Editor’s Note: Art often reflects the political pulse of society and the issues that people care about. Throughout the 2016 election cycle, CNN Politics will be profiling various influential and politically conscious artists in the “Get political” series.
The arrest of a Texas teenager over a homemade clock he brought to school provided a stark reminder to New York rapper Himanshu Suri that it is tough to be a Muslim in post-9/11 America.
On Monday, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, a Sudanese-American Muslim, was arrested after he showed his project to a teacher at his high school in Irvine, Texas. The freshman told WFAA this week that police told him he had “committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb,” but authorities later announced he would not be charged.
Suri, known by his stage name Heems, told CNN he was not surprised by the incident.
“The thing is it could have happened anywhere, any day. This is news to others, but it is not news to me,” Heems told CNN in a phone interview Wednesday. “This could have happened any day in the last 10 years. This could have been me …. or any of my little cousins.”
“it is perpetuated by a culture of fear that has defined the mindset since 9/11,” he added.
Heems is from Queens and was a high school student on Sept. 11, 2001. He is the son of Indian immigrants and has faced racism in his life. He addresses identity politics through alternative hip-hop.
“The fact is that (Islamophobia) transcends age and that’s the sad thing about it,” he said, adding that even small children become targets. Heems has also vehemently spoken out against attacks on the Sikh community.
“New York, which I always thought was like this progressive place – on that day (Sept. 11, 2001) I saw a side of New York which I had never seen before,” Heems told CNN in an interview last month, recalling when the time his hijab-wearing Muslim friend was harassed on at the time.
In his music, Heems also addresses issues that include substance abuse and mental health, and is known for being a member of the former alternative hip-hop group Das Racist.
“When you’re a person of color, life is inherently political … whether you think of it in those terms or not,” he said.