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Sept. 11: One year after

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Post-Sept. 11 backlash violence replaced by more subtle forms of discrimination, advocates say

By Deborah Kong, Associated Press

Reports of beatings, stabbings, shootings and other backlash violence after Sept. 11 have slowed to a trickle, only to be replaced by complaints of subtler -- and harder to prove -- forms of discrimination at work, at school and in everyday interactions.

Advocates who track such reports say they are hearing more from people like Farrah Spencer. She says her boss and co-workers started asking her questions just after the terrorist attacks such as "Why do you guys hate America?"

This spring, she received a letter at work from a friend in Saudi Arabia, then two days later lost her job as office manager at a venture capital firm in New York City. She believes it was because she is Muslim and Arab-American. Company president Steven Stull says her position was eliminated due to budget cuts -- not religion.

Many other workplace discrimination claims also are a matter of debate. Employees are convinced they are the victims of prejudice even as employers say layoffs are due to economic cutbacks, performance or behavior problems.

Whatever the reason, groups that track such complaints say they are far higher than in previous years.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission created a new, internal tracking code specifically for Sept. 11-related charges. About 600 charges have been filed by people who believe they were fired or harassed due to backlash. Religious discrimination charges from Muslims have nearly tripled from the same period a year ago, said EEOC spokesman David Grinberg.

"Anger at those responsible for the terrorist attacks should not be misdirected against individuals in the workplace because of their religion, their ethnicity or their country of origin," Grinberg said.

In about the first five months following the Sept. 11 attacks, at least 17 percent of the 1,717 backlash reports the Council on American-Islamic Relations received were about physical assault and property damage.

Between March 15 and mid-August, CAIR said it received 345 reports, mostly alleging employment discrimination, harassment by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and FBI, and airport profiling. The group has also noted a recent increase in custody cases in which non-Muslim parents say they don't want their children raised in Muslim homes.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which established a hot line for backlash complaints, received 580 calls before Jan. 25. Since then, it has only gotten a handful a month, said spokeswoman Nathea Lee.

"The violence has now transformed itself into employment discrimination," said William Haddad, executive director of the Arab American Bar Association in Illinois. "Murder, arson, defacements and attacks -- blatant acts of brutality -- have been replaced with conduct in the workplace or in public accommodations."

Among the reports advocacy groups have received:

-- An Arab-American taxi driver said he was questioned by New York City police after a passenger filed a complaint saying he made anti-U.S. statements. The driver later offered paperwork to prove he wasn't working at the time the passenger claimed he made the comments.

-- A Lebanese engineer in Chicago was fired shortly after his employer asked him whether he had traveled to a terrorist training ground in Lebanon during a visit with his family last summer.

-- A Sikh cardiologist and nine other family members and friends were searched each time they boarded an airplane during a recent vacation. The doctor says his group was singled out because they are of Indian descent and some wore turbans as articles of their faith.

With Sept. 11 anniversary observations scheduled around the country, some fear a new wave of backlash against Muslims, Arab-Americans, South Asians and Sikhs.

"With the notion or sentiment of patriotism, particularly around events that will take place in New York City remembering 9-11, that's going to spur emotions from people," said Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Sometimes those emotions may be negative."

Today's news:
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Mass. remembers victims
Silence, tears mark day at Logan
Under alert, Mass. carries on
Bush faces day with resolve
World remembers attacks in US
Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
Updated wire coverage

Photo galleries:
Families mourn, remember
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Ceremony at the Pentagon
Ceremony at Pa. crash scene
Remembrances worldwide
Remembrances in Boston

NECN RealVideo:
Moment of silence observed
Ceremony at State House
Gettysburg Address read
Procession at Ground Zero
A somber travel day at Logan
Images of Sept. 11, 2001

 THE SERIES

 DAY ONE   SEPT. 3

Preparing for the worst
Security has become the new norm in Greater Boston.

 DAY TWO   SEPT. 4

Fear and children
Children's responses may shed light on human anxiety, resiliency.

 DAY THREE   SEPT. 5

Muslim minds
The US effort to win over Muslim hearts and minds is failing.

 DAY FOUR   SEPT. 6

Science vs. terrorism
New chemical, biological threats spur nation's top minds.

 DAY FIVE   SEPT. 7

Detainees
For those deported after Sept. 11, the losses are wrenching.

 DAY SIX   SEPT. 8

A special Magazine issue
A Sept. 11 narrative by former Massport chief Virginia Buckingham, plus an essay by Christopher Hitchens.

A special Arts section
How culture has changed since Sept. 11, including a gallery of art inspired by the attacks.

A special Focus section
A look at how the lives of six Americans were altered.

Everywhere USA
Terrorism comes to God's country.

 DAY SEVEN   SEPT. 9

Where is Al Qaeda?
How have bin Laden and his terrorist group eluded US forces?

 DAY EIGHT   SEPT. 10

Two cities
New York and DC one year later.

 DAY NINE   SEPT. 11

America remembers
The US looks back at the terrorist attacks.

Victims and survivors
A year later, still hurting.

A time for bells and remembrance
A clash of views on terror
Limited damage to the economy
Families build support system
NYC's healing process
Finding comfort in the kitchen
Bailey: A day of atonement


From the Associated Press:
Tribute paid with tattoos
Charities changed by 9/11
White House calls home
9/11 stole innocence, love
Man escaped earthquake, 9/11
Update on 9/11's famous faces
Firemen still burying dead
A mother's note to a lost son
9/11 created heroes in death
Voice mails bring comfort
Little things hold memories
87th floor survivor copes
Sampling of 9/11 memorials
Pentagon survivors move on
Moments of silence on Sept. 11
Survivors try to move forward
Families cling to chances
Sept. 11 widow trying to forgive
Widow becomes an advocate
Workplace response varies
Graphic: Funds offer relief





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