new saalt report: from macacas to turban toppers: the rise in xenophobic and racist rhetoric in american political discourse

Yesterday at a briefing in Washington D.C., South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) release a new report, From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse, documenting an alarming increase in intolerant remarks and comments made by elected officials and political candidates.

According to the report, since September 11, there has been an unprecedented rise in xenophobic statements that have specifically targeted South Asians, Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs. Here's an excerpt from SAALT's press release:

"Racist rhetoric cannot be characterized as ignorant, funny or inconsequential. It has far-reaching impact - such as contributing to a sense of alienation and isolation on the part of affected communities to shaping negative public opinion and harmful policies," said Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of SAALT.

According to the report, since 9/11, South Asians, Muslims and Sikhs have been perceived as threats to national security; as political liabilities; as outsiders or foreigners; and, as unsuitable for political office. Among many incidents, the report documents and analyzes political ads about outsourcing, statements targeting a South Asian candidate's accent or "funny-sounding" last name, and stances that support profiling and surveillance of certain communities. It also presents a special spotlight on comments related to the Park 51 cultural center ('Ground Zero mosque') and Islamophobia.

"The details in this report are extremely helpful not only to the South Asian community but to the rest of the country as well," said Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the speakers at the briefing. Shelton compared the experiences of Muslims, South Asians, Arab Americans and Sikhs to those of African Americans, who have also been dehumanized and marginalized by a racist political climate.

Reflecting on the current climate of Islamophobia, lawyer, commentator and founder of themuslimguy.com, Arsalan Iftikhar, noted that "'Muslim' has become the accepted slur in America... Race, xenophobia, bigotry have now become a permanent political wedge issue in America."
From Macacas to Turban Toppers is available for download from the SAALT website here. Also check SAALT's Policy Director Priya Murthy featured yesterday in a segment on NPR's Morning Edition, drawing on elements from the report: South-Asian Americans Discover Political Clout.

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