Aisha Wahab, the California state lawmaker said she received threats and Islamophobic slurs after introducing a bill on March 22 in the California State Senate against caste discrimination.
Democratic Party member Aisha claimed that her office received dozens of calls, hundreds of emails, and some people even came to her office to intimidate the staff.
Mostly, the people who have been running a hate campaign against Aisha Wahab are the upper caste sections of the South Asian community and especially the Hindu right organizations in the US.
“My last name is Wahab, so they love to tie it to Wahhabism, or call me a jihadist or a Talibani. Basically, every racial slur and dog whistle,” she said in an interview with the Time magazine on Wednesday, 29 March, a week after she introduced the legislation against caste discrimination.
The bill will become California the first state in the US to officially forbid caste discrimination if it is approved by the California Senate. Seattle was the first city in the US to accomplish this in February.
Aisha said: “My office has received a lot of violent threats. Within the first 24 hours of introducing the bill, the Senate received hundreds of emails in opposition to and in support of the legislation. Some who felt very strongly came into our district office and tried to intimidate our staff by talking about the Mughal Empire, which is several hundred years old.”
After the report of the Islamophobic campaign against her, many people came out in support of Aisha.
Congressman Ro Khanna tweeted, “The death threats against Aisha Wahab are shameful. I condemn them strongly. Ambedkar was strongly against caste as are the vast majority of Indian Americans including me. If people have concerns on fair enforcement, engage with Senator Wahab in a constructive, civil way.”
Aisha Wahab: First Afghan-American woman elected to US public office
Aisha was born to Afghan refugees who had fled their country in the 1980s in Queens, New York City. Wahab and her sister were placed in foster care after her father was murdered and her mother passed away shortly after. After the 2008 Financial Crisis, they were relocated to Hayward by an Afghan couple who had adopted them in Fremont, California.
She grew up in Fremont, graduating from Kennedy High School, and Ohlone College, and received her B.A. from San Jose State University and an MBA from CSU East Bay.
Aisha ran for Hayward City Council in 2018 to upend the status quo and amplify the voices of seniors, women, children, and working families. She won her race and became the first Afghan-American woman elected to public office in the United States.
The bill by Aisha adds caste as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Dalits in the US have been increasingly calling for legislation saying they face caste bias in the United States.
“People came to this country so they can be free and can pursue their American dream without any disruption to their lives,” Aisha earlier said.
Aisha said caste discrimination is “a social justice and civil rights issue.”
Aisha said she is “deeply sensitive to how minority religions and groups are depicted.”
“Caste goes beyond religion and nationality,” she said. “This legislation primarily protects millions who live in silence and have never had such protection because there is little understanding of this issue. This bill is about protecting people who are vulnerable.”