I Miss Bangladesh [1]

 By Lopa Tasneem

The incident of September 11 has affected a lot of people in many ways.  However, I believe it has a long-term impact on the way the minorities will be treated in this country. For the first time in my life in the US, I am realizing the loneliness of being part of the minority group. As I hear more and more news of incidents of racial harassment, I feel embarrassed and ashamed.  A friend was saying that he heard on the radio, someone suggesting that all Muslims in the US should be put in the concentration camps. Another friend had trash piled up in front of her apartment. My cousin who had moved to the USA 25 years ago when he was 10 years old and had married an American woman got death threat on the phone. My brother’s brother-in-laws got interrogated by FBI agents. One Pakistani gentle man was asked to leave the airplane right before it was ready to take off. It goes on and on. It is surprising to see that this one single incident of the World Trade Center has made some people of the ‘land of immigrants’ to stereotype all Muslims/ South East Asians to be terrorists!

All these reports of racial bias are also changing the way I perceive myself in this country.  Two days after the WTC incident, I went to the grocery store in salwar kamiz. Although this is nothing unusual, but I felt different this time. Being the only one in the store in a different outfit from the rest, I felt that some angry eyes were following me. I am used to people here asking me if I was from the Middle East or Pakistan. Could it be that because of my looks and outfit people were thinking I come from the terrorist groups – I ask myself?  Maybe they were cursing me in their minds -- who knows. My looks and outfit perhaps were making them suspicious about me.

However, this stands in stark contrast the way I have been treated in my past years of life in the US. Not so long ago people would come to me and complement my sari or salwar kamiz. I always felt proud of such an elegant outfit called sari. But for the first time, I regretted not wearing jeans in a public place, and being the target of suspicions of many angry minds as a result. I feel that my skin color and name will never make me an American in the eyes of others no matter how hard I try to speak in American accent and no matter how long I live in this country. Maybe the racial ill feelings had always existed in the hearts of many people we see around.  All it took was a catalyst for it to come out.

My heart gets heavy as I think of all these possibilities. I got rid of all religious practices in my personal life long time ago and I am against all religious fanaticism especially Islamic terrorism but it is also true that I feel humiliated nonetheless. I feel sorry for myself for being a second-class citizen in the land of the affluent. I feel sad. I miss Bangladesh.

Lopa Tasneem


  Replies Author Date
2522 Dear Lopa, hecksheri@m... Sun  9/23/2001
2526 Re: I miss Bangladesh Bishnu Dey Mon  9/24/2001
2528 Re: I miss Bangladesh Audrey Manning Mon  9/24/2001
2531 Re: I miss Bangladesh Chowdhury, Sabina Mon  9/24/2001
2542 Re: I miss Bangladesh Abul Kasem Tue  9/25/2001
2565 Re: I miss Bangladesh ttti@b... Thu  9/27/2001
2552 Re: I miss Bangladesh aparthib Wed  9/26/2001
2548 Re: I miss Bangladesh RUBAIYA AHMAD Wed  9/26/2001
2542 Re: I miss Bangladesh Abul Kasem Tue  9/25/2001
2590 Re: I miss Bangladesh freeperson55@h... Sat  9/29/2001
2580 Re: I miss Bangladesh Audrey Manning Fri  9/28/2001


I Miss Bangladesh [2]

 By Lopa Tasneem


Dear Friends,

I thank everybody who responded either on the forum or personally to my post, “I miss Bangladesh”. Special thanks to Sherry, Audrey and Penny who could see right through my heart even though they are not the first generation Americans like myself.  It’s people like them who make the world such a friendly place to live in. However, I would like to clarify a few points for the readers who might have misunderstood me.

I do know that racism exists in its full form in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Muslims did break the temples when Babri mosque was demolished in India. Also, I do know that my Hindu friends are being routinely discriminated in Bangladesh. A significant part of my life was spent in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. What we have done to the innocent Chakma people starting from the building of the Kaptai dam until today is unforgivable. But the purpose of my write up was not to focus on the communalism in Bangladesh.

All these years, I only sympathized with the minority for the mistreatments they had received. But for the first time in my life, I can exactly feel what my minority friends regularly go through in Bangladesh. I cannot condemn the minority if one of them chooses to migrate to a place wherever he/she can live with dignity. Some of the Hindus have chosen to migrate to West Bengal. Does that mean West Bengal is free from any racism/communalism? NO. The Muslim minority is being discriminated in West Bengal. If racism in America fills my heart with sadness and makes me nostalgic for my birthplace, where I am not a minority, that does NOT imply that my birthplace does not discriminate against the minority living there.

Any sort of racism, anywhere in the world is a deplorable act and should be protested!

Warm Regards,

Lopa Tasneem


Reply to  I miss Bangladesh posted by "Ms. Lopa Tasneem"

Sabina Chowdhury


E mail : Sabina_Chowdhury@sa.wpi.org

Your feelings shared today are shared by almost all people from Muslim/south Asian origin, everyone from someone who just bears an Islamic name to ones who suddenly have to hide/defend their personal choices/practices  (like those who choose to wear hijab, on top of salwar kameez).

But even faced with overt hostility, we have to remember, just as the fanatics by their horrendous deeds have cast a shadow of suspicion on the vast majority of population that happen to share their ethnicity/religious background but in no way share their distorted views, the acts of racial prejudice/hate crimes are committed by a small fraction of the mainstream American community, that shouldn't be taken by us to be representation of the mainstream.

Here in San Antonio a local Persian restaurant was vandalized (most likely not by "patriotic americans" teenage hooligans who would be up to some other criminal activity if there were not doing this). That is the negative. But the positive is since then, the restaurant is so busy by the community to going there to eat to show support, there is an hour wait now to get in. The Pakistani man who was pulled from the plane is now showered with flowers/phone calls/ BTW, the man says he has no ill feelings and has donated $5,000 to victim aid fund.

Even though we have not experienced any backlash personally, we are showered with questions/concerns if anything has happened to us, are kids mean to my daughter at school etc. The neighbor who is a policeman paid a special visit to our house so that we immediately report any verbal abuse etc. A client called and asked if we experienced anything and said "I am so ashamed by the behavior of some of my countrymen." I assure all that I have great faith in the average American citizen and we understand these sporadic backlashes do not represent the average American, any more than the terrorist represented the country/religion they hail from.

I do understand those of us who live in a white collar neighborhood and have a white collar job, and surrounded by educated and informed people, are not facing anything near what a taxi driver in NY, convenience store clerk in Miami, and countless other Asians/Muslims working minimum wage jobs in high risk neighborhoods (even without the recent incidents) are facing.  I know at times like this one will long to be back home and be one of the majority population and hot have this fear.  But do I wish to be back in Bangladesh to be part of the majority population again?

Maybe for the time being. But from what I have seen personally in Bangladesh and know about the subcontitent in general, our mob reaction/lynch mentally and intolerance of towards ethnic minorities pales to what is happening here pale in comparison.

Throughout the history of mankind, it seems racial biases are inherent in the genes of human kind, in some people they emerge when situations are favorable for them to surface, just like cancer. But I would rather be an ethnic minority in US than the majority in a lot other places in the world.