Post-9/11 Story of New York's Little Pakistan
By Riaz Haq
Little Pakistan, a tiny community of Pakistani immigrants located just a few miles away from the World Trade Center, drew a lot of negative attention when the twin towers came crashing down in September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The tragic events of 911 sparked a wave of Islamophobia in America as Muslim and Pakistani immigrants became the latest victims in this nation's long history of persecution of religious and ethnic minorities at different points in the past. Earlier targets of such bigotry included native Americans, Blacks, Jews, Germans, Japanese and various Christian sects like Mormons and Quakers.
Little Pakistan is a section of Brooklyn that is home to the largest Pakistani immigrant community in New York City. It was primarily a Jewish neighborhood before the Pakistanis chose it as their home away from home.
Soon after 9/11, US immigration and law enforcement officials, looking at the Pakistani Muslim immigrants in this neighborhood with great suspicion, began a massive crackdown that induced widespread fear and terror among the residents and drove many away from their homes.
At the height of the sweep, over 20,000 people in Brooklyn’s South Asian communities left the United States, a COPO survey found, according to Gotham Gazette , a New York City publication. Many sought political asylum in Canada and Australia, and some returned to Pakistan and other countries. A number of them never returned. Many had their legitimate US immigration applications pending at the time. Others had their cases in immigration courts and they were waiting for disposition by judges.
A year after 9/11, the newly created Department of Homeland Security launched a special registration system, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System or NSEER, requiring male citizens over 16 years of age from 25 countries -- mostly Muslim countries in Africa and Asian -- to register with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although the system was terminated in April 2011, many law-abiding Pakistani immigrants fell victim to it, according to Gotham Gazette.
"Before 9/11, you used to see hundreds of people walking on the streets," said Nadeem speaking to Gotham Gazette. Nadeem is now a store owner of a grocery store at the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Glenwood Road. "The FBI came knocking on people’s doors and asking questions. People were scared. Business dropped more than 50 percent."
Fifteen years later, the residents of Little Pakistan are still haunted by the nightmare of 9/11. But life appears to be slowly returning to normal, according to media reports. Some of those who fled are coming back. New Pakistani immigrants are also starting to come into the neighborhood. Pakistani food and clothing stores are doing brisk business as are the restaurants, beauty parlors and barber shops.
Of course, this could all change if Donald Trump , the GOP presidential nominee who has called for a Muslim ban in America, becomes the next president of the United States.