The latest campaign of hate is targeting Muslims, but what does a Muslim look like? Many of the 9/11 terrorists could have easily passed off as Indian with their brown complexion. Soon after 9/11, I would get suspicious looks whenever I went to a mall or boarded a flight. Now, thanks to this renewed focus on Muslims,
So perhaps it is worthwhile to dig a bit deeper into who it is Mr. Trump wants us to hate and what to look for. Just going after someone wearing a hijab will not get us anywhere and we will not be doing full justice to Mr. Trump. Others have suggested a bacon test—stop brown people on the street and see if they are willing to take a bite of bacon. The problem with this is two-fold. Bacon is not much fun to eat when not crisp and, much to my despair, a recent medical study says it could be carcinogenic. I much prefer the “take a swig” test, ideally with tequila. However, data shows that people are over a 1000 times more likely to die from a DUI than from a terrorist attack so it would rather defeat the purpose. Let me offer a more sophisticated analysis for those embarking on this new hate campaign.
Many of the lighter skinned Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan, some Middle Eastern countries like Iran, former Soviet territories like Chechnya and Uzbekistan, could potentially blend seamlessly into the white population. Think Boston Marathon bombing to understand what I am referring to. Just like Mr. Trump’s German grandparents hid from scrutiny by passing off as Swedish, many of these folks could blend in and disappear into the white American population.
Many Muslims are also “Asian” looking—the quotes are meant to highlight that the term is used in America to denote people from the Far East and Southeast Asia as opposed to South Asians. People with origins in Indonesia, Malaysia, and some parts of Myanmar are likely to be Muslim but possibly indistinguishable from other Asians like the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, to the untrained white eye. Think of the Bali bombing terrorists. So those Muslims again can blend into the Asian population and not suffer from excessive scrutiny from the white vigilantes. There are many black Muslims but they do not really count in this discussion. They are on the receiving end no matter what just for being born black.
That pretty much leaves me and my fellow Indian brethren with a swarthy complexion. And yes, many Indians are Muslim besides being Hindu, Christian (with super traditional Biblical names—I have a friend named Abraham Abraham—how cool!) Sikh (the guys with the turban just like the Taliban but mostly drive taxis in New York), Buddhist, and a few other odd and sundry religions. Given that we Indians fit the image of a terrorist (many TV shows use Indian actors for terrorists), we get targeted as soon as the anti-Muslim hype escalates. This is exactly what happened after 9/11 when a few Indians were beaten up and a couple of them even died. This is exactly what we can expect to see happen now thanks to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. As if to prove my point, just recently a group of Sikh friends were denied entry and checked for bombs when they were entering a stadium to see a Broncos game. Dozens of incidents like this and various incidents of defacing of Hindu and Sikh temples will start to add up to make the Indian community feel alienated. When Mr. Trump and other Republicans talk of a clash of civilizations, that leaves us Indians a bit confused. Much of the Muslim population against whom this purported clash should take place are indistinguishable from white, black, and “Asian” populations and most of the people left standing could well be Indians like me. As you all know we are pretty good at tech support and manning the local 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts. But a clash of civilizations—no, Siree, that is not our cup of masala chai.
I realize all of this is confusing and way too much information for the casual hater. Indians themselves struggle to identify other Indians, forget about who is a Muslim. If you look at our two Indian-American governors, Bobby Jindal could audition for Abu Nasir (brown terrorist) in Homeland but Nicky Haley could easily aim for Carrie’s (white CIA agent) role.
I do not mean to belittle Mr. Trump’s original idea of having a database of all Muslims so we know who is what. Unfortunately, facial recognition and bio-sensing technologies are not quite there yet so we could not use the database in real time. What point is there if you cannot identify someone and chase them down a dark alley? So I suggest reverting to a tried and tested method—for example, I could wear a little badge that said “Hindu” and then perhaps escape the wrath of Mr. Trump? But what do we do with Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii? She is white but is Hindu. Hmm, more complicated than you thought, eh?
So my point here is that if we Indians are going to be targeted any way why not just formalize the whole thing? One of the things I love about what Mr. Trump is doing is that he is taking the mask off. Letting our basest instincts come out into the open. I say let us continue down that path and get to the next significant minority group—the Indians. We are paying the price for his hate campaign any way so we may as well be given that special badge of honor in American society.
Yes, Mr. Trump. We have waited long enough. It is now the turn of the Indians. Please rain your insults and hate on us and do us the honor of adding us to the rolls of other great American communities that have worked hard to join the American dream. Sashi Reddi is a Wharton alum like Donald Trump, but not quite as successful.