SAN Dialogue on Issues Impacting South Asian Community
On Sunday January 13, South Asian Network (SAN) held a town-hall meeting to have a dialogue on issues that are impacting the South Asian community in the US.
Held in Lawndale, CA, with 80 community members from the local area in attendance, the town hall was conducted primarily in Hindi and Urdu (with simultaneous English translation) and facilitated by SAN staff members and volunteers Farhana Shahid, Hamid Khan, Shiuming Cheer, Vandana Ranjan, and Ankita Kant. In addition, community and staff members took part in various skits to highlight examples of racism, xenophobia, and domestic violence faced by the South Asian community.
The town hall explored the intersections of race, immigration status and gender, particularly in the post-9/11 period of racial profiling, surveillance, detention, deportation and violence faced by Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.
Farhana Shahid, a SAN staff and member of the South Bay community, opened the town hall by emphasizing the need for such a dialogue in the South Asian community as increasingly individuals have faced discrimination at the workplace, harassment while shopping, and racism within the school districts.
Hamid Khan, Executive Director of South Asian Network, followed by providing the historical context of racist immigration policies that have impacted South Asians for decades and linked it to the internment of the Japanese after World War II as well as continued oppression of the indigenous communities (Native American) and African Americans in the US.
Ankita Kant, a community member who has become increasingly active on the issue of violence against women in the past year, informed the gathering that 2 out of 5 South Asian women are impacted by domestic violence. Ankita also provided information on appropriate prevention and intervention strategies such as mental health counseling and resources such as shelters, transportation vouchers, and job-related information that are available to women who are abused by their husbands and/or in-laws. In addition, she discussed the lack of support in the community as well as the racist and discriminatory responses of law enforcement officers faced by survivors of domestic violence.
Also, Kiran Nair, an attorney who practices immigration and family law, presented information on various immigration reliefs available to immigrant women such as Violence Against Women Act and the U Visa.
Moulana Zunaid from the local mosque responded to the queries of various attendants on the role of religion in addressing violence in intimate relationships. He indicated that the root of this violence lies in the inappropriate socialization of men when they are young. The higher position provided to boys while the girls are not afforded the same allows for the unequal power dynamics in intimate relationships. "It is about responsibility, not power," he stated. He elaborated that according to Islam men have the responsibility to provide for their family but they also have the responsibility to recognize that their wives are equal to them and therefore deserve their respect.
A critical part of the town hall included a discussion on the role of community members, particularly males, in addressing violence against women in the community as well as ways to advocate for change in immigration policy.
During the town hall, participants shared their experiences of family violence and suggested methods of confronting violence and raising awareness.
The community members felt that having such town halls was imperative for taking steps against violence in the community. They also stated that it was equally imperative to educate their children on the issue, educate themselves, fight gender stereotypes, begin a dialogue with the family, and support victims of violence in their own community.