Friday, June 30, 2006
Katyal on the Hamdan Decision
Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, lead attorney for Salim Hamdan, gave the following remarks during a panel discussion, held earlier today, on the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court decision:
One final note.... And that just has to do with... the lesson of the decision more generally.... I had hoped that when we won that the administration would just take a deep breath and think to themselves, 'well that this is actually something great about America.' Please note, the above is not an official transcript. For video of the event, please click here [real audio].
Presidents make mistakes.... I don't think that this is a rebuke to the Bush administration per se, I think the Founders anticipated that presidents are going to push their power. But, what's great about America, it seems to me, is that we have a court system... that checks the President and allows this guy -- a fourth-grade educated Yemini accused of conspiring with one of the worst individuals on the planet, Osama bin Laden -- ... sue the... world's highest, most powerful official, the President of the United States, and says 'you're doing something illegal to me, you're violating your own basic laws.'
What other nation on earth allows people to do that? It's a great thing about America. We should be celebrating it, I think, and I think the administration should celebrate it as well because it says that we're different. And, if we're going to win the war on terror, we are going to win it through our soft power, we're going to win it through saying to the world that we actually have a better model than you because in your countries you settle these things through force and fiat, and here we settle them through law, we settle them through law.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Hijabs: Veils or Chains?
It is a question that Muslim women who wear traditional Islamic head coverings often face in the United States. They know that many Americans do not understand such veiling or consider it repressive - not an unexpected reaction in a society in which women spent the better part of a century casting off social restrictions, along with floor-length skirts and corsets.
But in her book "The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America" (Citadel Press, 299 pages, $22.95), Missouri-born journalist Donna Gehrke-White found that a growing number of Muslim American women voluntarily wear a head covering - known as a hijab - and find that choice spiritually empowering. She also interviewed women, just as devout, who have never worn veils and say they never will.
Gehrke-White, a reporter at the Miami Herald, grew up in St. Joseph, Mo., and is married to Tim White, an editor at the Herald who grew up in St. Louis. They have two sons.
She began writing about Islam after Sept. 11. In this book, she delves beyond the mystery and misconceptions associated with veils to put a personal face on a complex group of women bound by their faith. [Link]
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Monday, June 26, 2006
Study Probes 2nd Generation British Punjabis
Two British scholars -- Yasmin K. Sekhon and Isabelle Szmigin – have just completed a preliminary study of acculturation amongst second-generation young people in the British Punjabi community.
The study claims to provide a key to "developing our understanding of second-generation Asian Indians living in Britain today" while at the same time developing a ‘model of acculturation.’
The authors consider the variables that affect the behavior of second generation immigrants, whose parents were born in India but have settled in the UK, and whose cultural background could be described as a mixture of the home and host country.
They consider questions such as: How does the mixture of cultural influences affect their behavioral? Also, how do they respond to different contexts and situations? Do their behavioral patterns reflect an ease of switching from one culture to another or do they highlight the stresses and strains these individuals face on a day-to-day basis?
The authors say that the second generation cannot be neatly categorized, but falls into different categories dependent on situation, behavior, education, family status, class, and caste.
And they conclude: As individuals or groups of individuals move from one country to another and re-settle, ethnicity is being re-created, re-defined and re-invented over time. Thus, as the second generation faces differing values and cultures, they are indeed adapting, accommodating and continually changing behavioral patterns to be part of and integrated into both cultures. [Link]
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Drinking no excuse for racial slurs
Abderrazek Barhoumi and Said Jaziri, the imam at Al-Qods mosque on Belanger St. E., came out of the building about 1 a.m. Saturday. They saw a man walk toward them and lift his sweater to show a knife in his belt.
[Pierre] Brabant is alleged to have asked one of the Muslim men if he had a bomb on him, then asked both if they wanted to die as martyrs, the police report said.
Saying, "I want to kill you, damn it," Brabant is then alleged to have pulled out the knife and pointed it in their direction.
Barhoumi took off on foot, police said, with the assailant close behind. Jaziri got into his car, called 911 and started following the two men.
Two police cars arrived on Iberville St., where they arrested and searched Brabant.
"He said he didn't do anything but then admitted to asking if the men had explosives," Berube said, reading from the police report. "Once inside the police car, Brabant said, 'You're on the side of the terrorists now.' "
Police found a knife with a 20-centimetre blade wrapped in newspaper on the ground nearby.
Outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Daphney Colin brushed off the term "hate crime" when asked about the charges against her client, which include assault, uttering death threats and possession of a weapon. Montreal police called the attack a hate crime when they arrested Brabant on Saturday morning.
"This is not a hate crime at all," Colin said. "He's a normal person who drank too much."....
[The Judge] ruled that given Brabant's relatively unblemished past - he was charged with assault and mischief in 1991 and 1992, respectively - he would be released on $5,000 bail. She ordered Brabant, a delivery truck driver, to stay away from alcohol, respect a 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew and not possess weapons. The accused, who lives a block away from the Rosemont mosque where the attack occurred, is not to go within 50 metres of the building. [Link]
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Londonistan and Muslim Isolation in Britain
From The New Republic:
The 7/7 bombings were not the work of foreign terrorists, [Londonistan author Melanie] Phillips points out, but of men born and raised in the British welfare state.
Phillips also documents how leaders in Britain's government, media, and religious establishments have abdicated the defense of that great British invention, liberalism, in order to appease a sizeable domestic Muslim population....
What are the causes of this intellectual malaise and these security oversights? Phillips names several culprits, some more convincing than others. Foremost is the country's intellectual and legal capitulation to multiculturalism and European "human rights" dogma....
Phillips also argues that due to post-imperial guilt and the general takeover of the country's vital institutions by the left, Britain has lost its sense of self, allowing many Muslims to reject what should otherwise be obvious assumptions in the current debate over what should constitute "Britishness." This may explain why the English flag is hard to find in modern-day Britain. To a large portion of the country's educated, cosmopolitan citizens, the very display of the cross of St. George is immediately associated with right-wing movements and represents a throwback to England's imperial past. As an American living in London at the time of the 7/7 bombings, what most shocked me about the British response was the lack of patriotism expressed by both British leaders and everyday citizens. It was a silence that stood in stark contrast to the patriotic displays that were common in the United States after September 11. Only now with Britain in the World Cup can English flags be seen in abundance [Link].
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Monday, June 19, 2006
Lion At the Wheel
On one hand, you have the Mullens, Bedards and other wheeling dealers in this industry. But every so often, I'm reminded that often the truly inspirational characters are hard-slogging guys behind the wheels. People you never otherwise hear about. Like Swarun Singh Bal....
If you look and dress like Swarun Singh Bal, [9/11] takes on special significance.
Swarun says he is stopped and searched with far greater frequency on trips through the States, but, he says, "I don't blame them. They have a job to do to keep their country secure."
For a man who hasn't been past grade three, he can recite Indian and Sikh history as if he had a doctoral degree. A good Sikh, he says, must be disciplined enough to move with the times. So although he knows strict adherence to his religious beliefs, including carrying the ceremonial dagger known as the Kirpan, he leaves it at home when he travels.
"If it's snowing out, you have to adapt to the weather. If one cannot carry the Kirpan, one cannot."
The same applies to a hard hat, he says. "If you want to maintain the discipline of wearing your turban and your employer has rules that say you cannot, you should find other work." [Link]
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
FBI reaches out to Muslim, Sikh communities to fight global terror
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched a pilot programme to reach out to community leaders from the Muslim, Sikh and a few other select communities across nationalities and rope them in in its fight against global terrorism.
Called the Community Relations Executive Seminar Training or CREST, the programme aims at three things: bridge the trust gap, develop a bond, and build a level of confidence where the FBI and the community leaders believe in each other to have an honest and lasting friendship.
CREST has been launched 'because if the threat is now home-grown to a large extent, we have to be looking for it at home,' said John Miller, FBI's assistant director of public affairs briefing foreign media on the agency's work with counter terrorism, counter-intelligence, criminal investigation, and cyber crime in New York. [Link]
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
"Hey, where you going, bin Laden?"
The whispers gave way to slurs.
"Hey, where you going, bin Laden?" one student hollered.
"What's that tennis ball doing on your head?" another sniped.
Anoop Kochar, who will graduate with honors from Clover Hill High School on Thursday, never flinched. Not to "towel head" or to the curious stares. Instead, he used the incidents as opportunities to educate his classmates about his faith.
"I told them, 'It's not a tennis ball, it's my hair,'" said Anoop, who will enter the College of William and Mary in the fall. "Usually, once you confront them in an adult fashion, they say they are sorry." [Link]
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Crossing East (and West)
In less than 24 hours, I will be on a plane to India. When I began the journey to make Divided We Fall, I promised myself that I would travel to India once it was done and give myself time to explore and think and write. Nearly five years later, the film is almost complete, and I am about to cross east for my first real break in years.
For a moment, I stop my frenzied packing, sit down between books, medicines, and clothes thrown across my bed, and stare at the pink and black hearts on the wallpaper of my childhood bedroom. When I was a little girl, I used to spend hours in this room, writing in my journal, wondering if anyone would ever hear the stories I had to tell. Now I am twenty-five, and if I think back to the past month alone, I have to catch my breath: people are listening – on radio, on television, and on the big screen.
In May and June, the stories of my film Divided We Fall and Sharat Raju's first film American Made began to enter the public sphere:
National Public Radio’s Crossing East program began broadcasting a segment about my grandfather’s life as an early Sikh American pioneer last month.
More than half a million people watched the acclaimed short film American Made when it made its national television premiere on PBS in May.
And we just held the final advanced screenings of Divided We Fall at Harvard and Stanford universities.
These events are like fireworks to me – promises that our personal stories can be seen and heard by the mainstream public, crossing east and west. Here are glimpses…
ON THE RADIO
In 1913, Kehar Singh crossed an ocean to arrive on the Pacific shores of California. Nearly one hundred years later, the first public radio series on Asian American history Crossing East tells the story of this early Sikh American pioneer – my grandfather (pictured). The segment takes audio clips directly from Divided We Fall. You can read the transcript and listen online (Segment B). The program is still playing live around the country. You can find your local station and tune in.
I remember my father calling me after he heard the program air for the first time. There was excitement in his voice: “I had always wanted Dad’s stories to be told. I had never imagined this was possible.” For the first time, we felt that our history – the history of Sikh Americans and more broadly Asian Americans – were recognized and remembered as part of the making of America, our home.
I have seen American Made, the first film by my director Sharat Raju, too many times to count, but nothing could prepare me for the thrill of watching on my own television set. When Edie Falco of the Sopranos introduced the film on PBS’ Independent Lens, I held my breath: this was the first time a fictional story about Sikhs in post-9/11 America was shown on television. In its first week of airings, American Made had more than half a million viewers.
While we can count the number of people who watch, it is impossible to measure the impact of sharing stories never told before. It may be impossible even to see the impact at first. But I have learned from history that the first sign of cultural change is the moment when personal stories of suffering emerge in mainstream national consciousness. Since September 11, 2001, the daily lives of many Americans – Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, even Latinos, anyone who seems to resemble the ‘bad guys’ – have been changed in ways large and small, yet their stories have barely captured national attention. To me, American Made on television is a small step in this direction. I hope that Divided We Fall can be part of the next step…
ON THE BIG SCREEN
We have screened the director’s cut of Divided We Fall at both Harvard and Stanford Universities in the last few weeks – our last advanced screenings before we make our official US premiere this September. Both screenings were special events for me.
At Harvard on May 7, we screened Divided We Fall before a packed theater of friends, family, colleagues, crew members, and complete strangers. That morning, the Boston Globe had run an article about our screening in the Entertainment Section (right next to ads for movies like MI III), so the Carpenter Center’s theater was full. The Pluralism Project sponsored the event (thanks to Diana Eck’s invitation and Kathryn Lohre’s hard work) and the Harvard Film Archive hosted us. My academic advisor and director of the Pluralism Project Diana Eck welcomed the audience and introduced Sharat and me. She was gracious and kind, and I thanked her for supporting me in this project for nearly three years now. I then took a deep breathe and introduced the film. Then we sat down.
The strange thing about making a movie is that you would think showing it would be the easiest part. After all, all the hard work is over. No performance is necessary: you just have to make sure the projectionist makes the movie play. But screening a new film is hard. The mind races: Will the audience laugh at the funny parts? When will you hear the weight of silence? Will they applaud at the end and will it sound more than polite? When our film was done, the audience not only applauded but slowly began to stand up. I began to realize what was happening: they were giving us a standing ovation. It was a surreal moment and I cherished it.
Diana facilitated our discussion with the audience at the end. We fielded all kinds of questions – why did you include the Japanese American internment? what was the most difficult and inspiring parts of making this film? what are the next steps? – and then the very last man who stood up (known as “Brother Blue”) made a request to us: “Please travel with your film as much as possible. Hearing your stories makes such a difference… I commend you.” It was a beautiful ending. The Pluralism Project posted pictures of the event.
Afterward, we went out for dinner with our friends: Tracy Wells (director of communications), Deonnie Moodie (story consultant), Jessica Jenkins (director of research who flew out from Washington, DC), Brynn Saito (long-time supporter who came from New York City) and even Matt Blute (our cinematographer who flew out from California)! It was a grand night. (My friend Currun Singh and me pictured below...)
Stanford University was our next stop. It seemed only appropriate that our last advanced screening was at the university where I began the journey to make this film. On June 3, the director’s cut of our film was the morning feature of the first Bay Area Spinning Wheel Film Festival. When introducing the movie from the stage of Cubberly Auditorium, I looked out to see my thesis advisors in the audience – Linda Hess, Joseph Brown, and Rob Reich. They were also in the audience when I presented my senior honors thesis in June 2003 in a lecture room just next door. Exactly three years later, the student project they mentored has become a feature-length film: a direct result of their care and instruction. I felt lucky to be able to acknowledge them.
Laura Selznick, founding director of Stanford's Undergraduate Research Programs, was also in the audience. She was responsible for the grant that put me on the road in the months after 9/11. Sean Fernandes, one of our interviewees in the film, and Sharon Gibson, our story consultant, was also there. My parents Dolly and Judge and my brother Sanjeev were there too. It was a full house: family, friends, and teachers from my college life. The screening was a success and in fact, the entire day turned into one long joyful reunion for me. I am grateful to Mandeep and Parveen Dhillon and to the whole Spinning Wheel family for supporting our film once again.
IN THE STUDIO
The picture is locked (translate: the editing is done, the story is sealed, now we put it in the hands of professionals to perfect the sound and color). The last thing I had to do was record my voice-over narration in a professional sound studio in Burbank, CA, the DubStage, where movies are made. I had headphones for the music, a big screen for the picture, and a mic for my voice. I was on my feet for eight hours, doing take after take, reciting the words that have now become imprinted in my brain, until we finally completed the film. When I finished, one of the last frames of the movie was still up on the screen: a widow holding her grandchildren. I love this scene. I have seen this movie hundreds of times and although my mind is numb to most of it, there are still some parts that break me - like the ending. Some stories are too powerful to ever become stale.
Now I leave in the film in the hands of my trusty team and steal a summer adventure in India. No school, no film, no goals of any kind. I am just going to wander, journal in hand. I cannot remember the last time I did this (maybe when I was eight). I would not be able to take this break without Sharat and our team (especially Jess, Tracy, and Sharon), who will spend the summer preparing for our premiere in the fall. We haven’t made any official announcements about this yet… but check in with us in August!
Until then, I thank everyone reading this online journal for sharing in this mad film journey for the past year! We are ending one chapter and will soon open a new one: from making the movie to bringing it into the world in the upcoming year…
[This entry is cross-posted on "Into the Whirlwind."]
Friday, June 09, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006
"German State Bans Hijab-clad Teachers"
Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, joins seven other states in forbidding teachers in public schools from wearing the Muslim headscarf.
The law banning Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves was adopted on Wednesday by the regional parliament of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia....
That means that Muslim teachers in half of all German states are forbidden to wear headscarves. With the exception of Berlin, those states — Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saarland — are all in the western part of Germany, and the majority of the country’s 8 million Turks live there and in the capital....
The hijab, or headscarf, meant to shield Muslim women from the eyes of men outside their family, has been the subject of growing debate in several parts of Europe for more than a decade. But it especially intensified following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington....
Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the bans as compromising their freedom of religious expression. Muslims makes up Germany’s third largest religious community, after Protestants and Catholics.
The German state laws tend to stop short of limits set by controversial new legislation in neighboring France which outlaws Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in state schools outright, applying to both teachers and students. Still, in some states such as Berlin, the wearing of headscarves by Muslims is banned for all civil servants. [Link]