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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Human Rights Group Emphasizes Duty of U.S. Secretary of State to Withhold Extradition of Kulvir Singh Barapind to India

On Tuesday, December 27, 2005, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law called on the United States Secretary of State to withhold extradition of any person who is more likely than not to be subjected to torture upon return. The CHRGJ issued its call as the U.S. Secretary of State finalized her decision whether to extradite Kulvir Singh Barapind to India. The CHRGJ submitted an amicus letter (pdf, 1.6 MB) in support of the legal position taken by Mr. Barapind in his application for relief under the Convention Against Torture, prepared by ENSAAF, regarding U.S. obligations under international and domestic law.

[This entry is cross-posted on ENSAAF's blog.]


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"Jailed for their Words"

The Chicago Tribune reports:
On April 23, 1918, with the U.S. in the depths of World War I, Fred Rodewald, a German immigrant homesteader who had settled with his family on 320 acres in eastern Montana, uttered a sentence that forever changed his life.

He suggested that Americans "would have hard times" if Germany's kaiser "didn't get over here and rule this country."

That remark earned him 2 years in prison for violating Montana's Sedition Act.
The article profiles a group of law students seeking clemency for those arrested under similar circumstances.

[HT: How Appealing]

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

DNSI Co-Director Valarie Kaur Comments on Killing of Gurpartap Singh

58-year-old Gurpartap Singh, a Sikh cab driver, was killed Sunday after dropping off a fare in Richmond, California. [See previous report here.] The motive remains unclear:
"Police believe Gurpartap Singh was killed in the course of a robbery or attempted robbery."

But Valarie Kaur, a Sikh filmmaker based in Los Angeles, said that even if the motive for Singh's killing was robbery, the crime fits into a greater context of violence against Sikhs and other people of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent in post-Sept. 11 America.

"It becomes impossible and irresponsible not to consider hate as part of the motive," Kaur said.

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Defendants in Khalsa Assault Trial Sentenced

According to the New York Post:
A Queens judge came down hard on five knuckleheads yesterday, sentencing them all to jail for their roles in a racially charged.... brutal beating of Rajinder Singh Khalsa, 66, who suffered a broken nose and a fractured eye socket in the attack. [Previous reports available here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]

Salvatore Maceli, 27, who had been convicted of second-degree assault, received the harshest sentence of two years in prison.

His brother, Nicholas Maceli, 23, received six months in jail. Ryan Meehan, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail. Terence Lyons, 54, received 20 days and Victor Cosentino, 60, five days....

"Crimes motivated by bias — particularly those involving violence — can never be tolerated. They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society," [Judge Seymour Rotker] said.

Khalsa... pleaded for racial harmony.

"We should live together like the birds living on the trees," he said. "Everybody in our community should feel that we are safe."

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Sikh Cab Driver Killed on Christmas Day

A Sikh cab driver died yesterday after being shot in the neck, in Richmond, California. Gurpartap Singh, 58, attempted to drive himself to the hospital, but eventually crashed a few blocks later. Apparently Singh was shot just after dropping off a fare.

The police are operating under the assumption that robbery was the motive. However, as noted by locals, "This is not the first time a taxi driver has been murdered in the East Bay. And this is not the first time a Sikh has been murdered for no reason at all." ("On July 2, 2003, 23-year-old Hercules resident Gurpreet Singh was fatally shot around 1 a.m. after he drove to the intersection of 21st Street and Carlson Boulevard to pick up a fare.")

See news reports here, here, and here.

We will continue to monitor the story, as it develops.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Editorial: “Muslims: From Unseen to Highly Visible”

On December 12, 2005 The Seattle Times reported, "For decades the small number of Muslims in our country moved quietly through the daily routines of American life — the women grocery shopping, shuttling kids, many hidden behind their veils; the men working, studying, reaching like other immigrants for better lives. Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the words 'Islamic' and 'terrorist' began to run together as if there were no difference at all. Certainly, the hideous fact that 19 hijackers of Muslim faith would brutalize American civilians would reverberate many years. It has. It will. But we can't go on like this, misunderstanding, fearing, knowing so little about one another. The U.S. Census Bureau does not directly ask about religious affiliation, but the best estimate from a large national survey says there are roughly 3 million American Muslims. Other studies say the number is twice that. The first marks on a painted portrait of this important cultural group reveal a population that is young, preponderantly male and well-educated. The median age of Americans is 43; American Muslims' median age is 28, according to 'Religion in a Free Market,' by Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, a book to be published in 2006. Forty-eight percent of the U.S. population is male, compared with 62 percent of Muslim Americans, the book says. One-third of Americans are college graduates; 46 percent of Muslim Americans have a college degree... New thinking among American Muslims is they must speak out and educate Americans about their culture and religion. The silver lining of the terrorist attacks, if there can be such a thing, is Americans finally are eager to learn more about Muslims."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there about In the Wake of September 11 and Muslims Reach Out.

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Ford “Difficult Dialogues” Grants Awarded to University of Michigan Campuses to Combat Anti-Muslim, Anti-Jewish Bias

On December 12, 2005 WWMT.com/AP reported, "The Ford Foundation is giving $100,000 each to the University of Michigan campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn. The grants are for projects aimed at combating anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and other forms of bias. The two Michigan campuses are among 27 higher education institutions getting the grants. They're part of the foundation's two-year Difficult Dialogues initiative. The foundation says the projects seek to promote academic freedom and constructive dialogue on college campuses."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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Detroit Kirpan Controversy Highlights Tensions Between City Ordinances and Religious Freedoms

On December 12, 2005 The Detroit News reported, "The arrest of a Wayne State University student has sparked conflict between upholding the city's knife ordinance and protecting religious freedoms. Senior Sukhpreet Singh Garcha, 23, was arrested on campus in August on suspicion of carrying a 10-inch knife on his hip and was charged with violating a city ordinance, which prohibits carrying knives with blades longer than 3 inches. Garcha, a practicing Sikh, said the knife was part of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded in India. The charge was later dropped, but the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Sikhs organization have rallied around the student, claiming the arrest violated Garcha's religious rights. His lawyers have asked 36th District Court Judge Rudy Serra to clarify the city's knife ordinance. He is expected to issue an opinion as soon as today that will likely exempt kirpans from the city's knife ordinance. 'I don't believe the ordinance was intended to be applied to cases like this,' Serra said... In the meantime, Wayne State University and Garcha's lawyers are trying to work out a compromise, especially after Garcha was arrested again Dec. 6 for wearing the kirpan. Criminal charges were not pressed, and Garcha was released... Wayne State's Public Safety Director Anthony Holt said the university is exploring ways to honor Garcha's beliefs as well as ensure the safety of the community. The department had never encountered a case like this before, he said. Holt said Garcha will no longer be stopped or arrested for carrying the kirpan."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there about Kirpan Discrimination Cases.

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FBI Interrogates Muslim High School Student Over ‘PLO’ Notebook Doodles

On December 15, 2005 KXTV10.com reported, "Area civil rights groups are angry after a Muslim Elk Grove high school student was taken out of class and questioned by FBI agents over a three letters he scrawled on his binder two years ago. Calvine High School student Munir Rashed, 16, said he was pulled out of class on September 27 and questioned by two men who identified themselves as FBI agents. Rashed said the men asked him about a 2003 incident, when a math teacher at another school reprimanded the teen for writing the letters 'PLO' on his binder... Rashed told the agents that while the letters did represent the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization, the letters were merely the result of doodling... Representatives of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Sacramento Valley office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations are now asking why school officials allowed the questioning without notifying the teen's parents... According to a statement issued by FBI spokeswoman Karen Ernst, the agents interviewed the teen after receiving a complaint about the binder incident as well as reports Rashed had pictures of suicide bombers on his cell phone. When asked if he wanted a parent present, agents said the teen declined to answer questions. Ernst also said the issues about the incident raised by Rashed were resolved and no further action was taken. Rashed said he believed his parents had already been notified of the interview."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there on Civil Rights and Profiling.

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Muslim Chaplain at Yale Writes “Koran for Dummies” Book

On December 15, 2005 the New Haven Advocate reported, "When it comes to religion, especially the widely misunderstood religion of Islam, many could benefit from an eraser to the head. Scholars have obliged recently, lobbing shots into the English-speaking world with books like... The Koran for Dummies, by Sohaib Sultan, the Islamic chaplain at Yale. The Koran is an ancient, holy and serious book, not what one would expect wrapped in the often flip, cartoony Dummies style. But Sultan saw opportunity when he was approached to write this book. After a little hesitation - some Koranic scholars disapproved - he listened to his conscience. It said, 'If you pass this up, you will have lost a great opportunity to introduce one of most misunderstood religions to the American public.' Sohaib Sultan... recently became, at age 25, the first-ever Islamic chaplain at Yale. He has been studying the Koran in Arabic since childhood, spending six years with Koranic scholars in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. He is now working on his master's degree in Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and Islamic Chaplaincy at the Hartford Seminary... The Koran for Dummies is a potent debunker. Meant to be read as a supplement to, not a substitute for, the Koran, it is a guidebook to the holy scripture of Islam."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there on Muslims Reach Out.

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Immigration Reform Proposal Poorly Received by Ohioans

On December 16, 2005 The Plain Dealer reported, "A hotly debated immigration reform bill in Washington puts an estimated quarter-million illegal or undocumented immigrants in Ohio - and about 10 million in the nation - in the government's cross hairs. One of the most controversial passages of the bill was changed Thursday by Republicans after wrangling on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. As originally proposed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, any undocumented immigrant in the United States could be charged with an aggravated felony. He lowered the proposed violation from a felony to a misdemeanor. Still, Cleveland lawyer David Leopold, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association national executive board, said the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act was the worst piece of legislation he'd ever seen... 'This would only serve to drive 10 million people further underground and make anyone who helps those people in the smallest way eligible for arrest under federal law,' Leopold said Thursday."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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New York's Muslim Community Still Recovering From 9/11

On December 17, 2005 Asharq Alawsat reported, "Since the September 11 attacks on New York in 2001, the spotlight has been focused largely upon those Muslims in the United States who fell victim to harassment and suffered from psychological pressures resulting from the attacks. This was a relatively new phenomenon especially in New York itself, which has traditionally been tolerant to different races and religions. Since the late 18th century, Muslim immigrants had left their countries and headed for New York in search of a better life. Today, Muslims find themselves having to defend their identity and right of residence in the United States. Four years after 9/11, the media's focus on Muslims has begun to recede slowly allowing them to resume with their day- to –day lives far away from the effects of the attacks that targeted their well-being and stability. New York City, with its population of 19 million, is home to some 800,000 Muslims. It has the second largest Muslim community in the United States after California, which is home to one million Muslim residents. In parts of the city with a significant number of Muslims, one can often hear the stories of Muslims living peacefully, while others speak of receiving death threats representing the level of discrimination and racial tension that emerge after any terror incidents related to Islam."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there on In the Wake of September 11.

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Forty-Four Senators Leading Filibuster to Block Renewal of Patriot Act

On December 19, 2005 The New York Times reported, "When Congress passed the antiterrorism bill known as the USA Patriot Act in the fall of 2001, greatly expanding the government's investigative powers, a single senator, Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, voted against it. With the nation reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, opposing the bill seemed an act of political suicide, especially for a Democrat. Today, more than 40 Democrats and four Republicans stand with Mr. Feingold as he helps lead a filibuster blocking the act's renewal. They are betting that the politics of terrorism have shifted from fear of another attack to wariness of 'Big Brother' intrusions on personal privacy... Polls suggest that the public is supportive of the act but skeptical. President Bush's admission on Saturday that he had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans may have deepened that skepticism... The act's 16 major provisions are set to expire at the end of the month, and in his radio address on Saturday, Mr. Bush warned that the Senate action 'endangers the lives of our citizens.' He added, 'In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.'"

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more articles there about the Patriot Act.

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ACLU to Appeal Qur'an Court Oath Case

On December 19, 2005 News-Record reported, "Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said Thursday that they will appeal last week's ruling regarding courtroom oaths. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of its roughly 8,000 members asking the court to clarify that state law allows people to use non-Christian religious scriptures for oath-taking. Greensboro Muslim Syidah Mateen, who joined the suit, claimed she was harmed in 2003 when a judge did not allow her to take an oath on the Qur'an when testifying in a Guilford County courtroom. However, Superior Court Judge Donald L. Smith tossed out the lawsuit on Dec. 8, deciding that the plaintiffs lacked a legal controversy. The judge determined that because Mateen testified that day, no legal controversy remained... ACLU lawyer Seth Cohen said Thursday that the organization disagrees with the judge's finding and he is confidant they will win in the N.C. Court of Appeals."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News. Read more there about Oaths on the Qur'an.

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Sikh Minister Speaks in Support of Student's Right to Wear Crucifix to School

On December 8, 2005 LifeSiteNews.com reported, "The news that a 16-year-old UK school girl was suspended for wearing a crucifix at a school where Sikh religious articles are permitted has sparked the ire of the Sikh community as well as the Christian community. Sikh Minister Sardarni Sahiba Gurumeet Kaur Khalsa told LifeSiteNews.com 'It is the height of wrongful discrimination to disallow Christian students to wear a crucifix, while yet allowing Sikh students to wear a kara (a religious steel bracelet).; Deputy head teacher Howard Jones of Sinfin Community School in Derby... said the wearing of the crucifix violates the schools ban on jewellery. However, UK Tory MP and noted Christian MP Ann Widdecombe told UK papers that the decision was 'crazy' and said Jones was 'utterly ignorant' if he believes the crucifix to be just jewellery. Jones explained that the Sikh religious articles are permitted because Sikh faith requires them. 'We are very comfortable with our policy and believe we are being even-handed and fair. Christianity does not require followers to wear a specific symbol.' However, the Minister of Divinity of Sikh Dharma who contacted LifeSiteNews.com explained that the action of the school against Morris was the 'height of wrongful discrimination' since 'I hold her commitment to wear her crucifix sacred in the same way that I choose to uphold my commitment to wear my kara each day.'"

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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Leaders of Muslim Countries Conclude Summit, Warning of Crisis Posed by Terrorism

On December 9, 2005 BBC News reported, "Leaders of 57 Muslim countries have ended their summit with a warning that the Islamic world is in crisis because of the threat posed by terrorism. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference statement urges decisive action to fight 'deviant ideas'. The meeting in the holy Muslim city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia called for changes in national laws to criminalise financing and incitement of terrorism. It also called for new school curricula to purge extremist ideas. The declaration also said that fatwas, or Islamic religious edicts, must only be issued by those who are authorised to do so. The BBC's Middle East and Islamic affairs analyst, Roger Hardy, says Muslims attending the Mecca summit heard some heady rhetoric. The event was hailed as a turning-point, a moment of Muslim renaissance. Using rather more mundane language, some called it a summit of moderation and modernisation."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News. Read more there on the subject of Moderate and Extremist Islam Collide.

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First UK Sikh Councillor Awarded High Civilian Honor

On December 10, 2005 the Hindustan Times/IANS reported, "Gurudeo Saluja, who became Scotland's first Sikh councillor in 1999, has been conferred one of Britain's highest civilian awards, the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Saluja, a resident of Aberdeenshire, has been councillor for the Echt ward since 1999 and is convener of Grampian Joint Police Board. His proud wife Patricia watched as he was presented with the honour during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace this week... Saluja was made an OBE for services to community relations. He performed a number of civic and other roles since arriving in the area. A former president of Grampian Racial Equality Commission, he was also the founder president of the Asian Social and Cultural Association for Aberdeen and North-East Scotland."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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Islamic Group Hosts Protest of Anti-Terror Laws in London

On December 10, 2005 BBC News reported, "Protesters have gathered in London's Hyde Park to demonstrate against the government's anti-terror laws. About 8,000 Muslims from across the UK took part in the march staged by radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), according to organisers. It began in Parliament Square taking in Whitehall and Piccadilly Circus, before arriving in Hyde Park for speeches by leaders of Muslim groups. HT, banned in some countries, says the legislation is oppressive. Measures to ban extremist organisations and the extradition of Babar Ahmed to face terrorism charges in the US are among the steps being criticised. Dr Imran Waheed, a spokesman for HT Britain, said: 'We will continue to stand up for justice and call on all people of conscience to prevent the silencing of thought, the muzzling of criticism and the repression of dissent under the pretence of fighting terrorism.'"

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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Newsweek article: Muslim Women Stereotyped by Extremes

On December 12, 2005 Newsweek reported, "The West's exposure to Muslim women is largely based on Islam's most extreme cases of oppression: Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, Wahhabi-ruled Saudi Arabia and postrevolutionary Iran. Under those regimes, women were and are ordered to cover. Many Afghan women are forbidden to attend school, and no Saudi woman is allowed to drive. Yet despite the spread of ultraconservative versions of Islam over the past few decades, these societies are not the norm in the Muslim world. In Egypt, female cops patrol the streets. In Jordan, women account for the majority of students in medical school. And in Syria, courtrooms are filled with female lawyers... Still, Muslim women are feeling like pawns in a political game: jihadists portray them as ignorant lambs who need to be protected from outside forces, while the United States considers them helpless victims of a backward society to be saved through military intervention. 'Our empowerment is being exploited by men,' says Palestinian Muslim Rima Barakat. 'It's a policy of hiding behind the skirts of women. It's dishonorable no matter who's doing it.'"

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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US Muslims Ask Judge to Ban Border Searches Ahead of This Year’s Toronto Conference

On December 15, 2005 The Brandon Sun/AP reported, "A group of Muslim-Americans asked a federal judge Thursday to allow them to travel to a religious conference in Toronto later this month without being fingerprinted, photographed and held for hours at the border, like they were on the way home from last year's gathering. In a case that weighs the government's anti-terrorism efforts against the rights of its citizens, the New York Civil Liberties Union argued on the group's behalf for a court order prohibiting border agents from stopping and searching Muslim-Americans based solely on their attendance at the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto on Dec. 23-29. Homeland Security officials acknowledged subjecting those who attended last year's conference to lengthy security checks upon their return to the United States, but said they had reason to believe that people associated with terrorism planned to attend the conference or others like it. NYCLU lawyer Christopher Dunn accused the government of trampling the plaintiffs' right to practise religion in the name of homeland security."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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Churches Become Targets in Sydney's Race Riots

On December 15, 2005 CNSNews.com reported, "As police in Sydney brace for the possibility of more street brawls this weekend, Christian symbols have become a new target following last Sunday's clashes between white Australians and ethnic Arab gangs. Four such attacks were reported in two days - a Uniting church hall was torched; an Anglican church's windows were smashed; Molotov cocktails were thrown at another Anglican church; and gunshots were fired at parked cars and parents and children verbally abused outside a Catholic primary school Christmas carol services... After weeks of escalating tensions attributed to unruly behavior by Lebanese youths on city beaches, surfers and other locals of a suburb called Cronulla organized a beachside demonstration last Sunday which erupted into clashes between whites and people of Arab origin... Sydney's Lebanese community comprises both Muslims and Christians, and members of both religious groups called for a curfew of Lebanese young people on Friday and Saturday night and all day on Sunday. Church leaders also called for calm, urging Arab-Australians not to target Christians or Christmas-related functions."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News. Read more there about the Sydney Beach Riots, Anti-Muslim Violence/Vandalism and Anti-Christian Violence/Vandalism.

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UK Ministers Drop Plans to Shut Down Extremist Mosques

On December 16, 2005 The Guardian reported, "Ministers yesterday dropped plans proposed by Tony Blair as part of his 12-point anti-terror plan in the wake of the July bombings to close mosques that are used to foment extremism after criticism from the police and religious leaders. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, proposed the police should have the power to secure a court order requiring trustees of a mosque or other place of worship to stop the activities of extremists or face a temporary closure. It was widely seen as an attempt to avoid a repeat of the case of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, which was used as a base by Islamist extremists. But the sharp reaction has forced the government to abandon the idea. Rob Beckley, the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on terrorism, warned it would lead to the unhelpful identification of Islam with terrorism, be seen as limiting free speech, and prove futile to enforce. The Church of England demanded to know why places of worship were being singled out while the representatives of other religions reminded the government that a struggle for their independence had been fought out through history."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News. Read more there about Governments Seek[ing] to Curb Islamic Extremism and Islam in European Society.

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Two British Speakers for U.S. Muslim Conference on Combatting Terrorism Detained at Airport

On December 18, 2005 The Guardian/Associated Press reported, "Muslim leaders who gathered Saturday to discuss their role in combating extremism within the Islamic community complained that two scheduled speakers missed the event after being detained at Los Angeles International Airport. 'People are upset,' said Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which organized the conference. 'On one hand the U.S. government is asking us to do more, but on the other they are preventing us from doing our work.' British citizens Mockbul Ali and Waqqas Khan had arrived on a flight from London at 4 p.m. but only cleared customs after 8 p.m., said Erin Robertson, a spokeswoman for the British Consulate-General in Los Angeles. Robertson said it wasn't clear why the men were delayed. Calls to U.S. Customs and Immigration officials late Saturday seeking comment were not immediately returned. Maher Hathout, founder and senior adviser of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Saturday that American Muslims needed to actively define their role in society so other groups, including extremists and media organizations, didn't define it for them."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's International Religious Diversity News.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fourth Circuit Denies Gov't Requests to Transfer Padilla and Vacate its Ruling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the government's requests to transfer Jose Padilla to the custody of the Justice Department, and to vacate its previous ruling that allowed the United States to hold an American citizen as an enemy combatant without being charged.

The opinion begins:
Before the court is the government's motion pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 36 for authorization to transfer Jose Padilla immediately out of military custody in the State of South Carolina and into the custody of federal civilian law enforcement authorities in the State of Florida, together with its suggestion that we withdraw our opinion of September 9, 2005, in which we held that the President possesses the authority under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force to detain enemy combatants who have taken up arms against the United States abroad and entered into this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within.

Because we believe that the transfer of Padilla and the withdrawal of our opinion at the government's request while the Supreme Court is reviewing this court's decision of September 9 would compound what is, in the absence of explanation, at least an appearance that the government may be attempting to avoid consideration of our decision by the Supreme Court, and also because we believe that this case presents an issue of such especial national importance as to warrant final consideration by that court, even if only by denial of further review, we deny both the motion and suggestion. If the natural progression of this significant litigation to conclusion is to be pretermitted at this late date under these circumstances, we believe that decision should be made not by this court but, rather, by the Supreme Court of the United States.
(emphasis added). The conclusion of the opinion, beginning at page 12 of the document, is definitely worth reading as well.

[Thanks to "How Appealing".]

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Respected Circuit Judge on Domestic Spying in the U.S.

Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit writes in today's Washington Post:
These programs [including the NSA's electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens within the United States] are criticized as grave threats to civil liberties. They are not. Their significance is in flagging the existence of gaps in our defenses against terrorism. The Defense Department is rushing to fill those gaps, though there may be better ways.
Far be it for anyone to say that Judge Posner has missed the mark on any subject, but it appears as though the prevailing concern is not that these domestic programs are threats to civil liberties or the privacy of American citizens. Rather, the overriding constitutional and public concern is that these programs, specifically the NSA's domestic spying, are conducted without court order and thus ignore the ability of the judiciary to balance the need for information against other considerations, such as privacy. That is, the problematic nature of the domestic surveillance is not secrecy, but accountability: the warrantless spying prevents the courts from checking the power of the executive and from protecting the people from baseless searches, roles that the courts should hold despite understandable concerns related to terrorism and intelligence gaps.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On the NSA's Surveillance Program

Earlier this week the New York Times revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has, under the direction of the President, been engaged in domestic spying for the past four years. Specifically, the President authorized the NSA to engage in surveillance of communication made (via email or phone, for example) internationally without prior approval of the courts. (The NSA would, however, seek a court order for communication entirely within the U.S.)

The secret program has again called into question the constitutional limits of the executive's wartime powers, and led to claims that, "This is a different era, a different war," necessitating novel activities to combat the unique nature of the war on terror.

One interesting aspect of the issue is the fact that the special courts that would be involved are exceedingly deferential to executive power in any case:
The court that authorizes wiretaps on terrorism suspects had not rejected a government request for a warrant in its 22-year existence to 2001, when President Bush issued an order allowing agents to wiretap citizens without judicial approval.
Despite the government's perfect batting average, the courts were not sufficiently convenient to meet the government's particular needs in administrating the wiretap orders:
The court "doesn't provide the speed and the agility that we need in all circumstances to deal with this new kind of threat," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said yesterday.
Professor John Yoo, who admits that his "name has come up for criticism" over the NSA program, argues:
The Constitution creates a presidency that is uniquely structured to act forcefully and independently to repel serious threats to the nation....

Why no strict war-making process [in the Constitution]? Because the framers understood that war would require the speed, decisiveness and secrecy that only the presidency could bring. "Energy in the executive," Alexander Hamilton argued in the Federalist Papers, "is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks."

And, he continued, "the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand."

Instead of specifying a legalistic process to begin war, the framers wisely created a fluid political process in which legislators would use their funding power to control war.

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Religious Freedoms Allegedly Denied to Sikh Prisoner

According to City Limits, Navdeep Singh, a 28 year-old Sikh who is currently in New York's Fishkill Correctional Facility, is suing the State Department of Correctional Services for deprivations to his right to practice his faith in prison. In particular:
Navdeep... said prison officials dumped his underwear in the garbage when he arrived, despite his protestations that it was a sacred item. Long underwear called kacchera is worn by devout Sikhs to reinforce their vow of abstinence. He said he has also been denied access to religious items Sikhs are expected to carry with them at all times, including a thin steel bracelet symbolizing bondage to truth, a wooden comb and a Sikh pendant.

“One of the correction officers told me that if I wanted my religious items, I should go back to my country and ride camels,” said Navdeep....

[To protest, Navdeep engaged in a hunger strike.] A few days after his hunger strike began, the kacchera was returned to him and he is now permitted to wear the bracelet during meal times. But he hasn’t seen the pendant for six months.

[A spokesperson for the prison said:] “We recognize the importance of spiritual and religious practices and have worked hard to provide these services to inmates at our facilities throughout the state,” he says. “However, we must ensure that any program or service provided is done so in a manner that does not undermine safety or security."

[The] United Sikhs finds the security argument baffling. “They haven’t explained how an underwear, a comb or a bangle can be a security concern....

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Khalsa Trial: Effectiveness of NY Hate Crime Law Questioned

DNSI has been closely following the trial of those accused of assaulting Rajinder Singh Khalsa [previous reports available here, here, here, and here], and the Sikh community's reaction to the verdicts [see here and here]. The Associated Press is now questioning the effectiveness of the state hate crime statute that the accused were prosecuted under:
The case illustrated what is complicated about prosecuting cases under the state's hate crime law, which increases penalties for offenses committed with bias....

"In criminal law, the only crime where one has to prove motivation is a bias crime," said Amardeep Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group. "These crimes are inherently difficult to prosecute."

Salvatore Maceli's attorney, Joseph Corozzo, said that while his client acknowledged hitting Khalsa, it wasn't a hate crime. Maceli arrived at the confrontation after the initial verbal exchange and simply came to the aid of his companions, the lawyer said.

Maceli didn't hit Khalsa because he was Sikh, Corozzo said. "Salvatore Maceli from moment one admitted to hitting Mr. Khalsa because he was defending his friends and family," he said.

Khalsa and his supporters disagree, saying racial and religious epithets were heard during the entire incident, and that the men hitting him were acting in support of those who had taunted him about his turban.

"If one guy is doing any action and another man is supporting him, then he is supporting a hate crime," Khalsa said. "It is a hate crime."

While the bias crime law, passed in 2000 after a 10-year push by advocates, is a valuable tool, there needs to be more done to promote its effective use, said Clarence Patton, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

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"Billboard's Arab images sparks accusation of racism"

According to the USA Today:
An anti-terrorism campaign by a group that wants tighter restrictions on driver's licenses has angered Arab-Americans who say that an image on a planned billboard — an Arab man holding both a grenade and a license — is racist.
The billboard, as shown in North Carolina:


An anti-terrorism billboard in North Carolina.


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"NJ Muslim critic of airport detentions is detained"

The Associated Press reports:
For years, Mohamed Younes protested the questioning and detention of Muslim and Arab-American air travelers when they were stopped at airports on security grounds. Now, it has happened to him....

After haggling with airport officials for another two hours, Younes was finally allowed aboard the plane, without an explanation for the change of heart.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Importance of the Padilla Case

The Christian Science Monitor has this to say about the case involving enemy combatant and alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla:
In the 3-1/2 years since his arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the government has repeatedly asserted unilateral power in a way that has undercut Mr. Padilla's ability to defend himself.

In addition, Justice Department lawyers have used that same unilateral power to help insulate their actions from the scrutiny of the judiciary - including the US Supreme Court.

Critics see such tactics as a troubling symptom of the Bush adminstration's expansive view of presidential power. Supporters say the tactics are designed more to help win the war on terror than to win court battles.

That government strategy has left unresolved a string of legal challenges raising some of the most fundamental issues of US constitutional law. They include the president's authority to name US citizens as "enemy combatants" in the war on terror and what rights, if any, protect such citizens.

"At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in assessing the Padilla case in 2004. "If this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."

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Secret Domestic Anti-Terrorism Spying Carried on the U.S.

Today's edition of the New York Times reveals:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications....

Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation....

The legal opinions that support the N.S.A. operation remain classified, but they appear to have followed private discussions among senior administration lawyers and other officials about the need to pursue aggressive strategies that once may have been seen as crossing a legal line, according to senior officials who participated in the discussions.

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DNSI Advisory Board Member Aneesh Chopra Appointed as the Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Congratulations Aneesh!

A related press release is available here.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Commentary: Access of Guantanamo Detainees to Federal Courts

Aziz Huq, associate counsel, the Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, offers this criticism of congressional attempts to limit the rights of Gitmo detainees to challenge their detention in federal courts. He writes, in part:
Congress is about to pass a bill that cuts off the only real route out of the Guantánamo mess: A path involving the meaningful review of the factual basis for detention decisions in an independent federal court. An amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, first introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, now threatens to constrain tightly federal courts’ historic habeas corpus jurisdiction on behalf of prisoners detained at Guantánamo. And the administration is adding language that would not only give those who commit abuse immunity in court, but would also allow detainees to be locked up based on evidence extracted by torture—a first ever in American law.

Justifying his proposal, Sen. Graham has argued that previous wartime prisoners did not have the right to challenge their detention. But unlike previous POW detention schemes, the Guantánamo regime is based on seriously flawed legal theories. The administration’s legal mistakes led it to detain many people, including children and innocents, who should not be held. It is these legal mistakes—which are unique in American wartime conduct —that justify a solution of federal court review....

Sen. Graham’s bill would curtail detainees’ access to American courts. It would consign many to a black hole, based on evidence gained by torture, perhaps conducted in other countries and allow no meaningful review. His provisions, which contradict the traditional access to courts that prisoners in the American Civil War and World War II had, would entrench the Guantánamo problem. The camp would fester, and continue to attract recruits to Al Qaeda. Only through a transparent, and transparently fair, legal process can the harms caused by Guantánamo be limited.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Public Library Prohibits Employees from wearing Religious Jewelry

Professor Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy, one of the best blogs on the Internet in my opinion, discussed the Logan County Public Library in Kentucky, which prevented employees from from wearing "clothing depicting religious, political, or potentially offensive decoration" and expanded this policy to include "religious ornaments."

The library's justification is as follows: "[T]he policy is necessary to protect librarian impartiality on issues that could be the subject of patron inquiry...." In particular, "the policy is required to avoid the appearance of religious favoritism and to avoid violating the state's duties under the Establishment Clause."

As Professor Volokh notes, "if you take the librarian impartiality argument seriously, you'd have to refuse to hire anyone who even dresses or wears his or her hair in religiously distinctive ways; no orthodox Jewish men with yarmulkes, no Sikhs wearing turbans, no Muslim women wearing distinctively Muslim garb."

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Update: "Racial Violence Continues in Australia"

The Associated Press provides this latest report from Australia, posted at 9:22am this morning:

Young people riding in vehicles smashed cars and store windows in suburban Sydney late Monday, a day after thousands of drunken white youths attacked people they believed were of Arab descent at a beach in the same area in one of Australia's worst outbursts of racial violence.

Sunday's attack - apparently prompted by reports that Lebanese youths had assaulted two lifeguards - sparked retaliation by young men of Arab descent in several Sydney suburbs, fighting with police and smashing 40 cars with sticks and bats, police said. Thirty-one people were injured and 16 were arrested in hours of violence.

The rampage on Monday broke out in Cronulla, the same coastal suburb where the violence began, and in neighboring Carringbah, said Paul Bugden, spokesman for New South Wales police. Calm was restored by early Tuesday.

Bugden said six people were arrested and one person apparently was hit by a rock in Monday's violence. He did not have descriptions of those involved in the rampage, but he said it "obviously stems from the last 24-48 hours."

Australian Associated Press, citing a resident who declined to be named, said men riding in up to 50 cars and wielding baseball bats converged on Cronulla, smashing cars. Ambulances were called to help at least one injured man seen lying on the side of the road.

Steven Dawson said a bottle thrown through his apartment window in the suburb of Brighton-Le-Sands showered his 5-month-old son Caleb with glass, but did not hurt the child.

Horst Dreizner said a car had rammed into his denture store and he feared the violence would escalate. "Personally, I think it is only the beginning," he said in a telephone interview.

Elsewhere, about 300 people of Arab descent demonstrated against Sunday's attack outside one of Sydney's largest mosques, amid tight security.

The riots began Sunday after rumors circulated that youths of Lebanese descent were responsible for an attack last weekend on two lifeguards at Cronulla Beach. Police said the assault was not believed to be racially motivated.

Police, meanwhile, formed a strike force to track down the instigators of the attack, some of whom were believed to be from white supremacist groups. Police said they were also seeking an Arab man who allegedly stabbed a white man in the back.

Morris Iemma, the premier of New South Wales state, said police would use video images and photographs to track down the instigators. "Let's be very clear, the police will be unrelenting in their fight against these thugs and hooligans," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard condemned the violence, but said he did not believe racism was widespread in Australia.

"Attacking people on the basis of their race, their appearance, their ethnicity, is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians irrespective of their own background and their politics," Howard said.

But he added: "I'm not going to put a general tag (of) racism on the Australian community."

Australia has long prided itself on accepting immigrants - from Italians and Greeks after World War II to families fleeing political strife in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In the last census in 2001, nearly a quarter of Australia's 20 million people said they were born overseas.

However, tensions between youths of Arabic descent and white Australians have been rising in recent years, largely because of anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States and deadly bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, in October 2002.

About 300,000 Muslims live in Australia, the majority in large cities.

"Arab Australians have had to cope with vilification, racism, abuse and fear of a racial backlash for a number of years, but these riots will take that fear to a new level," said Roland Jabbour, chairman of the Australian Arabic Council.

Police had increased the number of officers patrolling the beach in the Sydney suburb on Sunday after cell phone text messages urged people to gather there to retaliate for the attack on the lifeguards.

Police said more than 5,000 white youths, some wrapped in Australian flags and chanting racist slurs, fought with police, attacked people they believed to be of Arab descent and assaulted a pair of paramedics trying to help people escape the riot.

Police fought back with batons and pepper spray.

Many of the youths had been drinking heavily, police said. One white teenager had the words "We grew here, you flew here" painted on his back. Someone had written "100 percent Aussie pride" in the sand. TV broadcasts showed a group of young women attacking another woman, whose ethnicity was not clear.

The violence shocked this city of 4 million that considers itself a cultural melting pot.

"What we have seen yesterday is something I thought I would never see in Australia and perhaps we have not seen in Australia in any of our lifetimes and that is a mass call to violence based on race," Community Relations Commission chairman Stepan Kerkyasharian told Sky News.

Cronulla Beach, which is easily accessible by train but is not a popular destination for foreign tourists, is often visited by youngsters from poorer suburbs, many of them of Arab descent. Residents accuse the youths of traveling in gangs and sometimes intimidating other beachgoers.

Aborigines rioted in the Sydney neighborhood of Redfern in February 2004 after blaming police for the death of a 17-year-old boy. Forty police were wounded.

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Update: Government Asks Appeals Court to Set Aside Padilla Ruling

As we previously noted, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asked the Justice Department for more information on whether it should vacate its ruling that Jose Padilla could be detained as an "enemy combatant" without charge. The court sought the government's position after Padilla was indicted.

Reuters reported on Friday that the Justice Department "urged a federal appeals court to set aside its September ruling that allowed the United States to hold an American citizen as an enemy combatant without being charged." The government argued that Padilla's indictment rendered "the case regarding his military custody was moot."

This is a somewhat surprising move, at first blush, as the Circuit Court's ruling was viewed as a major victory for the government's efforts in the war on terrorism. One would think that the government would want this ruling to stand and serve as precedent in that circuit. As the SCOTUSBlog explains:

the withdrawal of its prior ruling would eliminate a major precedent on President Bush's wartime powers, but the government apparently is willing to accept that outcome if -- as the government expects -- it would avert any further inquiry into the facts behind Padilla's seizure, and perhaps also thwart his pending appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Fourth Circuit on Sept. 9 upheld President Bush's authority to detain a suspected "enemy combatant" who is also a citizen, no matter whether that individual was captured on U.S. soil or overseas in a combat zone. But it did not rule on whether, in Padilla's case specifically, the facts justified his capture at O'Hare Airpot and his three-plus years of detention. Padilla has asked a District Court in South Carolina to devise a procedure to decide that factual challenge -- another proceeding that the government now wants headed off.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Racial unrest as thousands riot at Australian beach"

Breaking news as reported by the USA Today:

SYDNEY (AP) — Thousands of drunken white youths attacked police and people they believed were Arab immigrants at a Sydney beach on Sunday, angered by reports that youths of Lebanese descent had assaulted two lifeguards.

Young men of Arab descent retaliated in several Sydney suburbs, fighting with police and smashing 40 cars with sticks and bats, police said.

Thirty-one people were injured and 28 were arrested in hours of violence. Police said they were seeking an Arab man who allegedly stabbed a white man in the back.

The city was calm Monday, and police formed a strike force to track down the instigators.

Some 5,000 white youths, wrapped in Australian flags and chanting racist slurs, fought with police, attacked people of Arab appearance and assaulted a pair of paramedics at Cronulla beach in southern Sydney, police said. Police fought back with batons and pepper spray.

Prime Minister John Howard condemned the violence, but said he did not believe racism was widespread in Australia.

"Attacking people on the basis of their race, their appearance, their ethnicity, is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians irrespective of their own background and their politics," Howard said.

He added, "I'm not going to put a general tag (of) racism on the Australian community."

The rioters were reacting to reports that youths of Lebanese descent were responsible for an attack last weekend on two of the beach's lifeguards.

Police had increased the number of officers patrolling the beach after mobile phone text messages circulated calling for retaliation for the attack on the guards.

One white teenager among the rioters had the words "We grew here, you flew here" painted on his back. On the sand, someone had written "100 percent Aussie pride."

Two paramedics in an ambulance were injured as they tried to help youths trying to escape rioters, when members of the mob smashed the vehicle's windows and kicked its doors.

TV broadcasts showed a group of young women attacking another woman, whose ethnicity was not immediately clear.

The violence shocked this city of 4 million which prides itself on being a cultural melting pot.

"Our disgrace," said a front page headline in Sydney's Daily Telegraph. Below was a picture of white youths attacking a man of Arab appearance on a train.

"Let's be very clear, the police will be unrelenting in their fight against these thugs and hooligans," said Morris Iemma, the leader of New South Wales state. He said the riots "showed the ugly side of racism in this country."

Kevin Schreiber, the mayor of the district where Cronulla is located, said he was devastated by the rampage, but that he believed the rioters came "from far and wide to participate."

Cronulla, one of the few beaches in Sydney that is easily accessible by train, is often visited by youngsters from poorer suburbs, many of them of Arab descent. Residents accuse the youths of traveling in gangs and sometimes intimidating other beachgoers.

Bruce Baird, a government lawmaker, said anti-Muslim sentiment has risen in Australia since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 88 Australians. He noted that six women from Cronulla were killed in the Bali bombings.

"Where this riot took place is actually the site of where we've got the Bali memorial for these women," Baird told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Kuranda Seyit, director of the Forum of Australia's Islamic Relations, described Australia as a "pluralist society, with many faiths and traditions all raveled into one."

He added: "This is the unique success of this nation, and we cannot let it fall into chaos and lawlessness."


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

International Human Rights Day: Open Letter to Chief Minister of Punjab

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, ENSAAF sent an open letter to the Chief Minister of Punjab outlining critical human rights issues that must be made a priority for the government in protecting human rights in Punjab. The ENSAAF letter addresses the protection and promotion of perpetrators, prosecution sanction, continuing custodial torture and death in Punjab, application of lapsed emergency legislation, charging KPS Gill in the murder of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra, and the inquiry report on the extrajudicial execution of Jathedar Gurdev Singh Kaonke.

[This entry is cross-posted on ENSAAF's blog.]

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Post-Trial Coverage of Rajinder Khalsa Assault Trial (continued)

Sikh Community Reacts To Hate Crime Acquittal In Beating Of Priest

NY1 News
Ruschell Boone

http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=10&aid=55473

December 07, 2005

Earlier this week five men were convicted in last year's beating of a Sikh man in Queens, but the men were acquitted of committing a hate crime. Many in the community feel they got off too easy. NY1 Queens reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report on the Sikh community's reaction.

Harpreet Singh Toor says he can't believe what he's reading in the newspaper: five men accused of brutally beating a Sikh priest in Richmond Hill last year were acquitted of the most serious charge of committing a hate crime. They were convicted of lesser charges.

"It's really surprising," he says.

Toor says the news comes as a shock to many at the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill because most of the members believe what happened to Rajinder Singh Khalsa was a hate crime.

Khalsa says the men attacked him in front of a restaurant while yelling give me your dirty curtain – meaning his turban, and get out of this country.

One day after the beating, Khalsa looked bruised and swollen. His nose was crushed and he lost his vision in one eye.

"It definitely looks like a hate crime, because – listening to the gentleman who got beaten up – there was not other reason which he could have been beaten up," says Toor. "He's not a guy who was looking for a fight, he's in his 50's."

A Queens judge questioned the credibility of some of the witnesses to the attack and tossed out the hate crime charge.

Two of the men were convicted on assault charges and are facing up to 7 years in prison. The other 3 were found guilty of harassment.

Many in the Richmond Hill Sikh Community say the punishment is too lenient.

"This sentence doesn't send a message properly, so they might do it again," says one community member. "If it would have been a harsh sentence it would leave a long impression in the community."

Many community members say they have been the target of hate since 9/11 even though Sikhs are not Muslims or Arabs.

Some say that even though they don't agree with the punishment they are hoping it will be a deterrent for future crimes.

The men are due back in court on December 22nd for sentencing.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Post-Trial Coverage of Rajinder Khalsa Assault Trial

Mixed verdicts in Sikh's beating Newsday, NY
BRYAN VIRASAMI
Five men accused of badly beating a Sikh man in Queens last year were acquitted of hate crime charges Monday, but ...

Men Convicted in Sikh Beating in Queens 1010 Wins, NY
Five men -- charged with the bias beating of a Sikh man in Queens -- were convicted after a five-week non-jury trial. ...

TURBAN RAP UNRAVELS New York Post, NY
ALEX GINSBERG
Five men accused of beating a Sikh man following a racially charged confrontation outside a ...

Hate crime charge tossed Newsday, NY
BRYAN VIRASAMI
Five men accused of badly beating a Sikh man in Queens last year were acquitted of hate crime charges yesterday ...

Five Men Charged With Bias Assault In Queens WNBC, NY
Five men were convicted Monday in the bias beating of a Sikh man in Queens. The men were identified as Salvatore Maceli ...

Hate crime charge tossed New York Newsday, NY
BRYAN VIRASAMI
Five men accused of badly beating a Sikh man in Queens last year were acquitted of hate crime charges yesterday ...

Mixed verdicts in Sikh's beating New York Newsday, NY
BRYAN VIRASAMI
Five men accused of badly beating a Sikh man in Queens last year were acquitted of hate crime charges Monday, but ...

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Verdict Reached in Rajinder Khalsa Assault Case

Newsday is reporting that Queens Supreme Court Justice Seymour Rotker "rendered mostly not guilty verdicts Monday in the trial of five men accused of attacking a Sikh man in Richmond Hill."

Of the five men on trial, "two defendants were found guilty of second degree assault while three others were found guilty only of aggravated harassment.... All were acquitted of the hate crime charge."

DNSI has closely followed the case, involving the assault of Rajinder Singh Khalsa [pictured], who also goes by the last name of Bammi [previous reports on the trial are available here, here, here, and here]. To recap the evidence and arguments provided in news accounts:
  • The incident began when the defendants remarked, in reference to Khalsa's turban, "Look, somebody stole my curtains" and "Why did you steal my sheets from my house?"
  • "One of the defendants, Ryan Meehan, yelled, 'Give me my curtain.'"
  • Singh told the presiding judge that he asked Meehan, "What do you mean, 'Give me my curtain?'"
  • Moments later, another defendant, Terence Lyons, said "You still here?.... Go to your home. Go to your country." To which one of the Sikh men replied, "[T]his is my country. This is my home, too."
  • The perpetrators then began assaulting Khalsa, fractured his left eye socket, continued to kick his body while he was unconscious, and left him for dead.
  • Khalsa "was so battered that doctors had to drain blood from his eye." He testified that, "You could not see the white part of the eye.... It was all blood." Khalsa claimed that his nose was "completely shattered" as a result of the assault. Moreover, Khalsa "was forced to sleep sitting up until undergoing corrective surgery about a month later."
  • The defense argued that "the Sikh men were solely responsible for escalating the situation into a near melee." The defense also contended that their clients had no hateful intent during the incident.
  • Further, the defense argued that "the charges... are borne out of racial prejudice against him.... The charges against Mr. Cosentino were motivated solely by Mr. Bammi's prejudice against Italians...." [The five men who stood trial are of Italian descent.]
Simply appalling.

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Sikh Wins Right to Wear Turban in France

France's highest administrative body, the Council of State, ruled on Monday that a Sikh, Shingara Mann Singh, can wear his turban in drivers' licence and passport photos, thus overruling an order stating that Singh could not be issued a license or passport because he did not remove his turban for the accompanying photographs [see here and here].

In the ruling, the council reasoned that the transport minister, not the local interior officials, could establish regulations regarding such conditions or restrictions. The Transport Ministry's relevant statements, however, were "too imprecise" to lead to the conclusion that heads must be uncovered for such photos.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which mentioned the Singh matter in a report when the case was still pending, said of France's respect of human rights:
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice; however, some religious groups remain concerned about legislation passed in 2001 and 2004, which provided for the dissolution of groups under certain circumstances and banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public school employees and students.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Padilla Ruling in Jeopardy?

In an unexpected move, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asked the Justice Department for more information on whether it should vacate its ruling that Padilla could be detained as an "enemy combatant" without charge.

In particular, according to a Reuters report, "The court said the government must explain why it used different facts to justify Padilla's military detention from those included in last week's indictment that charged Padilla with conspiracy to murder and aiding terrorists abroad."

The government had initially argued -- and publicly stated -- that Padilla was, in effect, the "dirty bomber." Georgetown University law professor David Cole said, "The court seems perturbed at the radical disconnect between what the Justice Department told it about Padilla and what it is willing to try to prove to a jury now that he's been indicted."

Padilla was indicted last week in an apparent attempt by the administration to bypass a possible adverse ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. In performing this legal maneuver, the government also expected that the Fourth Circuit's ruling would stand. This latest development, however, calls into question whether the government may be able to rely on the precedent that an enemy combatant in Padilla's situation can be held (for three years) without charge.

Previous posts on the Padilla matter are available here, here, and here.

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About DNSI

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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