Pakistani Family Leaving America due to Islamophobia
“I’m done with the U.S.,” Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani’s wife told him on Friday.
Seeing her youngest son, just 7 years old, walk off the school bus bruised and battered that afternoon outside their apartment building in Cary, North Carolina, was the final straw.
Little Abdul Aziz, a first-grader and the youngest child of Usmani and Binish Bhagwanee, was traumatized. He told his parents a classmate had tried to force him to eat food that wasn’t halal. When Abdul Aziz refused, five of his classmates ganged up on him, making fun of his name. They punched him in the face, kicked him in the stomach, and twisted his arm while calling him “Muslim” again and again, Usmani said.
“He was born and raised [in the United States]. He was born in Florida. As American as you can think of. He likes Captain America. He wants to be president of the United States of America,” Usmani told The Huffington Post on Tuesday, speaking over Skype from Pakistan.
Bhagwanee landed in Islamabad on Monday with their three sons. Usmani has an apartment there, and it’s where they all plan to live now, because America doesn’t feel safe.
“It’s very heartbreaking and sad,” said Usmani, twice a Fulbright Scholar and an award-winning computer scientist who uses big data to save lives from terror attacks.
“It’s not the America we know about, care about and want to live in,” he said.
Usmani remembers his middle son, 8 years old, being very angry one day after being picked up from school. Apparently his classmates had told him his dad ? a Pakistani man with a beard ? was a terrorist.
“He asked me if I was a terrorist,” Usmani recalled. After that, Bhagwanee asked him not to go to the school anymore, “just so my children would not face any discrimination because of my face.”
There was the time Usmani’s eldest son, 14, saw a classmate bring a knife into school that his dad had bought in Colombia. When Usmani’s son brought a knife into school that his dad had bought in Pakistan, students called him “ISIS” and “terrorist.” The school went on lockdown and he was suspended for six months, Usmani said. He added that the experience was traumatic for his son, who’s been homeschooled ever since and now suffers from depression and anxiety.
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