WASHINGTON: There is a high risk of violence targeting Asian and African American communities a day before and after the election, warns a post circulating on social media.

The Washington Post reported this weekend that among “federal and local law enforcement (and) analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.”

Another post, in Urdu, advises Pakistani and South Asian communities to keep their businesses closed and stay at home on those two days. “Cab drivers should be particularly careful as they are easy to target,” the post adds.

Most cab drivers are immigrants.

In a report published on Sunday, The New York Times noted that “law enforcement officials have attempted to inject calm while warning of dire consequences for those who try to disrupt voting.”

The Washington Post urges caution. “The signals are disturbing: A sharp increase in gun sales. A spike in chatter about civil war in online forums where right-wing extremists gather. An embrace of violent language by President Trump and other leaders. And surveys showing an increased willingness by some Americans to see violence as an acceptable tool against political opponents,” the report adds.

South Asians associated with both Republican and Democratic parties, however, are urging their supporters not to let such “fears prevent them from using your right to vote,” as Aisha Khan, chairperson of the South Asian Women for Joe Biden, said.

She said that many South Asians were also among those 90 million Americans who have already mailed in their votes. There are about 150 million registered voters this year. Ms Khan wants South Asians “also to come out in large numbers on the election day and vote. More than 5.4 million South Asians live in the United States and they need to make sure that they are counted.”

Recently, the US Supreme Court allowed American voters to continue mailing in their votes till Nov 3, the Election Day, ignoring President Trump and other Republicans who say that the mail-in system can be used to rig elections.

Analysts say that many early voters are Biden supporters. Annoyed by such reports, some right-wing extremists have refused to accept the results if early voting favoured Mr Biden. They have vowed to vote in person on Nov 3.

Other Republicans, however, are urging their supporters to use the facility to vote early. The New York Times reported on Saturday that so far 37 percent Republican voters also have confirmed posting their votes.

Sajid Tarar, co-chair of the Muslim Voice for Trump, has vowed to “energise and mobilise” the Muslim community in re-electing President Trump by sharing the many successes of the Trump Administration.

“Re-electing President Trump will ensure the protection of religious liberties, economic prosperity, and educational opportunities for Muslims in America,” the committee argues. Pakistani-Americans are active in both Muslim and South Asian groups because of their religious and ethnic background. Mr Tarar and Ms Khan are also Pakistani-Americans.

Ms Khan said that her home state Maryland alone has 370,000 South Asian voters and there are about 600,000 South Asians in neighboring Virginia.

Mr Tarar, who rose to prominence in 2016 during the two-day Republican National Convention, argues that President Trump has not interfered in Pakistan, as the Obama administration did, “it’s another reason to vote for him.”

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2020

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