A course seeks ways to tackle Islamophobia


New York : To deal with the spurt of hate crimes against Muslims that have seen a 17-fold increase post 9/11 terror attacks in the US, a course will be offered here to identify the issues that encourage such crimes.

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Attacks on Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have “increased exponentially” not only in the US but also around the world, say experts.

According to the FBI, there has been a 17-fold increase in such crimes after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 in the US.

Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American of Indian origin, was shot dead Sep 15, 2001 outside his convenience store in Mesa, Arizona, in one of the hate crimes.

Sodhi was consulting with landscapers in front of his store when the driver of a pickup truck drew up to them and shot him dead.

Frank Roque, who was arrested for killing Sodhi, said: “I am a patriot!”

Sodhi’s brother was also shot and killed in an unrelated though eerily parallel crime about a year later. Another brother of the same family who continues to work at the convenience store is routinely targeted for such hate speech as: “Go back to Iraq”.

The American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) plans to focus now on the issue as part of a course during the annual training of its members at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers from Feb 28 to March 5.

On March 3, it will present the course: Islamophobia in a Post 9/11 World: Addressing General Insecurity and Mitigating Harm to Anyone Appearing Muslim.

The course will identify the issues that underlie bias crimes such as those against Muslims and anyone perceived to be Muslim, the AGPA said in a statement.

It will highlight group interventions that can transform the general insecurity that manifests as “Islamophobia” and bolster the resiliency of communities that are victim to it, it said.

“This course is a significant and relevant offering as we approach the anniversary of 9/11 and hold our meeting in New York in partnership with the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes (IAGP),” said Jeffrey Kleinberg, president of the AGPA.

“The challenging social issues that arise in complicated times inevitably present themselves in groups and this training will help group leaders address them in ways which benefit their clients and their communities,” Kleinberg said.

Four distinguished experts who have worked in post disaster bias intervention will impart the course.

Siddharth Ashvin Shah, one of the educators who specialize in behavioral medicine and medical director of Greenleaf Integrative Strategies, has provided trauma consultation to vulnerable ethnic groups, including Muslim youth, since 9/11.

Other experts are Razia F. Kosi, founder of the NGO Counselors Helping (South) Asians/Indians Inc. (CHAI), Cindy Miller Aron, mental health specialist at the Samaritan Mental Health in Corvallis, Oregon and Nina K. Thomas, psychologist-psychoanalyst.

This course is a highlight of AGPA’s 2011 Annual Training. Entitled “Group as a Source of Resilience and Change”, the meeting attracts over 1,000 group therapists, researchers and scientists from around the world.