Pakistani merchants and job seekers in the United States have begun posing as Indians to avoid discrimination in the wake of the Times Square bomb attempt.
“A lot of Pakistanis can’t get jobs after 9/11 and now it’s even worse,” said Asghar Choudhri, an accountant and chairman of Brooklyn’s Pakistani American Merchant Association. “They are now pretending they are Indian so they can get a job.”
This comes despite the fact that India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, creating hostilities that ordinarily would lead a Pakistani to resent being mistaken for an Indian.
In Brooklyn, home to one of the largest Pakistani populations in the United States, business is scant at the various grocery, halal meat and sweet cake shops. More than 100 businesses along Coney Island Avenue have closed due to a 30 percent drop in business since 2001, a merchants’ association said.
While there have been no reported incidents since the failed car bomb attack last Saturday, some Pakistanis are bracing for reprisals.
“I want to make clear that we will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week, noting that there are always “a few bad apples.”
New York is “the city where you can practice your religion and say what you want to say and be in charge of your own destiny and we’re going to keep it that way,” Bloomberg said.
In Washington, an American of Pakistani heritage who would only be identified as Farhan, said a manager of a suburban home-improvement store prevented him from buying two bags of fertilizer for his family’s lawn on Tuesday.
Farhan, who was born in northern Virginia, said police arrived soon after, investigated and allowed him to buy the fertilizer.
“What kind of a country are we living in when a 22-year-old male can’t buy fertilizer?” Farhan asked. “I’m American. I’m not Pakistani.”
Farhan said the store had subsequently apologized and the case appeared to be one of an overzealous manager rather than store policy.
According to the latest U.S. census data, some 210,410 people of Pakistani origin reside in the United States. Nearly 15,000 Pakistanis received U.S. immigrant visas last year.