Friday, December 29, 2006
Sikh priest injured
No evidence suggests that an attack on an 82-year-old Sikh man was a hate crime, Yuba City police said Thursday.
The incident left Prem Singh, a priest in India who came to the U.S. in 1991, with a fractured rib and cuts to his face and hands, said his son, Satnam Singh.
Satnam Singh, owner of Yuba City's Star of India restaurant, believes his father's turban and traditional beard and clothing brought on the attack. It was not a robbery and there was no other apparent motive, he said.
Prem Singh was walking about 3:30 a.m. near his home on Courtyard Way when he was assaulted. He did not report that the assailants said anything during the attack, according to Satnam Singh and police Lt. John Buckland.
The assailants in the Dec. 21 attack were described as a man and woman, both about 30 years old.
Because nothing was said, the attack is classified as random, not as a hate crime, said Buckland.
Neither is the absence of any other apparent motive reason enough to call it a hate crime, he said. [Link]
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Sikh American boy in Pennsylvania allowed to return to soccer field with turban intact
This past November, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) received a formal letter of regret from the Lehigh Valley Youth Soccer League (LVYSL) for denying Harshaan Singh Athwal the right to play soccer while wearing his patka (Sikh religious head-covering).
The first incident occurred on November 4, 2006 when Harshaan Athwal was denied from playing in a youth soccer match because the referee felt his patka was a safety risk for players of the opposing team. Additionally, on November 11th, Harshaan was again denied from playing in a match by a different referee, who cited that the jura, his knotted hair on top of his head, could physically harm another player....
In response to SALDEF’s letter, LVYSL President Bernie Bennett sent a letter on November 17th stating, “It is the league’s fondest wish that every youth be allowed to participate in the beautiful game, regardless of race, religion, gender nationality, economic status, athletic ability, or any other classification.”
Finally, on November 20, 2006 the State of Pennsylvania Referee Association issued clarifying guidelines relating to religious head coverings. Reiterating the need for religious exemptions they wrote that the, “Secretary General of the United States Soccer Federation has given permission to those bound by religious law to wear such head coverings, usually a turban or yarmulke.” [SALDEF Press Release]
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
A House Divided - Washington, DC
The view from the seventh floor is dazzling – sunset behind the Washington Memorial, water shimmering around Jefferson, city lights coming alive. I am looking out from the City View Room in a building at George Washington University
, where we are about to hold the DC premiere of Divided We Fall
, our last screening of the calendar year, hosted by the GW Sikh Student Association
and the Smithsonion Asian Pacific American Program
. I have a moment to take in the view before it all begins.
I spot the Lincoln Memorial. I remember coming to Washington, DC every summer in high school for the annual National History Day
competition. In the early evenings, my family would visit the National Mall, and I’d sit at the feet of Lincoln, imagining what would lay in store for me. Lincoln is remembered to say, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Since September 11, 2001, I have witnessed how racism, fear, and self-preservation can divide a nation.
The borders that divide us today are invisible, perpetuated in myth and media, erected in the mind and heart, separating “us” from “them.” Lincoln waged a war to save the union; now those of us who have come of age in 9/11’s aftermath take up our pens and turn on our cameras to fight for recognition in that union. The stories in the film are part of that fight, I realize, as I return to Washington, DC with the first feature-length film on hate violence in post-9/11 America
, my new History Day
The premiere is about to begin. More than 200 people fill the lobby and wait for the doors to open. Inside the banquet room, GW students are adding the finishing touches: they cover the tables with white cloth, center the flower arrangements, place postcards on the tables, light the candles, and suddenly the doors open. It is magical. Hundreds of people flood the room and take their seats. People are standing in the back and sitting on the floor. The room is buzzing, everyone is excited, the energy palpable, and in the very back, I turn to my director Sharat and ask him to remind me that there is no reason to be nervous. We’ve done this nearly a dozen times in the last few months, traveling from city to city across America. And yet, the butterflies take over my stomach before every screening.
We are introduced by President of the GW Sikh Student Association Shana Narula (pictured below). She presents the film as part of the organization's annual dinner in honor of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher.
As the film begins, I notice the different kinds of people in the room – students from the university, locals who get Smithsonian news, members of the Sikh community, people who work at the FBI, our friends and their colleagues, and many more. A truly diverse audience. As the journey goes deeper, the audience comes alive – their laughter is loud, their silence is deep, and before the credits are even over, they applaud and rise to give us a standing ovation.
Sharat and I are deeply moved when we take the stage for the Q&A. We talk about the process of making the film, the stories we didn't include, the possibilities for change. A Sikh doctor shares his experience with racism. Another man wants to know how to ask someone about their identity with respect. A woman brings up the need to show this film in France, where a ban against wearing religious articles of faith is keeping Sikh and Muslim children from public schools. Another discusses how minority communities can get stories like this into the mainstream.
After the discussion, Shana presents us with flowers and gifts, and dinner is served. Everyone continues the conversation over hot plates of delicious Punjabi food. But I don’t eat a bite. I am talking to people, one after another – a group of lawyers who reflect on the power and limits of law, a French woman who wants to bring the movie to Paris, an African-American Sikh woman who has followed our work for years, individuals at the FBI who want to help get our film seen, and law students who invite us to a follow-up discussion at their university. Muneer Ahmad comes up to congratulate us. He is the professor at American Law School who provides some of our best analysis in the film, and I am grateful and relieved that he too loves the movie. It is a stunning night in the life of the film.
A few days later, Sharat and I visit the law school at American University for a follow-up discussion. We were invited by Amna Arshad (pictured), Hanan Idilbi, and a handful of law students who attended the screening. As the conversation deepens, we realize that nearly all the students at the round-table chose to pursue law degrees for the same reason: to gain the power to respond directly to social injustices. While the interests varied - from domestic violence to immigrant struggles - we were all committed to working toward... a more perfect union. It is inspiring to imagine a generation of students like this.
What now? Now we rest for a few weeks before we are swept up once again in our now international tour - from Boston to Mumbai to Berkeley to Omaha, we have adventures in store in the new year. We hope that this energy will propel the film to ever-wider audiences and continue to deepen the dialogue about who we are and who we want to be.
Thanks to Shana Narula and all the members of the Sikh Student Association at GW for an incredible night. Thanks also to the Smithsonian for co-sponsoring our premiere! And of course what would we do without Jessica Jenkins, our director of research, who traveled from New York City, to help make our Washington, DC premiere a fabulous success.
[This entry is cross-posted on "Into the Whirlwind"]
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
UK Treasury Secretary and MP Introduces Valarie Kaur's "Divided We Fall"
REVERBERATIONS from 9/11 are still "being felt with undiminished intensity", East Ham MP and Treasury Secretary Stephen Timms has proclaimed.
"For us in the UK, serious questions have been renewed by the July 7 bombings, the Lansdown Road, Forest Gate, police raid in my own constituency and the alleged airline plot uncovered in the summer," added Mr Timms. He was speaking during the Race Convention, a major European conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the Commission for Racial Equality.
The politician was at Westminster's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre to introduce 'Divided we fall; Americans in the aftermath', a documentary which charts the divisive impact of 9/11 on American society.
The documentary follows Valerie Kaur, a Sikh American college student who, after hearing of the unprovoked murder of a family friend in 2001, set out to reveal and confront the forces that divided America in time of crisis. [Link]
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Struggling in an unkind world
Region's Sikhs work toward understanding, acceptance
Post-9/11 America has not been kind to Sikhs. Since the collapse of the World Trade Center, many Americans have linked Sikhs, almost exclusively by appearance, to terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and the attacks.
The Sikhs had nothing to do with Sept. 11. But, unshorn, dark-skinned and turbaned, they look the part. The Sikhs' resemblance to the Muslim men who threaten the U.S. through Al-Jazeera videos has led to an unwarranted backlash.
"Post-9/11, it's been difficult for our community," said Amardeep Singh, executive director of the New York-based Sikh Coalition, which was founded just hours after the 9/11 attacks to thwart the hate crimes and discrimination already unfolding against Sikhs.
The Sikh Coalition Web site lists more than 400 instances of bias against Sikhs since Sept. 11, 2001. from verbal and physical abuse to murder of a Sikh boy who had his hair forcibly cut by whites last month. Another Sikh Web site reported 133 incidents of hate crimes and harassment against Sikhs in the week following the terror attacks.
There certainly is confusion about Sikhs.
A news Web site earlier this year mistakenly linked a story on the Lebanon-Israeli conflict to a photo of a Sikh. After the Sept. 11 attacks, a Sikh was murdered by someone who suspected the Arizona gas station owner had ties to al-Qaida.
In September, someone defaced a billboard intended to educate drivers on Interstate 78 in Berks County about Sikhism. The graffiti read, in tall black letters, "Arabs go to hell," mistaking Sikhs for some Middle Easterners. "F--- Allah," the person wrote, apparently believing Sikhs pray to the Muslim god....
Some within the Tatamy sangat, hoping to avoid workplace discrimination, Chana said, have foregone turbans and cut their hair and beards, which are considered sacred gifts from God
The Sikh Coalition, meanwhile, is "firefighting," litigating instances of bias against Sikhs. Its long-term goal is to disassociate Sikhs from terrorists -- an effort, Singh said, that could take decades. [Link]
Monday, December 18, 2006
EU report: Muslims face 'Islamophobia'
Muslims across Europe are confronting a rise in "Islamophobia" ranging from violent attacks to discrimination in job and housing markets, a wide-ranging European Union report indicated Monday.The report is available here.
The study, compiled by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, urged European authorities to strengthen policies on integration. But it also noted that Muslims need to do more to counter negative perceptions driven by terrorism and upheavals such as the backlash to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad....
"The disadvantaged position of Muslim minorities, evidence of a rise in Islamophobia and concern over processes of alienation and radicalization have triggered an intense debate in the European Union," said Beate Winkler, director of the Vienna-based group....
"Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on 'assimilation' and the assumption that they should lose their Muslim identity," Winkler said. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, many Muslims feel "they have been put under a general suspicion of terrorism."[Link]
Arab-American tackles bias with humor, film
At first, the media releases describing Framingham filmmaker Raouf Zaki's new short comedy read like a politically incorrect joke:
"A group of Arab-Americans walk into a convenience store. They begin talking about ways to seem more American. The punch line? The FBI is listening in from across the street and thinking they've found the next big terrorist cell."
But although this 19-minute film starring Hollywood actor and comic Ahmed Ahmed (of MTV's "Punk'd" with Ashton Kutcher ) is laugh-out-loud funny, its underlying message is dead serious.
"After the Gulf War, I started getting this feeling that I should make films about my culture and my culture as it's seen in America... and after 9/11 , it seemed even more urgent," said Zaki, 37, who came to the United States from Egypt in 1985 at age 17.
"This film is about the anxiety that I've felt since 9/11, whether I'm going through airport security with a lot of film equipment or just the way that people look at you and get tense if you have a Middle Eastern background. It's unspoken, but you can feel it," he said. "I knew a lot of it has to do with ignorance, and I wanted to do something about it."
That something is the darkly satirical "Just Your Average Arab," which Zaki completed in June and will be screening in Framingham on Wednesday. [Link]
Friday, December 15, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Sunday Times (UK) on Tony Blair's Speech on Immigrants
Immigrants to this country have a “right to be different” and a “duty to integrate”, according to Tony Blair. I think this means clear off if you don’t like it here, but one can never be entirely sure with him. For example, he also said multiculturalism had always been about a balance between conformity and difference....
Government sponsored multiculturalism for 30 years insisted there was no imperative to share the core values of society — if there were core values of society, which there probably weren’t. People who disagreed were branded “racist”. If Blair had made his speech 10 years ago he’d have branded himself “racist”, which would have been fun to watch, I suppose.
Then, when he turned to that silly non-issue — Muslim women wearing the veil — he got it all wrong again. Surely if there is one area where immigrant communities should be allowed do as they like it is in the clothes they choose to wear. Attack the ideology behind the veil, the Islamic attitude towards women — not the veil itself. But the PM can’t do that because he’s already attempted to force all of us, by law, to respect that ideology, regardless of its misogyny (and, one might add, homophobia, anti-semitism, etc). [Link]
Monday, December 11, 2006
Japanese, Muslims recall racism
Pearl Harbor, 9/11 ushered in dark ages for both societies
The internment of Japanese immigrants is familiar to most Americans — in large part, because Yamasaki and legions of Japanese camp survivors have made their voices heard.
Now, Yamasaki and other survivors are speaking out against a new danger.
"We were stereotyped," said Yamasaki. "Now, with the Muslims, it's the same thing. Everyone's pointing fingers saying they're an enemy."
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor stripped Japanese-Americans of their homes and freedom. But five years ago, the actions of 19 hijackers radically altered the lives of the county's estimated 6 million Muslims.
"Pearl Harbor gave the United States the excuse to discriminate against Japanese-Americans by saying these guys are potential saboteurs," said Steve Okamoto, co-president of the San Mateo chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). "Now, they're lumping (Muslims) together like they did with the Japanese." [Link]
Monday, December 04, 2006
Virginia Restaurant Apologizes to Sikh American for Wrongfully Denying Entry to Restaurant Because of Turban
Owner pledges to ensure all staff are made aware of religious exemption to ‘no-hats’ rule
On December 1, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) received a formal apology from the Richbrau Brewing Co. restaurant in Richmond, VA for denying Mr. Hansdip Singh Bindra entry to the restaurant with his turban.
On November 24, 2006, Mr. Bindra, a member of the Sikh faith, sought entry to the popular restaurant in Richmond with members of his extended family. Mr. Bindra was denied entry due to the restaurant’s “no hats” policy. Mr. Bindra attempted to explain that he was not wearing a “hat,” but rather a turban, a mandated religious article of faith for Sikhs. “There were all sorts of people there, and yet I was being singled out solely because of the way I looked”, said Bindra. “I wear a turban everyday as a Sikh, it’s who I am.”
In the apology letter addressed to Mr. Bindra, Michael Byrne, Director of Operations at the Richbrau restaurant noted: “It is with this letter that I would like to extend to you an apology for our doorman enforcing the “no headgear policy” literally.” Mr. Byrne continued, “I have contacted the Richmond media and reaffirmed our policy of the traditional headgear policy exception to our staff. I trust you will feel welcome on your next visit to Richbrau Brewing Co.”
Friday, December 01, 2006