority of its members are Hindu or Muslim. Despite historical tension between these peoples, they have been friends since their freshman years. And following the September 11 attack, in the face of shared persecution, they have become even closer.

Senior Mudassir Khan, Vice President of the Muslim Student Association, said, about 15 members of the group managed to walk together as they evacuated the Stuy building. The bunch trudged to 23rd Street, where they ate, and waited several hours until train service resumed.

“When we were walking there was no arguing,” said Suri. “We just valued each other’s company. You could see this among much of the school as well.”

The students said that while they haven’t been harassed by members of the Stuy community, they have experienced bigotry throughout the city.

According to senior Naazia Husain, a pedestrian who passed her group of diverse Stuyvesant students dining at 23rd Street said, “Look at the Palestinians celebrating.” Husain wears a hijab, the traditional garment worn by certain Muslim women. She said that because it distinguishes her as a Muslim, she is more susceptible to prejudice. But despite this incident, she said that her friends at Stuy have been very supportive of her, especially since the attack.

Senior Tahmeed Ahmad said, “People tried to scare me by calling me a “stupid terrorist,” and told me to “go home,” he said.

Senior Mohmmad Alam, who worked under the supervision of a man now buried under the rubble of the North Tower, said in the days following the evacuation, he has been “approached” by strangers, who give him cold stares. But this hasn’t prevented him from playing basketball most days. Alam said people need to understand that “I didn’t do it, I’m not responsible for this, the people who [carried out this attack] are representing their own group, not Islam.”

Ahmad said he believed that the backlash against the Arab and Indian communities consisted of isolated incidents mostly far from New York, though he mentioned several hate crimes reported nearby.
Through group e-mails, these friends were able to discuss their experiences. They spoke of the hate crimes they had heard of on the media, and what they had seen on the streets.
The first Tuesday after the attack, the group got together again, this time just to enjoy each other’s company.

During last Thursday’s student assembly, Suri, who is Vice President of the Student Union, made a speech in which tolerance among the Stuy community was the major theme. Suri said, “I hope that we, as Stuyvesant students ...work at educating others who have been blinded by anger.”

Alam said the group had discussed most of the statements [in Suri’s speech] beforehand online. “We stuck together, and [the non-Muslim students in our group really supported us in this time of hardship,” said Alam. “We are definitely closer now.”



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