Henry Lau of Columbia, a Chinese immigrant who works for the Environmental
Protection Agency, makes a point with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, foreground
left, at a meeting in Laurel.
When Sabir Rahman moved to the United States from Pakistan 40 years ago, he
said he sometimes experienced discrimination, but never fear.
That changed after Sept. 11, 2001, Rahman told U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and a
group of about 40 Asian- Americans assembled at the Laurel Municipal Center
Monday, who met to discuss issues including racism and workplace
"I've never been afraid in this country, but in the last three years, I've
been afraid to go to airports," Rahman told Hoyer.
State Del. Susan Lee of Montgomery County, who is of Chinese ancestry,
helped to organize the meeting with Hoyer through the Maryland Coalition
for Asian Pacific Community Organizations and other Asian-American groups.
Racism "is something you can't control or legislate," said Rahman, a home
builder who lives in Sandy Spring. "It's something that has to be tackled
in a systematic way.
"We want you to take a more pro-active role," Rahman told Hoyer. "People
listen to you. We need you to speak forcefully about this."
In an interview after the meeting, Rahman said the backlash toward Muslims
after Sept. 11 caused him to be suspicious when members of a fire
department in his community came to his house saying they wanted to install
a "communication radio."
"I was afraid," he said. "I said, 'I'm not interested in this.' I didn't
know if they were placing a bug in my house. I was so scared that I didn't
ask what it was for." Rahman said he called Montgomery County Executive
Doug Duncan, who told him that he didn't know of any such program.
The representatives at Monday's meeting included immigrants from China,
Korea, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. The event was covered by
Asian-American television stations and newspapers..