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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: "High Court Sides With Inmates on Religion"

The Supreme Court issued an opinion in Cutter v. Wilkinson, No. 03-9877, upholding Congress' power to require officials of state and local prisons and jails to find ways to allow inmates to practice their religious beliefs. The decision was unanimous. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. The oral argument transcript is available here.

An early press report can be accessed here.

The impact of the case on the suit filed by a Sikh inmate remains to be seen. Stay tuned for further details....

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Muslim Cab Drivers Ticketed for Praying

WPVI (ABC) is reporting that "Somali immigrants who work as cab drivers at the Cleveland airport say police are ticketing them when they step out of their cabs for ritual Islamic prayers."

"Police say they are enforcing a requirement that all drivers remain in their vehicles outside the terminal and are trying to maintain order in an increasingly competitive airport cab scene.... [The] tickets that carry a $150 fine, plus $69 in court costs."

"The U-S-A Taxi company says a third of its drivers have quit over the enforcement."

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"Countering Stereotypes"

The San Jose Mercury News contains an article [reg req'd] on the efforts of Hindus and Muslims to educate young students in order to replace racial and religious stereotypes with accurate information.

The article notes that teachers often pass incorrect information on to their students, which may not always be their fault as textbooks containing such faulty information are approved by state education boards for use in classroom instruction. Moreover, teachers often lack the necessary resources to effectively educate their pupils in world religions.

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Community Policing Criticized by Civil Rights Groups

The Boston Globe, in an article entitled "Boston homeland security plan relies on watch groups", discusses community policing as a means of protecting the homeland. (Generally, community policing is conducted by neighborhood watch groups.) This anti-terror strategy has concerned various civil rights organizations, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

The article states that Boston has received a grant for community policing and that sensitivity training will be conducted to ensure that "certain ethnic groups" are not targeted. However, the president of Boston's ADC remarked, ''They can do sensitivity training... yet the policies themselves are based on racial profiling.... I think it's trouble and will create fear and hysteria."

A related article can be found at: City To Train Neighborhood Watch Groups To Spot Possible Terrorists

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Valarie Kaur on Rush Limbaugh's "Tortured Logic"

Salon.com is featuring an essay [reg req'd] penned by DNSI's Valarie Kaur in which she responds to Rush Limbaugh's uninformed commentary regarding the play Abu Ghraib, "an original student production at Harvard University." Kaur, a master's candidate at Harvard, was an actor in the play. Limbaugh previously accused the students of hating the United States on his popular radio show.

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"Muslims urge hate-crime inquiry"

A local South Florida publication is reporting that "Local Islamic leaders are calling for a hate-crimes investigation after someone threw a rock through the glass door of a Miami mosque Saturday night minutes before evening prayer."

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Friday, May 27, 2005

"Ex-Officer Files Lawsuit Against Michigan Police Department"

According to an Associated Press report, "A former township police officer who is Muslim and of Arab descent has filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired because of his ethnic background and religion."

The former officer, Hussein Hojeije, claims that "he was harassed by other officers who routinely made fun of Arab-Americans, Indian-Americans and Muslims." For example, the suit alleges that his supervisor said: ''I can't remember your first name, what is it, Saddam Hussein?''

Not surprisingly, the police department responds by stating that Hojeije was fired for performance reasons alone.

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"Fear and paranoia electrify resonant Kafkaesque play"

The Seattle Times is reporting on a play in which "fears for U.S. national security, of harsh treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay", and other difficulties of the war on terror are discussed in the context of an interrogation; the main character, an Arab-American, is being grilled by U.S. federal agents investigating a domestic act of terrorism.

More information: "Back of the Throat" by Yussef El Guindi. Thursday-Saturday through June 18 at Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit Ave., Seattle. $15/Free under 18. www.schmeater.org or 206-325-6500.

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NY Congressman Recognizes the Contributions of Sikhs to the War on Terror

An article on rediff.com notes, "New York Congressman Joseph Crowley has proposed an amendment to the Defence Authorisation Bill... to recognise the contribution of Sikh Americans to the war on terror." Speaking of Uday Singh, the first Sikh American to die while fighting in Iraq, Crowley remarked:

"Specialist Singh joined the military because he believed in what the US represents and because he felt the strong desire to fight for the freedom we have here.... Diversity is an essential part of the strength of the armed forces."

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Different Take on the Newsweek Qu'ran Fiasco

Frank Kaufmann, director of the Office of Interreligious Relations for the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, offers a unique -- and much appreciated -- perspective on the Newsweek's inaccurate reporting on alleged abuse of the Qur'an at Guantanamo Bay:
What the Newsweek blunder showed, more than confusion over the use of sources, was the simple fact that almost no non-Muslim Americans naturally know how the Koran truly functions in Muslim life and piety. Why wasn't our ignorance of the one of the most basic facts of Muslim piety the immediate focus of our national conversation?

The most frightful revelation however shown by the "Newsweek horrors" is that the cost of cultural and religious ignorance in a world of instant communication is at an all-time high, and can no longer be ignored or left unattended. The solution to this problem does not lie in blaming newspapers, interrogators, or militants. It is a complex problem that should be approached by all communities and leaders unencumbered by the poison of blame and politicization.

Until the alliance between the United States and forward looking Muslim thinkers, countries, and leaders is one that transcends military purposes, and grows to become one of mutual embrace, and until the centuries long slide of modernity into the secularization that misses religion as vital to the human experience is reversed, we are bound to continue suffering from the results of self-imposed ignorance.

We may not always have Newsweek to blame for our own sins. What happens if the next half sentence of ignorance is my own?

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Drama Continues to Unfold in Bid for 2012 Olympic Games

The Scotsman is reporting that Paris is the favorite to secure the bid for the 2012 Olympics despite its stance on the Iraq war and "problems over whether their ban on headscarves in schools will cause resentment among Muslim and Sikhs who might otherwise support their bid." (See previous post on Paris 2012 bid here.) According to Paris 2012 chief executive Philippe Baudillon:
In my opinion, all the Muslim countries are aware that you have to respect the law, and when we are in an Arabic or Muslim countries we respect their law, it’s very important.

The question, of course, is whether this particular law should survive given competing interests, recognized in other nations such as the United States (e.g., freedom of religion, equal protection); that is, while the rule of law is important, the law itself is subject to review and should not contravene certain fundamental principles of equality.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Immigrant U.S. soldiers die as heroes in Iraq"

The Scripps Howard News Service is running a story on the fallen U.S. soldiers who gave their lives in service of their country. The article begins with Wai Lwin and Azhar Ali, who "had followed separate paths to America", and who were instantly killed when "a bomb detonated near their vehicle" in Iraq.

The piece includes gripping narratives of other immigrant U.S. soldiers, including:

Army Spc. Uday Singh, 21, decided he wanted to live in America at age 16 while on a visit from his India home to his aunt and uncle in Lake Forest, Ill. A fan of fast cars and war movies, Singh also dreamed of becoming a respected military man like his Sikh father and grandfather and, later, as a successful American businessman.

Singh enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000 and was deployed to Iraq in September 2003. Less than three months later, he was dead, killed during an ambush on his Humvee patrol near Habbaniyah. At his cremation in India, he was dressed in his Army uniform and draped with the U.S. flag.

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"America's Muslims: Caught In the Middle?"

Several scholars convened to discuss the causes and consequences of Islamophobia. For example, Ahmed Younis, Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, noted that "American Muslim identity was among the casualties of the September 11 terrorist attacks." These attacks, according to Younis, "gave a boost to anti-Muslim voices in the United States."

John Voll, Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, stated that the existence of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida threaten moderate Muslims in the sense that all Muslims, particularly the militants, may be increasingly "viewed as an anti-American security threat" and thus viewed with suspicion and disfavor.

Paul Rosenzweig of the Heritage Foundation argued that while "Islam has been hijacked... that is, in part, because moderate Islamists have allowed it to be hijacked. They don't speak out often enough or clearly enough in opposition to the radicals." Younis countered, noting that "The American Muslim community has been extremely vocal in its condemnation of terrorism and extremism as an element of Islam."

Voll stated that "American Muslims need more unity among their ranks of African Americans, south Asian immigrants and Middle Eastern immigrants." (As we previously remarked in a related discussion, however, it may not be likely that other minority communities, particularly African-Americans, want to associate with Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, even though there may be a similarity of experiences.)

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Senate Deal Permits Filibuster to Continue against Arab-American Nominee

The deal averting a showdown in the Senate guarantees up-or-down votes for three of President Bush's nominees, but permits a filibuster to continue against the others, including Judge Henry Saad, an Arab-American (see previous report on judicial nominations).

Appellate lawyer Howard Bashman, of the popular blawg How Appealing, suggests "Judge Saad's nomination was unlikely to be confirmed in a straight up-or-down vote, making the continued filibuster of his nomination of less consequence."

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California Human Relations Commission Saved

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the Mountain View (CA) city council decided to keep its human relations commission and provide it with additional resources. The commission has jurisdiction over various social and family issues, including child care and ensuring affordable housing.

Pleading for the commission to be saved, Commissioner Kalwant Sandhu told the council, "I believe you believe in human dignity.... The city needs it. The citizens need it.''

The article noted that "California has 52 human relations commissions" and that "Fremont's commission has helped sponsor an anti-hate forum focusing on discrimination against Muslims and Sikhs."

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spurlock on 30 Days Series

As previously reported, Morgan Spurlock, director of "Super Size Me", has a new reality TV series called 30 Days, "which places people in a variety of unfamiliar circumstances for 30 days."
Spurlock writes, on his own blog:
In the pilot, we took a Christian from WV and asked the question, "What's it like to be a Muslim in America?" For the next month, this guy found out as he lived everyday as Muslim. Heavy stuff, but funny. You know how I am, I'm not gonna deliver some on the nose super serious piece. I hope you guys like it, I'm really proud of what the show accomplishes and each week we'll deal with a different social issue in America. Hopefully it will be as impactful as the movie.

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Countering the notion of the “violent Muslim”

The Columbia Missourian has a fascinating article discussing the efforts of Muslims in the Columbia, Missouri area to educate others about Islam after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. One such individual, Maaz Maqbool, states
I felt it was my duty to be involved in educating people about Islam, since it was such a sensitive time and we were afraid of any backlash from people who couldn’t separate the lunatic fringe from the 1.2 billion ordinary Muslims around the world.
Despite this noble motivation and the educational activities that followed, the article notes that "many Americans [still] equate Muslims with terrorism." Indeed,
  • In October, the Council on American-Islamic Relations found one in four Americans surveyed held negative views of Muslims.
  • A December poll by Cornell University shows 44 percent of Americans surveyed favored some curtailment of civil liberties for American Muslims, while 42 percent who described themselves as not highly religious saw Islam as an advocate of violence.
The article's extensive discussion of the difficulties that Muslim-Americans face -- in terms of averting a backlash, explaining to others that Islam is not a proxy for terrorist ideology, and understanding how a radical breed of Muslim fundamentalism has arisen -- is worth checking out.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Imam Describes the "''double whammy" of Post-9/11 Discrimination

The Boston Globe is discussing the results of a report released by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project.

In the course of its discussion, the article recounts the experiences of Imam Mahdi Bray, an official with the
''I have to worry about driving while black and flying while Muslim."

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Sikhs Lobby Against Paris 2012 Olympic Bid

The Guardian (UK) is reporting that Sikhs in Britain are protesting against Paris' bid to host the 2012 Olympics. The Sikhs "claim that the controversial French law banning the Sikh dastar (turban) along with other religious articles of faith in schools is discriminatory and that Paris does not deserve the Games."

In a statement, the chairman of the Sikh Federation of UK argued, "We believe it is inconceivable for such a prestigious international event to be hosted in a country where the laws infringe the basic human right of religious freedom."

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Hate Crimes Debated by Candidate for Mayor of New York City

Anthony Weiner, a Democratic candidate, accused police officers of "bail[ing] out of a Town Hall meeting on bias crimes aimed at helping Sikh community members, after agreeing to attend three weeks ago." According to Weiner, current New York mayor Michael Bloomberg instructed the cops to abandon the meeting. Weiner goes on: "It looks like the mayor is putting politics over public safety."

Weiner added that "the Sikh Coalition has reported 62 hate crimes since the Sept. 11 terror attacks." According to the article, "Sources put the number of documented hate crimes involving Sikhs at six since May 2000."

It is hard to believe that only six hate crimes involving Sikhs have taken place in New York in the last five years, especially given the difficulties Sikhs have faced after 9/11. Weiner should be commended for bringing this issue to the attention of the public; hopefully more will be done to accurately report such hate crimes and to undertake effective strategies to prevent and punish them.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Qur’an from Amazon.com Sent with Hate Message

A copy of the Qur’an ordered from Amazon.com contained a hate message when it was delivered to purchaser Azza Basarudin. According to Basarudin, “Death to all Muslims” was written on the inside cover of her Qur’an.
Amazon.com has already apologized to Basarudin, refunded her money, sent out a new copy of the Noble Qur'an and issued her a gift certificate.

It also suspended the Pennsylvania-based Bellwether Books, which packaged and mailed the copy, from selling the Noble Qur’an.

“We're deeply sorry and we think we've taken all appropriate steps to make sure this is not done again,” Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said.
UPDATE: Marred Quran linked to McKeesport dealer.

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"House committee approves funding restoration of WWII camps"

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the House Resources Committee "approved spending $38 million to restore and preserve internment camps used to hold Japanese-Americans during World War II." The bill will now go to the full House.

The proposed legislation "faces opposition from the Bush administration, which objects to the expenditures because the National Park Service faces a tight budget and maintenance backlogs at parks." The article also notes that "President Ronald Reagan and Congress formally apologized in 1988 for the treatment of the people held" in the internment camps.

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MD Paper: "Muslim community: large but invisible"

The Owings Mills Times (MD) discusses the efforts of Bash Pharoan, co-founder of the Baltimore County Muslim Council, to increase the visibility of Muslim-Americans in his community. Although there are many Muslims in his area, according to Pharoan, others do not know of their presence or their contribution to local businesses, the provision of health care services, etc. In Pharoan's words:

Post 9-11, our community was hit twice. First of all, we were hit by the events themselves. [The] second hit [came in the form of] racial profiling and discrimination.... We really felt like the Japanese-Americans in World War II, minus the internment.... We knew we weren't going to be physically interned, but it was electronic internment, mental internment.
It was the suspicion of Muslims that resulted after 9/11 that prompted Pharoan "to make their voices heard more clearly in the political process and their presence felt more in mainstream culture."

The article is worth reading, as it explains the many ways in which Pharoan and his Council have taken a proactive approach to civic involvement and have increased awareness of Muslim-Americans as a result.

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Sikh Inmate Suit Gaining International Attention

The story regarding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filing suit on behalf of a Sikh inmate man who has been denied the right to wear his turban in jail is gaining considerable attention. As of yesterday, the ACLU press release was picked up only by a handful of local California news organizations. Today, however, is a different story. For example:

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Sikh sues detention staff over right to wear turban"

As reported by multiple sources, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit on behalf of Harpal Singh Cheema, a Sikh, who has been imprisoned "since 1997 while awaiting a decision on his asylum application." According to an ACLU press release,"While the Sikh faith requires men to cover their heads at all times, Yuba County jail authorities will not permit Cheema to leave his bed with his head covered."

The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, argues that "the restrictions on Cheema’s religious practice violate religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment and federal laws, including the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "

The complaint is available here.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

New TV Show, 30 Days, to Examine Bias Against Muslims

Morgan Spurlock, director of "Super Size Me", has a new reality TV series called 30 Days, "which places people in a variety of unfamiliar circumstances for 30 days."

In one episode, Spurlock "filmed a 'fundamentalist Christian' man living as a Muslim to find out what it's like to face the prejudice that many Muslims in America deal with since Sept. 11." Spurlock noted, "a Muslim in America... is seen every day as a threat to our freedom simply because of their color, their race, their religion." He further added, "the transformation this guy [i.e., the "fundamentalist Christian"] goes through in 30 days is miraculous, it's incredible."

The series will air on the FX Network. Please click here for the complete article.

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"Glendale man educates others about racial profiling"

The Arizona Republic contains a nice article on Masaji Inoshita, 85, who was interned during World War II and who now speaks to audiences about his experiences.

Inoshita sees similarities between the mistreatment of those of Japanese ancestry during World War II and the mistreatment of communities today, such as the racial profiling of Arabs.

According to the article, Inoshita's "most valuable lesson is to not let history repeat itself." The danger of the logic of the internment being used for other discriminatory practices in the future was eloquently articulated by Justice Robert Jackson:
But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.... A military commander may overstep the bounds of constitutionality, and it is an incident. But if we review and approve, that passing incident becomes the doctrine of the Constitution. There it has a generative power of its own, and all that it creates will be in its own image. Nothing better illustrates this danger than does the Court's opinion in this case.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"Confused Rider"

Last week, Newsday ran an article in which a New York woman described her guilty conscience after being scared of her "Muslim" cab driver; the woman questioned whether she developed "an involuntary reflex of fear and distrust" even though she considered herself to be "open-minded" and she "loved living in a city where... people's cultural differences made them interesting - not scary."

The introspective essay led me to write the following letter to the editor, which was published by Newsday a few days later:
In her article "Taxi driver and rider, and the prayers of each" [Opinion, May 10], Fran Giuffre wrote that her taxi cab "was driven by a man with a dark bushy beard, wearing a turban." She further expressed embarassment at becoming unsettled "because my cab driver was Muslim."

A vast majority of the males in the United States with beards and turbans are Sikhs, not Muslims. Baptized Sikhs, like Muslims, are required to complete certain daily prayers. The "Arabic" music she thought she heard could have been the language of the Sikh scriptures, which bears resemblance to other South Asian and Middle Eastern tongues.

Wouldn't it be fitting and ironic if, in an essay describing a woman's ignorance, she couldn't even correctly identify the person she was fearful of?

Dawinder S. Sidhu

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"The Indian as 'Black White' and as 'N*gger'"

A very provocative essay on South Asian identity and the perceived identity of South Asians in America appears on INDOLink's website. The author, Francis C. Assisi, argues that "South Asians are mostly perceived in America as being too white to be black, and too black to be white." As evidence, Assisi mentions post-9/11 discrimination and also offers historical accounts by noted South Asians, including famed poet Rabindranath Tagore, who said:
I arrived at Los Angeles, and I felt something in the air - a cultivated air of suspicion and general incivility towards Asiatics… I felt that I should not stay in a country on sufferance. It was not a question of personal grievance or of ill-treatment from some particular officer. I felt the insult was directed towards all Asiatics, and I made up my mind to leave a country where there was no welcome for ourselves… I have great regard for your people. But I have also my responsibility towards those whom you classify as colored people of whom I am one. I am a representative of Asiatic peoples and I could not remain in a country where Asiatics are not wanted.

Tagore's words, while referring to an incident that occurred in 1929, will likely resonate with many South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims today - even in the absense of physical violence and concrete discriminatory conduct, members of these targeted groups can sense palpable feelings of being unwelcome.

According to Assisi, the solution is for South Asians to abandon the notion that they are "Aryan" and therefore "Caucasian" and "white." Assisi states that "this perception prevents the [South Asian] immigrants from making common cause with other people of color who were barred from citizenship on grounds of color or race. " In short, only if "South Asians develop a broader consciousness of themselves as people of color will they be able to participate in a genuine struggle for social justice."

While there is inherent attractiveness to a proposed solution that calls on the target of injustice to assume responsibility and rectify the unfortunate circumstance in which he finds himself, this solution may not be adequate by any means. The suggestion that South Asians are neither white nor black is a very interesting one deserving serious attention, however the very existence of this problem undercuts the idea that South Asians should, in the face of discriminatory or offensive treatment, embrace others of color. That is, if other minority groups are already identifying South Asians as a separate and perhaps inferior group (e.g., "you are not black"), it may be futile for South Asians to assert themselves on the basis of similar -- but not identical and differentiated -- skin-tone (e.g., "we are not white, and even if we are not black, we are colored").

A similarity of experiences with racial injustice may also fail to serve as a common bond that permits mutual understanding and respect. For example, a Muslim human rights activist Jafar Siddiqui remarked, “I did not understand the problems faced by Blacks in this country until 9/11.... And now, I am beginning to get an idea of how the law works against Blacks here.” Sure, South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims may have a better appreciation for how it feels to be racially profiled, to be looked at with suspicion, and to be unwelcome in public places. However, this does not mean that African-Americans or any other "colored" group understands what South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims are going through now; more, even if they do understand, they may not see this similarity of experiences as being a sufficient basis for appreciating and respecting the targeted communities - they may simply dismiss the reactions of South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims as being the product of an overly sensitive nature; they may pragmatically think, 'who cares, so long as it is not us'; and worse, others may state that these feelings are an unfortunate but necessary consequence of the dangerous world of post-9/11 America. In other words, South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims understanding prior civil rights problems does not reliably guarantee that African-Americans will understand or even care that other groups are going through similar experiences.

The concern raised by Assisi is very interesting. His point mainly is to the concept of "us" and "them" after 9/11. Assisi argues that South Asians currently identify themselves with whites (i.e., us = all Aryans, including whites), and he posits that we abandon any perceived association with Aryans and embrace our colored identity (i.e., us = colored people, which is a more common bond). Assisi assumes, perhaps wrongly, that the other "colored" communities are interested in identifying themselves with South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, and Muslims (i.e., that the "colored" groups see "us" as equaling South Asians, Sikhs, Arabs, Muslims, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, etc.).

A more fruitful solution may be for South Asians to assert themselves as South Asians, to educate and promote awareness such that members of all racial and ethnic groups may come to appreciate the rich heritage of these people and realize that not all brown people are deserving of weird looks, heightened security checks, and an unwelcoming attitude. For example, a Sikh man explaining he is Sikh would likely serve as a much more advantageous approach than saying he is no longer Aryan but is just like all other "colored" folk; indeed, the ideal and more likely response from a Caucasian or African-American to a Sikh man would be, "he is Sikh", not "he is like me."

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Bush Nominee is an Arab-American

Since we were recently on the topic of the judiciary, it may be interesting to readers to note that one of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, Henry W. Saad, is an Arab-American. President Bush selected Saad to serve on the spite ("Levin and Stabenow... were angered because Hatch refused to consider two of President Clinton’s Michigan nominations to federal courts") and an FBI inquiry ("All you need to do is... look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree that there is a problem there").

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"NJ 101.5 punishes DJs, won't say how"

New Jersey station 101.5 FM has punished the hosts of the "Jersey Guys" show Craig Carton and Ray Rossi for their comments on Asians and Indians, however the station has "not disclos[ed] the nature and extent of disciplinary action" taken (see previous posts). In addition, while Carton and Rossi privately expressed regret, there will be no on-air apology for their racist programming.

After the April 25 incident, community activists scheduled a news conference that was attended by over 40 people:
Hardayal Singh and Manvinder Singh, of United Sikhs, spoke about the mistreatment of Sikhs in America after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hesham Mahmoud, of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said it wasn't important that the DJs' slurs were made against any group in particular. A slur against one, he said, is a slur against all.

Kari Kokka - a fourth-generation American - felt her voice crack as she described Japanese-American ancestors who were interned during World War II. She also talked about three uncles' service in the U.S. Army's all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team....

Dennis Chin, a student at The College of New Jersey, said he explained his background like this: "We are Americans who happen to be Asians."

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Tom Delay on Reforming the Judiciary

Article III courts have been the subject of considerable political discussion and media attention given the fight over judicial nominations and the allegedly questionable decision-making of federal judges. No political figure has been more involved in the debate over the state of the judiciary than House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Now, Representative DeLay has urged reporters attempting to understand his position on the courts to read a controversial book that argues the Supreme Court is destroying America. The book makes the point that the "high regard with which most Americans currently regard the court is undeserved", in part because of "disastrous decisions" such as "Korematsu vs. United States, which placed the Supreme Court's stamp of approval on President Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II."

Politics aside, Korematsu is one of the few decisions that is almost universally regarded as being incorrectly decided, a rare and unflattering distinction in our Supreme Court's history.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

"TV Networks Try To Attract Asians And All Their Niches"

The front page of today's Washington Post contains a very interesting article on attempts by cable and satellite networks "to reach markets with large Asian populations." The author, South Asian S. Mitra Kalita, notes that there is increased competition for these markets. For example,
December brought MTV's announcement that it would roll out three niche networks, MTV China, MTV Korea and MTV Desi ( desi is a slang term for South Asians). In January, satellite channel American Desi began broadcasting from studios in New Jersey. In March, the International Channel, known for an eclectic menu of shows from around the world, changed its format to all-Asian programming under the name AZN TV. The Colorado-based channel added subtitles to foreign productions and added English programming, such as a dating show.
UPDATE: DISH Network Launches American Muslim Network.

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"Sikh Exhibition at Wright State University"

A student from Wright State University writes that the university's Sikh Students Association and others "organized an exhibition on Sikh faith and culture."

According to his article, "The main goal of this event is to increase awareness of students, faculty and staff members of the University and the people of Dayton about the Sikh faith and culture and promote mutual understanding."

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Religious Diversity in the UK

Results of questions pertaining to religion from the UK's 2001 census have been summarized by the Asians in Media Magazine.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Man Charged with Hate Crime in Canada

Kevin Haas faces two charges of "promotion of hatred" after spray-painting "Die Muslim Die" at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. According to the article, which appears in the Globe and Mail, this particular incident was just "one of many last summer and fall targeting Middle Easterners at the school."
others included pamphlets threatening the president of the Muslim association, notices on bulletin boards urging the public to "kill these Islamic infidels" and a letter slipped under the door of the Arab and Muslim student offices that said: "Those who follow Islam need to be killed in the worst possible way imaginable."

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Arab v. Muslim Identity

A publication of the North Jersey Media Group Inc. contains an interesting article, entitled "Many Arabs define themselves more by religion than ethnicity", on the relationship between Arab and Muslim identity. One of the respondents notes, "Islam is a priority for me.... It comes before my ethnicity. Islam unites me with people of different races, nationalities, different cultures."

The article states that this is a sentiment shared by others, even though Arab-American identity remains strong and has been recently bolstered by the opening of the Arab American National Museum in Detroit, Michigan (see previous posts).

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Workplace Discrimination Q & A

The Monterey County (CA) Herald often features a Q & A segment in their business section. Today's edition relates to workplace discrimination, specifically the right of a Sikh to wear his turban at work. The question is as follows:
One of my co-workers confided in me that he is Sikh and that when he asked our employer about wearing a turban, he was told that all forms of headdress were prohibited and that our employer would not grant an exception because a turban would make the rest of the staff "uncomfortable." This sounds like religious discrimination to me, but my co-worker does not want to draw attention to himself. Am I protected if I complain to my employer about this unfair treatment?
The answer is here.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Washington DC Event

The Sikh Council on Religion and Education invites you to the

Sikh American Heritage Dinner Reception

Honoring the Sikh Americans for their outstanding contributions to America

Tuesday, May 17, 2005, 5.30 p.m.

The Capitol Hill
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room SDG – 50

Honorary Committee
Honorable Senator Rick Santorum Honorable Senator John Kerry
Honorable Senator John Cornyn Honorable Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Honorable Tom Davis Honorable Mike Honda
Honorable Joe Wilson Honorable Van Hollen
Honorable Jim McDermott Honorable Dennis Cardoza

The program will include:
Opening prayer by Chaplain Daniel P. Coughlin
Chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives
Address by Congressmen and Senators
Prayers by various faith leaders
Award ceremony
Musical presentation

Indian Cuisine will be served
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
RSVP (202) 460 0630
(301) 529 0674

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CAIR Report Receiving National Attention

"Unequal Protection", the report released this week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) continues to receive considerable attention from major media outlets (see previous posts). The headlines include:

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Radio station loses ads after racial slurs"

The Star-Ledger (NJ) is reporting that Cingular Wireless and Hyundai Motor America have pulled advertising from WKXW-FM. The station has been embroiled in controversy almost immediately after hosts of the station's "The Jersey Guys" program, Craig Carton and Ray Rossi, offered racist and offensive commentary aimed at Asians and Indians (to review some of the content in question, please read our previous post).

The article notes that this is not the first time Asians have been the target of offensive radio; indeed, New York's popular hip-hop station, Hot 97, poked fun at the tsunami victims. As for WKXW-FM, 32 organizations pressured the station to remedy the situation and called on advertisers to reconsider their affiliation with the station. Apparently the station received hundreds of threats as well.

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"Crimes Involving Muslims Up"

ABC News, MSNBC, the NY Post, the Guardian (UK), and others have all picked up a story on a study conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations which alarmingly concludes that
The number of reported bias crimes and civil rights violations committed against Muslims in the United States soared to its highest level last year since the period immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The council counted 1,522 incidents in which Muslims reported their civil rights had been violated in 2004, a 49 percent increase over 2003. Another 141 incidents of confirmed or suspected bias crimes were committed against Muslims, a 52 percent rise.
(See previous post.) The article also discusses the surprised reaction of some who intuitively expected the backlash to be most severe immediately following the terrorist attacks.
The report did contain some good news. Workplace discrimination complaints 23 percent of all 2003 complaints fell to less than 18 percent last year. Complaints involving government agencies fell from 29 percent in 2003 to 19 percent last year.

The most recent FBI report on hate crimes, issued last November and covering 2003, found that anti-Islamic crimes remained at the about same level 149 as the year before. The FBI report was drawn from information submitted by more than 11,900 law enforcement agencies around the country.

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Amnesty International USA's Chair "to Discuss Anti-Muslim Bigotry, Increasing Anti- American Sentiment in the Islamic World"

According to a press release, Joe "Chip" Pitts, Amnesty International USA Chair, will be discussing " the root causes behind the twin phenomena of Islamophobia and anti-Americanism as well as positive and practical solutions" at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Annual Conference. Pitts notes in the press release:
There's no question that Muslims in the United States and around the world have borne the brunt of the latest war-on-terror measures.... [T]he truth is that Muslims have been US society's latest scapegoats in the current environment of fear.

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"Group Wants Muslim Holidays Added To School Calendar"

Several media outlets, most notably the Washington Times, are reporting that the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is urging the Baltimore, Maryland school district to add two Muslim holidays to its school calendar. The district's proposed schedule "does not close schools for Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the Koranic account of God's allowing Abraham to sacrifice a sheep instead of his son. "

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Recently members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) came together to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which is May. Several noteworthy members of Congress -- including Representative Mike Honda (Chair, CAPAC), Senator Tom Daschle, and Senator Daniel Akaka -- were in attendance. Karen Narasaki, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, was also there.

Selected remarks are available online. Of note, Representative Honda honored civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, and also added:
this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act. Our country was founded by immigrants who believed in freedom, and they paved the way for all Americans to live in a country that values our liberty and freedom. The greatness of our country stems from its diversity, and we must continue to build a promising future for all.

The contributions of AAPIs need to be recognized and remembered as part of U.S. history, from the makings of the transcontinental railroad, the courage of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Filipino veterans, to Dalip Singh Saud [sic], who was the first Indian American to be elected in Congress, to the exploitation of garment workers, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

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Sikhs to protest French ban on articles of faith at EU Parliament

The Hindustan Times is reporting that Sikhs from around the globe are gathering to protest France's ban on articles of faith in public schools at the EU Parliament (see previous coverage here).

According to the article, the protest is being organized by United Sikhs. This group has been campaigning vigorously against the ban; in addition to leading this protest, United Sikhs has created a world-wide petition that was signed by thousands of people and placed extensive informative materials on their web site.

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"Muslim teen turns security incident into opportunity"

The Boston Herald contains an article on Hala Saadeh, a very impressive Muslim high school student, who was removed from a "commuter rail train for being a suspicious person." Later, Saadeh received a scholarship from the American Civil Liberties Union; she has also been speaking at conferences and universities, including Harvard. Sadeeh notes:
to put a stigma against them (Arabs and Muslims) is unfair. History just plays itself to different ethnic groups. It's disheartening that people don't learn from history.... I feel like it's upon me to educate people. There are bad people in every type of group.

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"CAIR: 11-year High in Number of Reported Muslim Civil Rights Cases; Report to Show Sharp Jump in Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced that it will release a report, entitled "Unequal Protection," which discusses "the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States. "

Findings from the report include:
  • A significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during 2004;
  • An 11-year high in the total number of reported cases; and
  • States with the largest numbers of reported incidents include California, New York, Arizona, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and Illinois.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Hate Crimes Legislation - Punishing Thought and Speech?

The Capital Times contains an op-ed entitled, "Hate crime laws at odds with free thought, speech." The author writes,
Anyone who objects to government trying to criminalize thoughts and speech always has a tough time explaining why it's a bad idea to prosecute so-called hate crimes.
Much has been written about hate crimes legislation in academic texts, law review journals and the editorial pages of newspapers. A principal argument against the passage of hate crimes legislation is the main point of this particular op-ed: we should not punish people for their thoughts or speech; we should only punish conduct. In other words, an assault on a Muslim-American should be punished as simple assault even if there is a colorable claim that the victim was selected on the basis of his or her religion.

Briefly, in response, one may want to consider the following: first, American law already "punishes" people for their thoughts. For example, a crime generally requires mens rea, which is defined as "the state of mind indicating culpability which is required by statute as an element of a crime."Mens rea literally means "guilty mind." Second, free speech, while a treasured right, is not absolute. There are well-established exceptions to the First Amendment guarantee, including "fighting words", which are "words intentionally directed toward another person which are so nasty and full of malice as to cause the hearer to... incite him/her to immediately retaliate physically." Whether hate crimes should exist as another exception to free speech or as a strand of the fighting words doctrine has been the subject of considerable debate; however, to assert that something cannot be punished by law simply because speech is implicated is to ignore bedrock American legal principles. Third, hate crimes legislation does not punish speech alone or speech in the absence of an act; it punishes a particular brand of conduct - conduct that was directed at a person because of their immutable characteristics. Fourth, society attaches penalties to certain conduct in order to make it more costly to commit, in other words to discourage certain behavior. Society may legitimately decide that crimes committed against people because of their race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender are worthy of additional punishment due to the destructive effect it has on the victim itself, members of that particular group, and to the fundamental American virtue of diversity - an effect that goes beyond the mere impact of a simple assault, battery, or attempted murder.

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"Muslim on No-Fly Lists Still Gets an Invitation to GOP Fundraiser"

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Syed Maswood, a Muslim nuclear engineer who had his home raided by federal agents and is on no-fly lists even though he has not been charged with a crime, "received an invitation to serve as an honorary chairman at a Republican fundraiser with [President George W.] Bush in Washington next month."

Maswood also noted that the last time him and his wife "were in Washington... they were held for hours at the airport."

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ADC to Honor Survivor of 9/11 attacks for Pro Bono Work

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee will honor Mathew Tully, "who escaped from his 65th floor office in the World Trade Center" the morning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for providing pro bono legal services to "Joe Mansour, an Arab-American federal corrections officer, in his workplace discrimination." Tully will receive ADC's pro-bono attorney of the year award.

The full article is available here.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

"Arab-Americans Tell Their Own Story: A visit to Michigan's new immigrant museum"

The new Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is generating a lot of national press (see previous post on the museum). This week, even the Wall Street Journal commented on the museum. The Journal article notes of the museum:
There is much to boast about, but just below the surface of the museum's colorful exhibits--and sometimes emerging into full view--is a sense that corrections are needed; wrongs must be righted. It makes for a lively museum experience.
The assessment of the museum discusses the complicated and controversial history of Arab-Americans, which was made even more problematic to address in a museum by the events of 9/11. The article also explains why Dearborn would be the sight of such an important museum: "30% of Dearborn's 100,000 residents are of Arab descent," making this particular city an ideal location for the museum.

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"South Asians in the 2004 Elections"

South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT) has released an impressive report [pdf] on the "trends, patterns and attitudes"of South Asian voters in the 2004 election.

The report draws four fairly interesting conclusions from its analysis of extensive exit poll data that SAALT assembled. Perhaps even more interesting is the debate that is taking place on a very worthy blog called Sepia Mutiny. The debate, taking place apparently between a few South Asians and some who volunteered with SAALT in gathering the exit poll information, is calling into question the analysis of one particular conclusion: that "civil liberties” [w]as the civil/immigrant rights issue most important" to those polled.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Canada: "Lawyers propose terror-law safeguards"

Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act (Act), the functional equivalent of the USA Patriot Act, contains "extraordinary provisions, including preventative arrests, investigative hearings, and non-disclosure"; it was enacted in an effort to provide Canada's law enforcement with expanded authority to detect terrorist activities despite due process concerns.

The Act, however, has come under attack from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. The Committee argues that given these extraordinary provisions "the need for oversight and accountability is greater than ever." Among the Committee's recommendations is the creation of a a permanent post for a "politically independent ombudsman."

Of the abuses committed under the Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detained "21 South Asians in Toronto in 2003 as suspected terrorists.... Those suspicions proved unfounded."

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Complaint in Denny's Discrimination Case

As previously reported, seven Arab males were allegedly ejected from a Denny's restaurant and given the following explanation: "We don't serve bin Ladens here." These men have filed suit, arguing in part that Restaurant Collection, Inc., (which does business as Denny's) and the manager who offered this crude explanation violated the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA), which generally prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.

The law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., which is representing the plaintiffs, has provided us with the complaint [pdf] that was filed in Florida circuit court. The complaint describes the incident in detail, how this alleged conduct contravenes the requirements of the FCRA, and the relief that the men seek.

(To our knowledge, this is the first time the complaint has appeared in the blogosphere or anywhere else on the Internet.)

UPDATE: The Boca Raton News is reporting that the plaintiffs in this case are fiercely denying Denny's statement that it commissioned an immediate investigation of the alleged discrimination.

The incident occurred on January 11, 2004 and the plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations that month. However, Denny's did not initiate any contact with the men until June 1, 2004. One of the plaintiffs says "it was a full 11 months" before a private investigator hired by Denny’s contacted them to begin a formal investigation.

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Sikh Political Leader Urges U.S. to Place France on Watch List

S. Simranjit Singh, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), asked the U.S. Commission for Internationl Religious Freedom to place France on its Watch List in part because of the nation's stance on articles of faith in public schools (see previous posts). Singh argues, "The French government continues to deny Sikh students the right to religious freedom and education."

In addition, Singh notes that Sikhs in France have had "to remove their turbans and open their hair for being photographed for identity purposes, whether it is a driving license or a citizen card. There can be nothing more humiliating than this to a Sikh."

In his remarks, Singh also commented on the case of Ripudaman Singh, a Sikh who was denied the right to carry his kirpan in Denmark (see previous post).

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"Couple Fighting To Have Their Foster Children Returned"

KETV in Omaha, Nebraska, has a story on a "couple [who] said they lost custody of their foster children because of religious discrimination." Evidence of this discrimination, according to the Muslim couple, is "testimony that branded them as terrorists."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"US Continues to Tighten Immigration Following 9/11 Attacks"

Immigration continues to exist as a politically hot and touchy subject both in the United States and Britain, where conservative Michael Howard has made immigration reform an integral part of his program. In the United States, the debate over immigration is also occupying considerable media attention even in the absence of an election. (See e.g. previous post.)

The Voice of America is now featuring a story that discusses the state of immigration reform in America and as a sensitive issue after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition, the article notes that "some critics of the new immigration regulations say the government has gone too far." According to the article, these critics include Talat Hamdani, a Muslim who lost her son in the 9/11 attacks.

Acknowleding that the proper balance between security and freedom has proved evasive, Homeland Security Secretary and former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Michael Chertoff stated:
What defensive action cannot and must not mean is that we shut down, board up, wall in or become a fortress.... Because what we are trying to protect and at the same time preserve is not only lives but our way of life. America is a dynamic country. Our strength as Americans is the sum of every generation that has ever been born in or emigrated to this great land.

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"Tufts rally slams racism, hate"

The Boston Globe is reporting that "more than 150 people, including students and professors" gathered to rally against a vicious attack against an Arab-American student at Tufts University. The student "alleges that three men attacked him over the weekend, calling him a terrorist and other names as they beat him unconscious." The president of the university's Arab Student Association also recalled that he was verbally assaulted on campus. According to the article,"someone... call[ed] him an Indian, and when he told them he was an Arab, someone called him a terrorist."

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"ABC-TV’s Hit Series, Lost, Features Sayid, a Sensitive, Appealing Iraqi"

Minority representation on prime time television is currently a topic of great interest. The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium recently released a study arguing that there is "a dearth of quality roles for [Asian Pacific Americans] in prime time programming" (previous post here).

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) is also featuring a story on Lost, the hit ABC show which features an Iraqi character, Sayid (played by Naveen Andrews of English Patient, Kama Sutra, and Bride & Prejudice fame). The article offers interesting insight into how Lost developed Sayid. Damon Lindelof, creator and executive producer, explains:
We thought it would be compelling to make American audiences bond with an Arab character by virtue of not writing him as an Arab but as a human

The fact that he’s also Iraqi was never meant to define him, it was simply a way of making audiences potentially question their own ethnic/religious stereotypes as they (hopefully) fall in love with Sayid as much as we did.
Film critic Jack Shaheen also offered his thoughts on Hollywood's general treatment of Arab characters. He noted, "there are gobs of TV shows that stereotype Arabs in a negative light. Gobs and gobs of them."

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"Culture is not the culprit in Arab poverty"

The Financial Times contains an interesting article on a "surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the US Census Bureau in 2000":
People of Arab descent living in the US are better educated and wealthier than the average American of non-Arab descent.... The census also found that Arab Americans are better educated and wealthier than Americans in general.

Whereas 24 per cent of all Americans hold college degrees, 41 per cent of Arab-Americans are college graduates. The median annual income of an Arab-American family living in the US is $52,300 - 4.6 per cent higher than the figure for all other American families. More than half of such families own their home. Forty-two per cent of people of Arab descent in the US work as managers or professionals, while the overall average is 34 per cent.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"Pat Robertson: No Muslim judges"

Appearing on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", Evangelist Pat Robertson weighed in on the very controversial topic of judicial nominations. Rather than offer comments on the political efficacy of the "nuclear option" or the judicial philosophy of the current nominees, Robertson suggested that Muslims should not be considered for judicial posts. Robertson noted:
They have said in the Koran there's a war against all the infidels.... Do you want somebody like that sitting as a judge? I wouldn't.
Sure, not many Americans would want someone who openly declares war on infidels, if that is to mean Americans, to serve as an impartial arbiter of legal disputes in this country. The trouble of course is equating those who have made such a declaration specifically against the United States with all Muslims.

Robertson also quipped that:
the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings
Leaving aside who is responsible for this erosion, the phrase regarding "beareded terrorists" is not only factually wrong, but surely offensive to many. The suggestion that terrorists wear beards only perpetuates a negative physical stereotype against certain men, especially Sikhs, who happen to wear beards -- the same type of noxious stereotype that arguably facilitates acts of hate and violence against Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh communities in the United States.

In any case, there are many fine Muslim lawyers and public servants in the United States, including Shaarik Zafar, Special Counsel on Post-9/11 National Origin Discrimination, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

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"From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'"

The New York Times contains an insightful and disturbing op-ed discussing the disgraceful attitude of some U.S. soldiers towards their enemy. Aidan Delgado, a private in the Army Reserve, recalls that a top officer in his unit "made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans." According to the private, the top officer laughed and "everybody in the unit laughed with him."

The op-ed suggests that these racist feelings undergird the "gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis."
Mr. Delgado said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice. "I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.' "

"Haji" is the troops' term of choice for an Iraqi. It's used the way "gook" or "Charlie" was used in Vietnam.
In response, Mr. Delgado surrendered his weapon to his commanding officer and said he would not fight. For his moral objection, Mr. Delgado was called a "traitor" or a "coward."Eventually, the private received conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged.

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"Solidarity shines through on a rainy May Day"

A very diverse group of immigrant communities came together in Boston, Massachusetts yesterday to celebrate May Day, a worker's holiday celebrated throughout Europe but generally not recognized in the United States, the Boston Independent Media Center reports.

While the event was primarily a celebration of culture, some discussed more substantive concerns affecting their communities. For example:
  • According to a representative of the Brazilian Immigration Center, out of an estimated 230,000 Brazilians in Massachusetts, 3,000 were arrested in 2003, 4,000 in 2004, and from October 2004 to April 2005 10,000 arrests of Brazilians have been made. Yet immigration still denies that Brazilians are a targeted community.
  • Hamza Pelletier of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, says he hears about anti-Muslim discrimination all the time from people he meets in Massachusetts. Every thing from bullet holes in mosques and beatings of individuals, to the story of a boy whose teacher purposely loses his homework.

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"Asian Pacific Americans in Prime Time: Lights, Camera and Little Action"

The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium has released a study concluding that there is "a dearth of quality roles for [Asian Pacific Americans] in prime time programming." More background information can be obtained here. The study itself is also available in .pdf format.

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Study on effects of Patriot Act criticized

An article in the Washington Times begins: "Civil libertarians in Northern Virginia are decrying a study conducted by Fairfax County officials that asserts that the USA Patriot Act has only positive effects on the county."

According to someone working with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the neglected negative effects include discrimination and even violence committed against Arab-Americans. She continues, the USA Patriot Act "has led to racial profiling, job discrimination, the use of racial slurs and attacks on Muslims in Fairfax County [Virginia]."

The study's findings are of particular concern given that reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act is being considered. The USA Patriot Act, which was passed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to provide law enforcement with greater authority to identify terrorists and conduct counter-terrorism activities, continues to generate substantial controversy with civil libertarians and members of certain minority groups, including Arab-Americans. (Text of the USA Patriot Act).

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Monitoring the Minutemen

The Arizona Daily Wildcat profiles students who are monitoring the activities of Minutemen patroling the U.S. border. The Minutemen are self-appointed citizen-cops who are attempting to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the Arizona-Mexico border. The article notes that the interests of the Minutemen are not just illegal immigration, but also preventing drug traffickers and terrorists from pouring across U.S. lines.

This broad mandate, given by the Minutemen to themselves, presents problems. A law student articulates the danger of looking specifically for those who may resemble Mexicans:

It's going to encourage a lot of negative implications for brown-looking people, if you want to call it that, racial profiling, it's going to be OK to make a citizen's arrest if the person is undocumented.... I think it's going to threaten the freedom of Latin Americans in this country.

As a result, these students and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are observing the conduct of the Minutemen.

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"Valley Muslims meet at anti-terror event"

The Arizona Republic is reporting that "Muslim Americans from across the Valley met at a workshop in Scottsdale on Saturday to mobilize their community against extremists trying to 'hijack' their religion."

In addition to discussing terrorism in the faith, the panelists also addressed the state of civil liberties in the war on terror. The director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council noted, "Muslims have learned from Japanese-Americans during World War II who were interned in camps. Like the Japanese-Americans then, Muslim Americans are the object of prejudice in the aftermath of a catastrophic event." (For more on the link between the internment and post-9/11 harassment, please view this link.)

The FBI and local police department also attended the meeting.

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Religions Freedom: Indian PM to follow-up on French ban on articles of faith

According to the Chandigarh version of expressindia, "Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had sent a team of officials to France to sort out the issue of the ban on wearing turban which had greatly upset the sikhs residing there." The full article appears here.

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"Performer juxtaposes WWII, Sept. 11 treatment"

The Oregon Daily Emerald features a fascinating article on Denise Uyehara, Japanese-American performance artist. Her show "is based on the links between the Japanese-American relocation, detention and internment during World War II and current violence against Arab-Americans, South Asians and Muslims in the United States."

According to the article:
After Sept. 11 and the ensuing hate crimes directed toward Muslims and Arab-Americans, Uyehara was reminded of her family's experience during World War II, she said. She recognized that she could become a conduit not just for her family history but also for the new group of citizens suddenly being scrutinized
with suspicion, she said.... "Oh my God, the same thing is going to happen again."

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How Ironic: "Too many immigrants in Britain, South Asians tell pollsters"

Interestingly, "Sixty percent of Britons of south Asian origin feel there are too many immigrants in the country, a pre-election opinion poll for the BBC Asian Network indicated on Friday." The Daily Times summary of the BBC poll findings contradicts the assumption that immigrants would not be of the opinion that there are too many immigrants in the nation, as this implies that immigration should be capped or limited in some fashion. Obviously, one would suspect that immigrant populations favor somewhat porous borders because they were immigrants!

The timing of these findings should come as no surprise, as immigration has become a controversial topic in England as the election draws near. In fact, The Washington Post's Outlook section featured articles on immigration in the United States and the United Kingdom. They are both worth a read:

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Op-ed: "Many wrongly label Muslims as violent"

The Post, an independent newspaper of Ohio University, has an opinion piece that argues the misunderstanding of Arabs, Muslims and the Quran help to "create a high incidence of hate crimes against innocent Muslim-Americans." The article discusses the pernicious consequences of commentary by certain pundits and the acceptance of racial profiling as a means of identifying terrorists.

The article concludes by stating, "The best way to eliminate bigotry is to spread awareness." However, the author admits that this goal is made more difficult by the "mass media or opinion manufacturers" who perpetuate certain phrases and justify the belief that Muslims can be categorically viewed with suspicion.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Muslim Converts Face Discrimination"

The New York Times examines the mistreatment of Muslim converts in the United States. The article notes "men and women raised in this country, whose only tie to the Middle East or Southeast Asia is one of faith", have faced discrimination. For example:
  • "Khalid Hakim, born Charles Karolik in Milwaukee, could not renew the document required to work as a merchant mariner because he refused to remove his kufi, a round knitted cap, for an identity photograph last year.
  • "Dierdre Small and Stephanie Lewis drove New York City Transit buses for years wearing their hijabs, or head scarves, with no protest from supervisors. After 9/11 the women were ordered to remove the religious garments. They refused, and were transferred, along with two other Muslim converts, out of the public eye - to jobs vacuuming, cleaning and parking buses...."
At the end of the article, Mr. Hakim states: "I love my country.... He's asking me to choose between my country and my God. I can't do that."

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"Addressing hate crime Education key, especially for the young; society must look within"

An editorial in a local New York newspaper argues that a "teenager [who] has been charged with a hate crime after being accused of spray-painting swastikas and racial remarks on buildings" should do "major" community service that involves the area's diversity.

The editorial attempts to make the larger point that the teenager "wasn't born with prejudice" and as a result such hate was learned. Moreover, when a person so young commits a hate crime, society must ask itself the following: "How prejudiced are we? Do we pass that on to our children?"

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Religious Freedom: Sikh not allowed to carry kirpan in Denmark

According to a Sikh newspaper, "Ripudaman Singh, a Sikh youth resident of Denmark [] declared his kirpan to the security at the US embassy in Copenhagen a year ago, along with the assurance that he would get his kirpan back. But to his surprise the security called the police and he was then charged for carrying a 'dagger' with the length exceeding 7cms as permitted by Danish law."

Singh's lawyer is arguing, in part, that the carrying of the kirpan should be protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of religion. The kirpan, a ceremonial daggar, is one of the five articles of faith in the Sikh religion and baptized Sikhs are to carry a kirpan on their person at all times.

The complete article is available here.

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The Discrimination & National Security Initiative (DNSI) is a research entity that examines the mistreatment of minority communities during times of military action or national crisis.

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