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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

World

US: Indian-origin soldier says she faced racial slur
AP
Raleigh , May 09, 2013
First Published: 22:26 IST(9/5/2013)
Last Updated: 23:55 IST(9/5/2013)

An Indian-origin woman soldier in the US has complained that she is facing constant anti-Muslim slurs and jokes beacuse her name sounded Islamic.

Sgt 1st Class Naida Hosan is not a Muslim, she's a Catholic. But her name sounded Islamic to fellow US soldiers in Iraq, and they would taunt her, calling her "Sgt Hussein" and asking what God she prayed to.

So before deploying to Afghanistan last year for her second war tour, she legally changed her name, to Naida Christian Nova.

This did not solve her problems.

Instead, matters escalated. Nova complained to her superiors about constant anti-Muslim slurs and jokes. She says they responded with a series of reprisals intended to drive her out of the Army, leading her to consider suicide.

"My complaints fell on deaf ears every time," said Nova, 41, a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"Any time I would say something about it I was treated like I didn't know what I was talking about or that I'm an idiot or that I was a Muslim sympathizer. It was just a very lonely feeling."

Determined to remain in the service for at least eight years, until she is eligible for retirement, Nova recently re-enlisted.

But she agreed to tell her story to The Associated Press because "I don't want this to happen to anyone else if I can help it. It's a horrible to feel like people are against you when you are supposed to be on the same team."

Fort Bragg spokeswoman Sheri L Crowe said the Army would not comment on the case, and referred questions to the US Department of Justice.

The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, assigned to defend the Army, also declined comment.

But her account is supported by an affidavit filed by an old friend, Sharon Deborah Sheetz, who said that Nova had confided in her about the harassment she had suffered, telling Sheetz that she was so unhappy that she no longer wanted to live.

A Farsi linguist who works in military intelligence, Nova's multicultural background exemplifies the kind of soldier Army recruiters prize.

Nova's father, Roy Hosein, was born into a Muslim family on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where his parents had emigrated from India.

He converted to Christianity after meeting Nova's mother, a Catholic from the Philippines, and became a US citizen shortly after his daughter was born in New York. He changed the spelling of his family name to Hosan in the hope his children would avoid discrimination.


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