Monday, July 31, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
Maine Attorney General files civil rights charges in mosque incident
A second legal complaint filed against the man accused of rolling a frozen pig's head into a Lewiston mosque is raising the question: Will there be a third? Tags: Maine, Attorney General, mosque, pig, immigration.
Thursday's decision by the Maine Attorney General's Office to prosecute Brent Matthews of Lewiston on civil rights violations has mosque members hoping that the federal government will follow.
Local prosecutors at the Androscoggin District Attorney's Office first charged Matthews, 33, with the misdemeanor crime of desecrating a place of worship.
The state, in its civil lawsuit filed Thursday in Superior Court in Auburn, claims Matthews broke the law because his alleged action targeted Somali and Muslim residents and was motivated by bias based on "race, color, ancestry, national origin and religion."
The complaint pointed out that Matthews has admitted rolling the pig's head into the mosque on July 3, calling it a joke. It also said Matthews has demonstrated anti-Somali bias. He displayed an anti-immigrant bumper sticker on his car, according to the Maine Attorney General's Office, although Matthews' lawyer disputes that. [Link]
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Oxford Attacker Convicted
An alcoholic thug who tore off a Sikh man's turban in Oxford has been convicted of racially aggravated assault.
Kenneth Pollard, 56, of Speedwell Street, Oxford, denied the attack on Rattandeep Singh Ahluwalia, 26, from India, but was found guilty after a trial on Monday.
Tim Boswell, prosecuting at Oxford Magistrates Court, said: "The turban was torn off with such force it pulled some hair out of Mr Ahluwalia's head.
"Mr Pollard threw the turban on the ground and left the scene."
Mr Boswell said the incident, on May 28, was caught on CCTV and Pollard was arrested a few days later.
At the time, the Oxford Mail reported how up to 40 onlookers did nothing as the turban was torn off.
Mr Ahluwalia, giving evidence in court, said... "I heard someone shouting across the road. There was a man copying my body movements.
"After a while he came across the road, looking in my face, shouting and saying things I tried to ignore."
Mr Ahluwalia said he thought Pollard had gone when he felt him grab his turban.
He said: "It is the most embarrassing thing for a Sikh to have their turban taken off in front of unknown people.
"He had said to me 'you are a Paki, then he said, 'no you are a Hindu'."....
When asked why he ripped the turban from Mr Ahluwalia's head, he said: "It was temper, it was a reaction."
Jane Malcolm, defending, asked Pollard: "When you took Mr Ahluwalia's turban off did you think it was in any way racist?"
Pollard said: "No, not at all."
Pollard admitted he had drunk a bottle of port or wine and a couple of pints of beer that day.
He said: "I am an alcoholic. That (amount of drink) might sound a lot, but that would just make me joyful. I wasn't drunk." [Link]
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
FBI looks into hate crime in Indiana
The FBI is investigating recent vandalism at a northwestern Indiana mosque as a possible hate crime
Last week, Muslim-American leaders of the Michigan City Islamic Center called the $8,600 damage to their mosque, which serves about 150 families, a “systematic hate crime.”
“We take these cases very seriously,” said Wendy Osborne, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Indianapolis.
On July 2, Porter County police received a report of bullets shot into the center’s copper dome, leaving six holes. Also, two glass doors, 10 windows and a spotlight were vandalized, possibly by a BB gun, according to a police report.
The center’s groundskeeper told police a sign also had a swastika carved into it, but an officer said he could not make out the symbol through the scratch marks. The letters “KKK” are clearly yet crudely scratched into the sign. [Link]
Monday, July 17, 2006
Muslims Fearful of Backlash in Mumbai
From the BBC:
Hundreds of Muslims have been questioned by police in the Indian city of Mumbai following last week's serial bombings. From the Telegraph (UK):
Suspicion has fallen on the Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Kashmiri militant group based in Pakistan, as well as radical Islamic groups based in India prompting the security agencies to concentrate their inquiries on the city's Muslim community for any leads.
This has created a growing sense of uneasiness among the city's four million Muslims, who have come out in strength to condemn the attacks.
Mumbai has a history of tensions between the city's Muslim minority and Hindu majority, although initial fears of a backlash targeting the community have proved unfounded.
As blame for the bombings falls on extremist Islamic groups within India, bringing the spotlight of suspicion to bear on the city's Muslim population, families of Muslims killed in the blasts are silently coming to terms with their grief.... From PBS:
In mosques, Friday prayers were dedicated to the victims and the condemnation of the blasts has been unequivocal. No display of anti-Muslim rancour has so far surfaced, but in a majority-Hindu country, Muslims remain scared of a backlash or police harassment.
Forensic experts have confirmed the bombs were left on luggage racks and all had timers, though they've yet to identify the explosive.
Many people have already made up their minds where blame lies. This protest in Delhi today. The home ministry has suggested it was the work of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based terror outfit fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, working with a local, banned Islamic group.
Amid the grief here, there is impatience for results, but there is a danger of a serious backlash if the police are heavy-handed in Mumbai's Muslim communities.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Rajinder Singh Khalsa: Two Years Later, Sikh Reflects On Attack
Rajinder Singh Khalsa lay on the ground praying to God as the next man’s foot exploded into his face, opening another wound. Silently, he pleaded for the punches and kicks to stop, for the pain to end. The five men beat him viciously outside of Villa Russo’s Restaurant in Richmond Hill because of the turban on his head. He suffered a nose fracture, temporary loss of vision in his left eye, and was left on the ground unconscious.
July 11 marked the anniversary of the date that Khalsa, now 51, endured the racially motivated beating. It is now two years later, and the five men were all dealt prison sentences, ranging from five days to two years. Three of the men were also ordered to serve community service with the Sikh temple.
“I requested the judge to give them a little less punishment and give them community service,” Khalsa said a Sunday gathering in Richmond Hill’s Gurudwara Ramgharia Sikh Society of America temple. “They should come and serve in the Sikh temple. They should be educated about the Sikh religion, and know why we wear this turban. This turban is a sign of respect. I feel when they come with us and serve, they will feel the blessing of God. When we pray for us, we pray for all, especially those boys.”
Khalsa, meanwhile, has carried on with his life. His vision is still poor and he frequently suffers from neck pains. Through his faith in Sikhism and support from the community, he has been able to maintain his spirit.
“I am healing better than other people because we do yoga,” he said. “All the Sikh people are devoted to me. When I was recovering (after the beating), it was raining. There was a big line in front of my home because people wanted to see me. The Channel Fox 5 television crew was there, and they were showing that line in the rain. The community was praying for me.”
Last year at this time, Khalsa announced that he filed a civil suit against his attackers, making him the first Sikh hate crime victim to do so. On Saturday, Khalsa was contacted by Allstate Insurance, which had been providing homeowners’ insurance to three of the men. Allstate informed Khalsa that they would not cover the suit because the men engaged in an intentional violent act of crime.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Sikh Employee Unwilling Poster Boy For Transit Authority Dress Code
A Sikh transit authority employee has unwillingly emerged as the poster boy for the very dress code he says violates his religious freedom.
The station agent, Trilok Arora, 68, and four other agents sued the Metropolitan Transit Authority last year over its requirement that they wear an MTA logo on their turbans.
Regardless, the MTA has recently issued a brochure describing the dress code that includes a photo of Mr. Arora sporting an MTA-branded turban, according to court filings....
Since May, employment attorneys for the Department of Justice — which filed its own lawsuit against the dress code — have sent four letters to federal court protesting the transit authority's use of Mr. Arora as a model for the logo-laden turban.
Mr. Arora's lawsuit alleges that the MTA is lax about enforcing its dress code prohibiting employees from wearing Yankees and Mets caps, but targets Sikhs to hassle them about their religious headwear. His lawyers claim that the MTA has no right to place its "corporate brand" on the religious garments of its employees.
"This is beyond obnoxious," an attorney for Mr. Arora, Amardeep Singh, said of the recent dress code bulletin. "The MTA is thumbing it right in your face by showing you just how well it can make you violate your religion," Mr. Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, said. [Link]
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Avoiding the backlash: The blasts in Mumbai are a challenge to Indian secularism
The seven bomb blasts that took place in Mumbai towards evening on July 11 - or 7/11 as it will surely be referred to from now on - were hardly the first terrorist attacks on India....
How will India react to such terrorism? Alas, the chances are high that it will play into the terrorists' hands. What the perpetrators would most like is for backlashes to take place against Muslims in India, and for a vicious circle of violence to then begin that brings them easy recruits and funding. These vicious circles of violence, "action and reaction" as Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Western-Indian state Gujarat, once called them, are all too common....
There are now two challenges that now lie ahead of [Indians].
One is the obvious one that India's law-enforcing agencies face, to act pro-actively and nimbly to outsmart terrorists who can strike anywhere and at any time. The other is for civil society, which must refrain from the temptation of giving a religious dimension to such terrorism, regardless of the communal biases that sections of it may nurture.
If these challenges cannot be met successfully, things may well unravel, and the country that began in frightening communal violence may be consumed by it. [Link]
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
Comments by Tory Politician on Muslims "Offensive and Divisive"
The Australian Government has spelt out bluntly what it expects of its ethnic minority communities and we in the UK should do the same," [Sir Nicholas] Winterton wrote. "They should stop politicising dress, such as wearing the hijab and burkha, they should learn English, they should not return to their homelands to get a spouse, cease forced marriages and accept once and for all that the United Kingdom is not, and never will be, an Islamic state."
The director of the local Racial Equality Council, Shantele Janes, said her office was extremely concerned by the article. "We are appalled that someone in his position would be so irresponsible as to make the comments he did, contributing to the climate of hostility towards Muslims in the UK," she said.
The Conservative Party Central Office is also distancing itself from Winterton's comments, calling them his own personal views and not those of the party. [Link]
Friday, July 07, 2006
2003 shooting of Sikh unsolved
The headline in the May 21, 2003, edition of The Arizona Republic read, "Sikh shooting called hate crime."
The story began: A Sikh man was shot Monday night in north Phoenix in what authorities are calling an unprovoked hate crime.
Avtar Singh Cheira, a 52-year-old truck driver who lives in Phoenix, was shot twice by men in a red pickup near Ninth Street and Bell Road, police said. The Indian immigrant, who has lived in the United States for 18 years, was wearing a turban as he waited for his family to pick him up from work about 9:20 p.m.
"I heard that voice say, 'Go back to where you belong to,' and at the same time I heard that shot," Cheira said Tuesday (May 20, 2003) at a Valley hospital, where he winced with pain each time he moved his legs....
Summary: Cheira, now 55, said that the shooting put him in the hospital for about 10 days and that he was unable to work for nearly three months. He relied on friends, family and the Valley Sikh community to lend him money to cover truck and house payments while he was out of work....
Cheira incurred more than $100,000 in medical expenses from the attack and carries nearly $3,000 in debt after the majority of the expenses were forgiven because of his inability to pay.
Cheira has since moved to a gated community for more safety, and said to this day he worries about his family's safety.
With no arrests in the joint Phoenix police-FBI investigation and a $20,000 reward for information still uncollected, Cheira said he feels that the case has been forgotten....
Investigators: FBI Special Agent Deborah McCarley and Phoenix police Detective Jerry Oliver.
What bothers McCarley most about the case: "These types of crimes don't affect just one individual," she said. "This also has an impact on that community, that minority group."
How you can help: Anyone with information is asked to call the Phoenix FBI at (602) 279-5511. Anonymous tips can also be made to Silent Witness at 1-800-343-TIPS. [Link]
7/7 Anniversary: How London Carried On
When four bombs exploded in London a year ago today, for a moment it seemed as if life would never be the same again. But what's really changed? The city quickly got back to normal; the government didn't get the support it wanted for its clampdown on terror suspects; our multiracial society is still thriving....
[F]ears of a dramatic change in non-Muslim attitudes to Muslims [did not] materialise. A recent survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 63% of non-Muslim Britons have a favourable opinion of Muslims, barely down on the 2004 figure. Those attitudes were more positive than in the US, Germany or Spain. To illustrate the contrast, two years after the Madrid bombings, only 29% of Spaniards have a benign view of Muslims. In Britain, less than a third said they viewed Muslims as violent, compared to 60% in Spain and 45% in the US.
That may not be how it feels. British Muslims, indeed British Asians generally, speak of extra tension in their lives, to add to the anxiety caused after September 11. Many say they are eyed suspiciously, especially on trains and buses. Young Asian men joke that they know better than to travel with a rucksack. [Link]
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
7/7: A Year Later
Today, as Americans celebrate the anniversary of its independence, British Prime Minister Tony Blair began to evaluate his nation's response to homegrown Islamic fundamentalism after the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005. Mr Blair
said British Muslims are not confronting the ideas that fuel terrorism, after one of his lawmakers criticized the government's response to last year's attacks on London.These comments come on the heels of a poll of British Muslims in which
In the anniversary week of the July 7, 2005, bombings when four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide attacks on London's transport network, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim lawmaker in Blair's Labour Party, said the government had not done enough to engage with Britain's Islamic community.
"The problem is not that the government hasn't acted," Blair told a committee of lawmakers in Parliament today. "The problem is that we're not having a debate of a fundamental enough nature within the community, where the moderate majority go and stand up against the ideas of these people, not just their methods."
Sixteen per cent of [respondents], equivalent to more than 150,000 adults, believe that while the attacks were wrong, the cause was right.With respect to a backlash against Muslims in Britain in the year following the attacks, the Times of London has this to say:
But the poll also revealed a stark gulf between this group and the majority of British Muslims, who want the Government to take tougher measures against extremists within their community.
The predictions were wrong. British society, and London in particular, rose above crude revenge. Politicians, faith groups and ordinary citizens reached out to the Muslim mainstream in support, sharing their bewilderment and supporting them in the painful selfexamination of why their faith had bred such violence. There were some isolated hate crimes, but no general spiral into communal violence and entrenched hostility.