A Sikh-American councilman, who was called a “terrorist” on Twitter by a Donald Trump supporter, has said the Republican presidential candidate’s “xenophobic political rhetoric” has worsened the “climate of fear” against minority communities across the US.
Ravinder Bhalla, councilman-at-large of the City of Hoboken, New Jersey, in an opinion piece on NJ.com said that fear-mongering and divisiveness had never worked to solve people’s differences and “no public official, locally or nationally, should ever be telling you otherwise.”
“As Donald Trump and others continue to inject charged xenophobic political rhetoric into our public discourse, the climate of fear directed towards minority communities across our nation has worsened dramatically,” Mr Bhalla said.
He underscored that diversity and unity is what makes the United States great.
“We are a nation of immigrants, where each new wave has strengthened and reinvigorated our nation,” he said.
Mr Bhalla was called a terrorist last week by Robert Dubenezic, an open supporter of Mr Trump after the Sikh-American had tweeted about new bike lanes in his city.
Mr Dubenezic replied to his tweet, saying “How the hell did Hoboken allow the guys to be councilman? Shouldn’t even be allowed in the US #terrorist.”
Mr Bhalla was quick to answer, exclaiming, “Sir, I am born and raised in America. You clearly don’t know what it means to be an American #ignorant.”
Mr Bhalla, who is also a partner at a law firm, said innocent people across America get called “terrorist” or some other epithet just because of the way they look and now “it was my turn to be falsely labelled based on my Sikh appearance.”
Such offensive remarks raise the question that what should be the proper response of Americans to the rising tide of hate speech and violence in the US in 2016, not only against Sikh-Americans but other minorities like Muslims and Latinos, he said.
“It is important at a time when loud, bigoted and divisive voices are crowding the public square that we remind the public of this basic fact and celebrate a nation founded on the unifying idea that we are all created equal,” Mr Bhalla said.
“We must continue to call out bigotry and hatred when we see it, but in a manner that does not lower ourselves to the level of those that spew hate speech,” he said.
Citing data by civil rights organisation Sikh Coalition, Mr Bhalla said Sikh-Americans had seen an increase in cases of profiling, backlash and hate crimes over the past six months.
“Racists in our own country have desecrated Sikh gurdwaras (houses of worship) and brutally assaulted innocent Sikh Americans. Other minority communities, including the Latino and Muslim communities have also experienced a step up in racially charged incidents,” he said.
Mr Bhalla asserted that his turban and beard represent his commitment to equality, justice and diversity.
“These values are not only Sikh, they are also distinctly American,” he said.