Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Story of New York's Little Pakistan Since 911

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 in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York

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 911, US immigration and law enforcement officials, looking at its 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 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 911, 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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although the system was terminated in April 2011, many law-biding Pakistani immigrants fell victim to it, according to Gotham Gazette.

"Before 911, 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 911.  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.

Off 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.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-American Demographics

Islamophobia in America

Donald Trump's Muslim Ban

Silicon Valley Pakistanis


Pakistani said...

Atleast The Donald says what's in his mind and popular assertion that most Terrorists are Muslims. We in Pak say the same about Afghans and dont want afghans immigrating to Pakistan, so why cant the US do the same?

On (crooked) Hillary, she will be a nightmare for Pakistan as was her husband and Obama and will have good relations with india.

The republicans were always friendly towards Pak and things would improve for Pak.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are beholden to big oil(India is the world's third largest and fastest growing major customer) and the arms industry(India is the world's largest buyer). If you think Obama is pro India wait for The Donald.There is a reason the Hindu right is publicly praying for his victory.

r_sundar said...

NY is still million times safer for Muslims, than in Pakistan.
Most of them going underground was after FBI began catching illegal migrants and sending them back.
The most unfortunate are Skihs who having nothing to do with this, getting caught in the crossfire.
Trump is still in beating distance of Hillary, because he doesn't care to be politically correct.

Riaz Haq said...

sundar: "NY is still million times safer for Muslims, than in Pakistan."

No, not Pakistan. Indian occupied Kashmir is definitely more unsafe for Muslims than New York and many other places around the world.

Young Muslim men and women are being blinded, injured and killed everyday by 700,000 Indian soldiers brutally occupying their land

Since mid-July, when the current wave of protests against the Indian military presence started, more than 570 patients have reported to Srinagar’s main government hospital with eyes ruptured by lead pellets, sometimes known as birdshot, fired by security forces armed with pump-action shotguns to disperse crowds.

The patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink. “Dead eyes,” the ophthalmology department’s chief calls them.

Posted by Riaz Haq to Haq's Musings at September 12, 2016 at 1:18 PM

Riaz Haq said...

In Little #Pakistan, #NewYorkCity, all shops, restaurants shut, streets like a ghost town on #DayWithoutImmigrants

Mom and pop restaurants and national chains like McDonald’s shuttered their locations yesterday after national protests
Yesterday, hundreds of restaurants around the country closed in solidarity with the Day Without Immigrants movement that sparked protests and job walkouts around the country. We’ve already highlighted several mom and pop restaurants and fine-dining eateries around the country that closed, but multiple McDonald’s locations shuttered for the day as well, in a move that could very well affect the chain’s quarterly sales.

"The purpose of the protest is to show just how disruptive immigration changes by the government could impact consumers' everyday life," Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, a research and consulting firm for the food service industry, told CNBC. "For McDonald's franchisees and company stores, it is likely best to close the restaurant versus trying to manage the restaurant with an inadequate service staff. Although many customers will see this is an inconvenience, many will understand."

In large cities around the nation, the absence of immigrants, from more than just the Hispanic community, was greatly felt. In a Pakistani neighborhood in Midwood, Brooklyn, all shops and restaurants were closed and the streets looked like a ghost town, according to the New York Times. Philadelphia’s Italian market was deserted, and even a coffee shop inside the Senate in Washington, D.C. was not open, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But now what? Although many restaurant owners shut their doors or only offered limited service in support of their employees, the industry is looking at a full day’s loss of profits which could cause financial troubles for smaller restaurants and caf├ęs

Nation’s Restaurant News put together a legal guide for restaurant owners and managers on how to handle employees who did not show up to work yesterday. A legal email alert from law firm Fisher Phillips told employers to consult their legal counsel before taking any disciplinary action, give workers a chance to explain, disallow slowdowns, and not “spy on” protesting staff in public with recording equipment.

Riaz Haq said...

Fighting for the Immigrants of Little Pakistan
The Brooklyn neighborhood persevered after 9/11. Can it survive in the age of Trump?

By Jennifer Gonnerman

after the Inauguration of Donald Trump, this past January, people in the neighborhood panicked. Razvi started receiving ten or fifteen calls a day from Pakistanis who worried that law enforcement would round up every immigrant who was in the country illegally, and that anti-Muslim hate crimes would escalate, as they had in the fall of 2001. In February, a friend told Razvi that her husband, a cabdriver, had been threatened by another driver, who was wielding a bat and shouting something about Trump. Razvi feared for neighborhood residents, and especially families like the Khans. Recalling the era after 9/11, he said, “I think what’s happening is, it’s ripping those wounds open again.”

New York City officials calculate that seventy-three thousand Pakistanis live in the five boroughs, though the true number is likely much higher. The largest concentration resides in and around Little Pakistan. On Coney Island Avenue, between Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H, men stroll down the sidewalk in shalwar kameez, and newspaper boxes are filled with copies of the Pakistan Post and the Urdu Times.


This past February, twelve days after Trump’s Inauguration, Razvi sat in his office, where an enormous American flag covers the wall behind his desk. “Today, guess who comes to see me,” he said, holding up a white folder labelled “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” A woman from ice’s community-relations office had stopped by to introduce herself and to leave the folder, which contained promotional materials. Razvi said that he told her, referring to ice, “I’ll be blunt—people hate you.” But he took note of one flyer, about the ice Detention Reporting and Information Line, and pulled it out to make copies. “I never had this before,” he said. Now, if he heard that an immigrant had disappeared, he would know what number to call first.

Razvi tried to hide his fears about immigration raids, he told me, “because if I show the worry it’s going to be a ripple effect.” False rumors were spreading through Little Pakistan, including one about immigration agents making arrests at the Church Avenue subway station. Strangers were approaching him on the street, to tell him that they were concerned about their legal status and to beg for his help. One Sunday, he spoke to men at a local mosque about what to do if a law-enforcement agent stopped them: “We want you to stay quiet. Say, ‘I won’t answer any more questions until I speak to an attorney.’ ”

Riaz Haq said...

Can #NewYork's Little #Pakistan Survive #Trump? Inside A Family's Fight to Stop Their Deportation … via @democracynow

Can Brooklyn's Little Pakistan Survive Trump? Inside One Family's Fight to Stop Their Deportation

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Can the Brooklyn neighborhood of Little Pakistan survive the presidency of Donald Trump? That’s the question posed by a new piece in The New Yorker magazine. Writer Jennifer Gonnerman looks, in part, at the story of Shahid Ali Khan and his family, who are facing possible deportation. For years, they successfully received stays of removal, but this year appears to be different. On July 6, they have a meeting scheduled at the ICE enforcement and removal field office. That meeting could determine if the family can stay in the United States.

We’re joined now by two guests. Mohammad Razvi is founding executive director of Council of Peoples Organization. And we’re joined by Jennifer Gonnerman, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, who’s written the piece, "Fighting for the Immigrants of Little Pakistan."

Jennifer, talk about this extremely poignant story of this family, who came to this country to save the life of their baby boy.

JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Right, they’re an—it’s an extraordinary story. The Khans came in 1997, two parents and a baby, who was not yet two. The father was a bank manager in Pakistan. He gave up everything, because his son was born with a heart defect and needed surgery that couldn’t be gotten in Pakistan. He looked into various countries to come to, ultimately got a visa to come to the United States, came to Brooklyn, went from one hospital to another, ultimately ends up at Mount Sinai. And when his son is 2 years old, he gets open heart surgery there.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York City, Mount Sinai.

JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Exactly, exactly. And then, as a consequence of that surgery, the son ends up suffering a very rare movement disorder, which he is unable to control his limbs, can’t eat, can’t feed himself, can’t walk, needs a feeding tube, wheelchair. And the family has no choice but to stay. So even after their visa runs out, they try to get, you know, an extension, and they stay here and continue to get medical treatment for their son. And over the next years, the son makes terrific progress. He’s now walking, though not too steadily. He talks a little bit, not too easy to understand. But his progress has been tremendous. And the family continues to get treated at Mount Sinai and elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: And they say he will not be able to proceed like this or progress, if he is forced out.

JENNIFER GONNERMAN: His doctors say that the treatment he needs—he’s got a number of very complicated and unusual medical conditions, and the support system that he has here, he will not have if he’s sent back to Pakistan. I had heard about the family because it’s somebody that Mr. Razvi had helped in the past, post-9/11, and somebody he was very proud of helping and being able to stop their deportation many years into the past. And then I happened to be in his office—it was about a week or two ago—finishing up this story for The New Yorker, and suddenly here comes Mr. Khan, completely despondent, straight from the ICE office and coming to Mr. Razvi’s office for help, and told us that he was at risk of deportation.

Riaz Haq said...

The Struggle to Send Home Pakistan’s Dead
When Pakistan’s national airline suspended U.S. flights, the immigrant community struggled to send their dead home.

... amid the street party scenes, wedged between the stalls heaving with sweets and succulent and spicy kebabs, another stall was showcased and getting a great deal of attention from local merrymakers: A funeral home’s stall.

Its presence on the streets during this holiday might seem jarring, even unseemly, to visitors unfamiliar with Little Pakistan. But not for local residents, virtually all of them Muslim and low-income, who are acutely aware that their struggles don’t end with death, but in some cases become manifold challenges for family and friends left behind.

As with other stalls, people stopped at this somber one too; asking a litany of well-informed questions, from the lowest rates for body embalming to the cost of being driven to the mosque where the funeral prayer would take place and then to the airport for the final journey home. The Pakistanis who stopped at the stall did not recoil because members of this financially struggling immigrant community regard burial in their homeland and making dignified arrangements for that time as a necessity; a part of life.

Not only is there the strong emotional pull to be buried as quickly as possible on native soil for religious and cultural reasons; for years, the practice of the deceased being flown back to Pakistan was the least expensive option. While an American burial was out of reach for many low-income immigrants, returning a dead body on a direct flight to Pakistan was free. Fourteen years ago, Pakistan’s national airline began transporting the country’s dead back to their homeland free of cost.

But last fall, the Pakistani airline abruptly ended its flights to the United States, saying it had become too costly. The decision has left local Pakistanis in a desperate bind when tragedy strikes.

In this South Asian New York neighborhood of mostly daily wage earners, some undocumented and with limited English proficiency, there is often comfort found in living lives under the radar. But the community now finds itself facing the issue of repatriating their loved ones in an ad hoc, haphazard manner rather than in the cohesive way of a more organized immigrant community.

For 14 years, the Pakistani immigrants in New York City only had to gather money for body embalming and the basic funeral services of getting picked up from the hospital or home, driven to the funeral home and finally to the airport. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national carrier of Pakistan, transported the bodies of the country’s deceased citizens back to Pakistan free of cost. But on October 28, 2017, PIA flew its last flight from John F. Kennedy Airport, leaving the immigrants in New York beset with worry and fear of what to do when a loved one who wished to be buried in Pakistan dies.

From now on, aside from the approximately $1,500 to $1,800 dollars needed for the funeral services and embalming, a process mandatory for a body being transported to another country, the immigrants will also have to scramble to find money for the air travel. PIA operated a direct flight from New York to Lahore, which meant that a body would reach its loved ones in 12 hours; the other international airlines that go to Pakistan all have layovers at their respective base cities.

Bazah Roohi, founder of the American Council of Minority Women and a humanitarian worker in Little Pakistan, has seen how the airline had a tremendous impact on the financially struggling Pakistani population, making a difficult time easier.

“We could inform PIA officials a night before a body had to be transported,” said Roohi. “But now, we don’t know what the protocol will be and what more we will need to do in an already desperate situation.”

Riaz Haq said...

'Little #Pakistan' designation sought to make #Brooklyn community 'stronger'. The mile-long stretch of Coney Island Avenue between Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H has been a destination for #Pakistani immigrants in #NewYorkCity since the ’80s. via @amNewYork

As the smell of heavy spice wafts from Lahori Chilli Restaurant and Sweets down Coney Island Avenue, two men clasp hands and greet each other in Urdu while an older woman in a traditional full-length shalwar kameez and headscarf shops for fruit in the stand next door. Between them lies the basement office of the Pakistani American Youth Organization (PAYO).

The nonprofit organization, which aims to ensure Midwood youth “achieve their goals as civically engaged Americans,” is working toward an official acknowledgment of the neighborhood’s cultural character: the establishment of a “Little Pakistan.”

“Our elders didn’t do this, and we wish they had,” said Waqil Ahmed, president of PAYO and owner of Pak Wireless on Coney Island Avenue. “We will be stronger.”

The mile-long stretch of Coney Island Avenue between Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H has been a destination for Pakistani immigrants since the ’80s. The area became informally known as “Little Pakistan” among residents as the area filled with Pakistani restaurants and shops while Urdu became the language of the streets.

At Gourmet Sweets, groups of Urdu-speaking men convene around tables as they come in for the lunch rush on a recent afternoon. The men greet each other and chatter, shouting through a window in the back wall to include the chef in conversation. Steaming plates of daal chawal or aloo gosht are served to the group, and after their meal they select a dessert from behind the glass counter before heading back onto the avenue, where stores like Meena Jewelers and A-One Barber Shop advertise in English and Urdu.

But the community has faced hardships since the attacks in New York on Sept.11 sparked some Pakistani people to migrate out of New York City amid a spike in hate crimes against Muslim people. Seventeen years later, the community is on the path to revival, but still faces challenges as language barriers and cultural divides keep Pakistani immigrants from fully integrating into New York. Ahmed hopes to provide services that keep this kind of migration out of Brooklyn from happening again by applying for the city to officially designate this section of Coney Island Avenue in Midwood as “Little Pakistan.”


The designation would bring other benefits, like increased tourism and an easier way for new Pakistani immigrants to find a community of their own in New York City, said Ahmed, who moved to the area with his family from Pakistan more than 20 years ago.

“Even though we are part of the community we are still trying to make the community let down their guard,” Malik said. “And for them to believe we’re there to help and that we’re not against them.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Brooklyn unveils #street sign for founder of #Pakistan.The location saw a jubilant scene Friday as community members tossed confetti, waved #American and #Pakistani flags for the unveiling of "Muhammad Ali Jinnah Way." #NewYork #QuaideAzam via @amNewYork

The intersection of Coney Island and Foster avenues in Brooklyn was witness to a jubilant scene Friday, as community members tossed confetti and waved American and Pakistani flags for the unveiling of "Muhammad Ali Jinnah Way."

The co-naming of the intersection after the founder of modern Pakistan was the realization of a longtime goal of the Pakistani American Youth Organization (PAYO), a nonprofit based in Midwood, which hopes an official designation of the neighborhood as "Little Pakistan" will soon follow.

“I think [the co-naming] is a great way to show homage," said Councilman Jumaane Williams, who supported the co-naming and revealed the signage at the ceremony. "You see the impact that 9/11 had for this community, the un-American feeling that was here was palpable. So many organizations opened up to try to bring back that sense of community, so when PAYO reached out to do this renaming it made sense. I was excited to do this.”

The unveiling was followed by steaming trays of samosas and jalebi, a bright orange Pakistani sweet. As attendees ate and celebrated, speakers took to the podium to commemorate the co-naming, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Councilman Mathieu Eugene, and Zubda Malik, the general secretary of PAYO.

“I don’t have words to explain; this is not just a sign," said Waqil Ahmed, president of PAYO, who also called it a symbol of acceptance.

In the 1940s, Jinnah played a prominent role in the partition of Pakistan from India in order to establish an independent Muslim state. He succeeded in his negotiations with Britain and was pronounced the first governor-general of Pakistan in August 1947.

“When the kids see the sign they will be proud to explain he’s the founder of Pakistan," Ahmed said.

The mile-long stretch of Coney Island Avenue between Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H has been a destination for Pakistani immigrants since the ’80s. The area became informally known as “Little Pakistan” among residents as the area filled with Pakistani restaurants and shops while Urdu became the language of the streets.

Riaz Haq said...

Brooklyn Democratic Machine Appoints Little Pakistan Residents to Party Posts Without Their Knowledge
A former party leader in the borough says ‘ghost appointees’ are not a new phenomenon.

At least ten people living in Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan neighborhood were appointed to obscure but meaningful positions within the borough’s Democratic Party organization without their knowledge in October, an investigation by THE CITY has found.

The irregular appointments were for the “county committee,” a body of neighborhood representatives across the borough who vote on the party’s rules and its nominees for special elections in deliberations that have become flashpoints of heated intra-party rivalries.

In phone calls and conversations in person at homes, apartments and storefronts across Kensington, Brooklyn, numerous residents, nearly all of them South Asian immigrants, said they had no idea how they or their family members had ended up as county committee representatives for the 44th Assembly District. In some cases, people had moved out of the state months before they were appointed, residents of their former residences told THE CITY.

Zulfiqar Ali, 58, who runs a cash transfer business on Coney Island Avenue, was unaware of his appointment until THE CITY visited his shop last Thursday. Ali said he had “no idea” who slotted him into the position.

“I’m with Democrats,” the shopkeeper said. “‘But I never asked, requested them to put my name as recommended leader because, you know, I am busy.”

Farzana Shabbir, who lives in an apartment building a few blocks away, also learned of her appointment from THE CITY. Shabbir said she wanted to be removed from the county committee along with her adult daughter, who also confirmed that she was added to the committee without her knowledge.

“I’m not even aware of anything. This is the first time hearing from you,” Shabbir said. “I’m shocked. It’s disappointing though.”

Boatload of Proxies
The unsuspecting appointees THE CITY spoke with were part of a county committee nomination slate the Brooklyn Democratic Party establishment pushed through at a chaotic mass meeting in October. It was part of a successful effort to shut out a slate of would-be appointees assumed to be at odds with party leadership.

Given this context, some of the new appointees fear their names, and votes, could be exploited for intraparty machinations without their say.

“These people probably are not even voting. So then who is making these rules?” said Shawaza Majeed, a nonprofit worker who lives in Kensington and said that she also was appointed without her consent. “What the hell is happening?”

According to party insiders, for the county establishment to take advantage of these “ghost” appointees’ votes at contested meetings, party leaders need signed proxy forms transferring the unsuspecting committee members’ voting power to dependable allies.

“This is not a new thing. This has been going for decades,” said Diana Gonzalez, a former executive director of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “Everybody knows County just wants to control meetings by walking in with a boatload of proxies.”

Gonzalez, now president of the dissident club, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, argued the party establishment will stop at nothing to secure the votes of “ghost” appointees.

“It’s not just that they’re appointed without their knowledge. It’s that when the county party needs to collect proxies, other people are forging their signatures,” she said. “So the person who put that list together, his or her work isn’t done. They have to forge proxies for the next county committee meeting.”

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Democratic Party declined requests for comment about the “ghost” members. In April, THE CITY reported that party members allied with the establishment forged at least five residents’ signatures in a bid to block rivals campaigning to join the county committee.