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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hate Crime at Florida Sam's Club?

[D]erar Ahmad, 30, a Largo resident of Palestinian descent, was shopping at Sam's Club, 2575 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., on Jan. 24 when he was verbally and physically assaulted by another customer....

Ahmad, a gas station manager, said he was speaking on his cell phone to his wife in Arabic when he entered the store. A man whom Ahmad said he had never seen before came running up to him and started yelling anti-Islamic and anti-Arab slurs.

"F--- your Allah," Ahmad said the man shouted. "F--- your Mohammed."

Ahmad said the man jabbed his finger at his head, forcing him to look down and shouted that Ahmad needed to go back to his own country.

Bedier and Ahmad said no Sam's Club employee intervened. When a security guard approached the two, Ahmad said, the guard told the men to take care of their business outside.

Another customer in the store, Deborah Butler, 45, witnessed the incident and said she first thought the men knew each other and were joking. When she realized the shouting was more serious, she called 911.

Butler and Ahmad said the security guard warned the unidentified man to leave before police arrived....

"They said words, didn't even make me feel like a human," Ahmad said.

Butler, a St. Petersburg resident, said she will no longer shop at Sam's Club. [Link]

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Survey: Young Muslims in Britain Are More Politicized. Blame Multiculturalism?

Results of a survey released yesterday by the Policy Exchange, a center-right British think tank, are causing a bit of a stir....

The author of the survey, titled “Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism”..., blamed the government’s long-running policy of embracing cultural differences, rather than encouraging and embracing “difference.”

Said the report’s lead author, Munira Mirza, in a press statement accompanying the survey’s release:
The emergence of a strong Muslim identity in Britain is, in part, a result of multicultural policies implemented since the 1980s which have emphasized difference at the expense of shared national identity and divided people along ethnic, religious and cultural lines.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Tory Leader: Multiculturalism has failed in Britain

THE Queen’s Birthday will become a national holiday under Tory plans to create a sense of “True Britishness”, David Cameron tells The Sun today.

The Tory leader wants everyone to have a day off to celebrate Her Majesty’s official birthday in June — and mark what it means to be British....

His pledge came as he revealed a drive for what he calls True Britishness.

He says Britain’s multiculturalism experiment has failed and that while religious groups can carry on their traditions and cultures, all must show allegiance to traditional British values.

He insists all faiths and cultures must be forced to integrate.

And he warns of signs that Muslims and other immigrant communities are becoming LESS British as the generations pass.

Mr Cameron says: “We should see subsequent generations of immigrants feeling more part of our society. But in some cases we see that go backwards — an indictment of multiculturalism.

“Multiculturalism has failed. We need to strengthen the country with the emphasis on True Britishness and integration.

“You can be a Muslim and a True Brit. You can be a Sikh and a True Brit. You can be a Jew and True Brit. You can be a Buddhist and a True Brit.” [Link]

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Reaction to Sikh daggers 'smacks of racism'

A local Sikh priest asked to hand over his religious dagger by a pilot after he boarded a plane in New Zealand, said the issue only served to highlight the racism his community faced in the post-September 11 world.

Jarnail Singh and a group of Sikh priests visiting from India got through security wearing their kirpans (daggers) under their shirts at Auckland's domestic terminal and boarded their flight to Napier last Sunday afternoon.

Mr Singh said a woman sitting behind him spotted his kirpan sticking out and began shaking.

"She said I had a knife and got panicked," Mr Singh said. "I asked her 'please calm down, we are not what you think'."

The woman's husband notified cabin crew and the pilot asked the men to hand over their kirpans until they landed in Napier.

The daggers were returned when all the other passengers got off the plane in Napier.

"Air New Zealand was very fair. It's just disappointing when one lady reacts like that and makes an issue out of it," Mr Singh said....

Mr Singh said he was often taunted by people calling him Bin Laden because of his long beard which under Sikh tradition he is not permitted to cut. [Link]

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Arab Groups Protest Glenn Beck's Hiring

Three groups are urging ABC News not to keep CNN Headline News personality Glenn Beck on as a "Good Morning America" commentator because they believe he's biased against Arabs.

The Arab American Institute, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council all said Thursday they had written to ABC News President David Westin about Beck....

The groups said that Beck - who's drawing strong ratings with his evening show on CNN Headline News - has stated on his show that Arab and Muslim Americans are apathetic to terrorism. During an interview in November with Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, Beck asked him to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

"That blatant anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias has been given credibility on a larger news show is something that concerns us," said Arab American Institute spokeswoman Jennifer Kauffman.

Beck has said that his question to Ellison was poorly worded.

"My message is clear: Islam is a peaceful religion for over 90 percent of the world's Muslims," he said. "I have urged viewers repeatedly to understand this, while asking all of the proud, peaceful Muslims here in America to take a more visible role in our fight against those who make a mockery of the Quran. I also make airtime available, at any time, to any Muslim organization to help reinforce this realistic, peaceful view of Islam." [Link]

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Canada: Muslim students shaky after attack

Students at École Les Jeunes Musulmans Canadiens (JMC) in St. Laurent are still feeling the effects almost a week after vandals caused $12,000 in damage to bus and school windows at their school.

“It’s not just about the windows that were broken or the material costs. It’s just shocking to see what impact this has had [on some students],” said Nabiha El-Wafai, the assistant principal of the elementary school. [Link]

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Muslim Student assaulted on Guilford (NC) college campus

An N.C. State student and two friends from Guilford College in Greensboro were beaten on that campus this weekend, prompting some to allege the trio fell victim to a 'hate crime.'

According to a Greensboro Police report, Omar Awartani, a freshman in aerospace and mechanical engineering, was assaulted along with two friends, Osama Sabbah and Faris Khader, at Guilford Saturday at 1 a.m.

A Guilford College statement said the altercation lasted less than five minutes and involved "physical violence and alleged verbal abuse during and after the incident." The statement also said about 12 students participated "either in the fight or attempts to break it up...."

"He was with his friends in a courtyard at Guilford," [Nusaybah] Ismail said. "[Guilford] football players just came up to them and started beating them up, calling them names."

According to Ismail, the football players yelled things like "go back to your land." [Link]

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Can Aladdin 'spark Islamaphobia'?

The Disney cartoon Aladdin has come under attack for demonising Muslims as violent and dangerous.

It is one of a number of popular films accused of depicting 'crude and exaggerated' stereotypes of Muslims and perpetuating Islamaphobia.

Raiders of the Lost Ark, East is East and The Siege are also singled out for criticism by the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Its report, The British Media And Muslim Representation: The Ideology Of Demonisation, argues Hollywood has a crucial role in influencing how the public views Muslims.

Aladdin falls foul because his homeland is described as 'barbaric' and 'good Arabs' like Aladdin are given American accents while others have 'ridiculous Arab accents'.

A survey conducted as part of the research revealed that Muslims in Britain felt negative images of their faith on the big and small screen had consequences in their daily lives.

Those interviewed 'found a direct correlation between media portrayal and their social experiences of exclusion, discrimination and violence'. [Link]

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Woman Given Veil Choice Gets New Hearing

A Muslim woman whose small-claims case was tossed out after she refused to remove her veil in court has been granted a new hearing.

Ginnnah Muhammad, 42, of Detroit, plans to wear a niqab - a scarf and veil that covers her head and face, leaving only the eyes visible - at her Feb. 21 hearing.

Muhammad wants to contest a rental car company's $2,750 charge to repair a vehicle that she said had been broken into by thieves.

"I'm hoping that the judge ... listens to my case and judges the case on its merits, not on how I look," Muhammad said. [Link]

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Amnesty International USA: Human Rights Agenda for the 110th U.S. Congress

Racial profiling has historically been used to target the African American, Native American and Hispanic/Latino American community and, since September 11, 2001, law enforcement has increased the use of racial profiling of Arab American, Muslim American, and South Asian American communities. Under the US Constitution and international treaties, every person has the fundamental right to equal protection under the law regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. Targeting people for law enforcement activity based solely on their race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin is humiliating, degrading, and discriminatory, and it has been proven to be an ineffective investigatory technique. Congress should pass an End Racial Profiling Act to ban the use of racial profiling in federal, state, and local law enforcement. [Link]

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DNSI's Valarie Kaur on BBC

* BBC interview with Valarie Kaur (mp3 audio file, 6 MB)
BBC Asian Network (radio) - Jan. 23, 2007

Valarie Kaur is interviewed by Sonia Deol of the BBC Asian Network about anti-American sentiment abroad and Americans' reactions to this phenomenon, in relation to her work with Divided We Fall.

* BBC interview with Valarie Kaur (mp3 audio file, 5.9 MB)
BBC Asian Network (radio) - Jan. 7, 2007

Valarie Kaur is interviewed by Amanda Hussain of the BBC Asian Network about her journey across America in making Divided We Fall.

Correction: Amanda Hussain says in this piece, "immediately after the [9/11] attacks, the film was released in the U.S.," but the film was actually not completed until Sept. 2006.

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DNSI's Valarie Kaur's Film to be Screened in Connecticut

Information from the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts regarding the February 6, 2007, screening is available here.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

International Testing Company Apologizes to Sikh American Woman Denied Access due to Turban

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nations oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, received a formal letter of apology from Pearson VUE Vice President Anthony Zara in response to an incident of mistreatment of Ms. Jagjit Kaur Khalsa, as she sought to sit for a standardized test at one of Pearson’s facilities.

On October 13, 2006, Ms. Khalsa went to a Pearson VUE testing facility in Austin, TX to complete her Oriental Medicine Licensure exam. Upon arriving at the testing facility, Ms. Khalsa was denied entrance into the exam room by a security guard due to her religiously mandated turban.

The security guard told Ms. Khalsa that the removal of her “hat” was for her own protection and concerned her career. Ms. Khalsa told the guard that she was not wearing a “hat,” but rather a mandated religious article of faith, a dastaar (turban) and that she could not remove it. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Charles Meacham Photo Gallery: Being Sikh

Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world with an estimated population of just under 30 million. For over 500 years the teachings of the 10 Gurus have spoken the simple values of truth, universal equality, and justice. Often described as Warrior-Saints, Sikhs have more than once taken to the sword in defending their homeland of Punjab and the whole of India. At a time when other major religions point their fingers and blame each other for the world's problems, the Sikhs continue to welcome anyone whatever their race, religion or creed as an equal into their doors. However, despite the openness and compassion of the Sikhs, few outsiders are aware of even the most basic beliefs held by this religion. Due to their similar appearance to Muslim extremist groups, such as the Taliban, this ignorance has proven to be fatal as the occurrence of hate crimes against Sikhs have risen dramatically in the post September 11th world.
[Click here to visit the online gallery]

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Veil row woman challenges sacking

A Muslim classroom assistant sacked by a West Yorkshire school for refusing to take off her veil during lessons is appealing against her dismissal.

Aishah Azmi, 24, was asked to remove the veil after Headfield Church of England school in Dewsbury said pupils found it hard to understand her.

She refused and was sacked after an employment tribunal ruled that she had not been discriminated against.

Mrs Azmi has now lodged papers with the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London.

In October, an employment tribunal dismissed her three claims for discrimination and harassment, although it did agree she had been victimised by Kirklees Council, the local education authority.

She was awarded £1,100 in damages. [Link]

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Department of Justice and SALDEF Release New Law Enforcement Roll Call Training Video

This past Wednesday, January 17, 2006, the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the Department of Justice in partnership with the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the largest and oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, released a first of its kind police roll call training video titled, On Common Ground – Sikh American Cultural Awareness for Law Enforcement.

The ground breaking 17-minute training video was developed by SALDEF for the Community Relations Service and released at an event attended by over 150 members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as prominent members of the civil rights and Sikh American community.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been a sharp increase in the number of hate incidents and hate crimes against Sikh Americans of South Asian decent. These attacks have been primarily due to the lack of awareness and the common misconception that Sikh Americans are either from the Middle East, Arab or Muslim.

Speaking in absentia, United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez noted, “The film is designed to educate law enforcement working in non-emergency circumstances about cultural norms of Sikh Americans. It makes clear that Sikhs are an integral part of American society. I commend CRS, and I offer my sincere appreciation to CRS and SALDEF for their perseverance and creative effort in producing this educational film.” [SALDEF Press Release]

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Movie keeps memory, message alive

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi was a respected gasoline station owner in east Mesa who built a new life after emigrating from India.

Sodhi and his three brothers chose the United States because our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

He was slain outside his gas station four days after the terrorist attacks simply because he wore a turban as required by his Sikh faith. His attacker thought he looked like an Arab....

Soon, I would learn that Sikhs are different from Muslims, that they come from a different region, that their religion teaches religious tolerance because of their belief that there is more than one path to God.

As the death penalty trial of Sodhi's assailant, Frank Roque, played out weeks later in a Mesa courtroom, I also learned that the family was not vengeful, that all they wanted was a guilty verdict because Sikhs believe everyone is accountable to God and that they were repulsed by Roque's insanity defense....

"In my inside, I feel I must spend my whole life educating people. I'm trying to make my future better for myself and my children," said Rana Singh Sodhi, who lives in Gilbert.

He has spoken about religious tolerance to children in his 8-year-old son's classroom.

Now, his mission is about to get national attention. His battle for religious tolerance and his faith in American ideals is the focus of A Dream in Doubt, a documentary that premieres Sunday at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The festival is a showcase for first-time film directors....

[Director Tami] Yeager plans to show the documentary at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Feb. 22, and at the International Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco. She said her hope is that it will be shown nationally someday by PBS, or at least be picked up independently by PBS stations throughout the country.

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Muslim Temple Leader Accuses Police Of Hate Crime, Beating

The spiritual leader of a South Side Muslim temple is threatening a federal civil rights suit, now that charges of battery against a police officer and obstruction of justice have been dropped against him.

The attorney representing Grand Sheik Clifford Jackson-Bey said he expected that the suit would be filed by Monday, naming 4th District officers involved in the Nov. 25 arrest and the city of Chicago.

During a news conference at a West Side restaurant, Jackson-Bey's attorney, Lewis Meyers, charged that Jackson-Bey was the victim of "anti-Muslim" sentiment and a hate crime.

Meyers said his client was beaten about the face, head, shoulders and body in the back of a Chicago Police squad car after informing the officers that other officers, from the same district, had arrested his son three days earlier. [Link]

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Muslim man harassed over mosque in Warren

Steve Elturk knows there could be some backlash when he opens Warren's first mosque later this year. He learned Wednesday he may not have to wait that long.

Elturk was at the mosque -- the Islamic Organization of North America, on Ryan south of 12 Mile -- about 8:15 p.m. when a man started shouting racial epithets at him.

"He was standing by the sign, and he said he was going to desecrate the sign," Elturk of Troy said Thursday. "He said, 'I hate you. I hate Muslims.' "

Elturk said the man took off a jacket and moved toward him in a "threatening way."

The man, Terry E. Brown, 37, of Warren, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to 21 days in the Macomb County Jail, Warren police said. [Link]

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

CAIR: Racial Slur Used During Assault on NY Muslim

The Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on local, state and national law enforcement authorities to investigate an attack on a New York Muslim as a possible hate crime.

CAIR said the attack took place early Sunday morning outside a Lackawanna, N.Y., restaurant. The victim, a 26-year-old man of Yemeni heritage, said one of the white male assailants called him a "f**king Arab" as the attack began. Another attacker allegedly picked the victim up from behind and threw him to the ground, rendering him unconscious.

The victim says he suffered a fractured nose and a fracture under one eye. He also received staples on the back of his head and six stitches on his face.

A representative of the local office of the FBI told CAIR that the case is being evaluated. [Link]

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NWA apologizes for barring local Muslim fliers

Reacting swiftly to allegations of discrimination, Northwest Airlines apologized to 40 local Muslims on Wednesday for barring them from a plane in Germany on their return trip from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

The airline said it will reimburse the pilgrims for the additional costs for flights and "reasonable" costs for accommodations.

"To our knowledge, there was no security issue and this was not a profiling issue," said the official, Andrea Newman, the senior vice president for government relations for Northwest Airlines, in Washington, D.C. "We try very hard to make sure that everyone is treated the same, and this is an important community to Northwest, as are all communities." [Link]

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Vandals hit Muslim school

Students and staff at one of Montreal’s largest Muslim schools expressed shock today after windows in their building were smashed and the school bus was vandalized overnight.

“Parents are very angry and teachers are afraid,” said Principal Sawaf Layla, at École Les jeunes Musulmans canadiens where shards of glass lay in the school’s entrance.

Rocks and bricks crashed through about 15 windows at the school sometime between 9 p.m. Monday night and 5 a.m. Tuesday, police said. For now, police are viewing it as an act of vandalism rather than a hate crime because the school hadn’t received any threats, said Montreal police spokesperson Laurent Gingras.

People at the private school had a different take on the incident. “In my opinion it’s a hate crime because we have no incidents. We are okay with the neighbours. We have no problems with anybody,” Layla said. [Link]

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Michigan Muslim Flyers Allege Discrimination By Northwest

A group of 40 Michigan Muslims said they were victims of profiling recently when they were not allowed to board a Northwest Airlines flight on their way home from Saudi Arabia.

A Northwest spokesman said the travelers reported to the gate Jan. 7 in Frankfurt, Germany only about 20 minutes before their connecting flight was to depart. Rules stipulate that passengers must check in for international flights at least an hour beforehand and be onboard at least 30 minutes before departure.

But the Muslim pilgrims and an advocacy group said flight rules are at least the third explanation the airline has given for the incident. Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini said the pilgrims arrived plenty early and watched others admitted aboard the plane. [Link]

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Need realistic policies on racism: Kenney

Canadians should never be lulled into believing that this country is an inclusive utopia, says newly minted Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney.

Everyone should be “on guard” against the ugliness of racism, said the Calgary Conservative MP, responding to a Sun Media-Leger Marketing poll that found 47% of Canadians admit that they harbour racist sentiments. The poll also found that 92% of Canadians had witnessed bigotry in action.

“These numbers remind us that even a society as tolerant as Canada will always have challenges in this regard,” he said.

There is little that government can do to stop racism, said Kenney, adding he is reviewing federal anti-racism programs for effectiveness. [Link]

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

US Department of Justice and SALDEF to Release New Police Roll Call Training Video about Sikh and South Asian Americans

The Community Relations Service (CRS) of the Department of Justice will release a new police roll call training video titled On Common Ground – Understanding Sikh Americans on January 17, 2007. The goal of the training video is to increase awareness and develop a better understanding about the cultural practices of Sikh and South Asian Americans among law enforcement officials.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been a sharp increase in the number of hate incidents and hate crimes against Sikh Americans of South Asian descent. These attacks have been primarily due to the lack of awareness and the common misconception that Sikh Americans are either from the Middle East, Arab or Muslim.

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) developed the film for the Community Relations Service. The ground-breaking 17-minute training video will be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement officials across the country. The training video includes detailed information about cultural practices and articles of faith that are commonly unfamiliar to law enforcement. The protocols for the respectful handling of the articles of faith recommended in the training video are designed with officer safety in mind and are to be followed only in a non-emergency, non-crisis situation.

What: Release of police roll call training video titled: On Common Ground – Understanding Sikh Americans

When: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 4:30 p.m.

The Charles Sumner School
1201 17th Street, NW
Washington DC 20036
(Enter at NE corner of 17th and M Street, under the Sumner School Banner)

The Community Relations Service previously developed a similar training video designed to educate law enforcement and community groups on Arab, and Muslim Americans. The previous CRS training video, “The First Three to Five Seconds,” was widely successful and is being used by the Department of Homeland Security currently it to train all of their law enforcement staff.

Represented agencies and organizations at the event will include the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) , and civil rights leaders from across the nation.

To attend the event, please RSVP Rajbir Singh Datta at 202-393-2700 ext 27 or info@saldef.org [Email from SALDEF]

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40 Muslims kept from Detroit flight, council says

Thousands of American Muslims returned to Michigan this month exhausted in body but revitalized in spirit after performing the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that is a religious duty.

But not all travelers had an easy time getting home.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is expected to hold a news conference today regarding the treatment of 40 American Muslim pilgrims -- some from Canton, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights -- who were allegedly denied passage on a flight to Detroit.

The men were reportedly denied boarding on Northwest Airlines Flight 51 from Germany on Jan. 7. CAIR-Michigan is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the incident.

Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said Monday that the passengers were denied boarding because they arrived for the flight just 20 minutes before departure, a violation of airline and governmental regulations. [Link]

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Monday, January 15, 2007

German state confirms ban on headscarves in schools

A Bavarian court on Monday upheld a ban on female teachers wearing headscarves in state schools in the conservative German region in a decision Muslim groups and opposition lawmakers said contravened anti-discrimination rules.

The Bavarian constitutional court in Munich rejected a complaint filed by a Berlin-based Islamic group against the ban, which was introduced in late 2004 by the Christian Social Union (CSU)-ruled government.

The group said the measure was aimed exclusively at Muslims as Christian nuns wearing habits during lessons were exempt.

"As part of its role in supervising schools, the legislator can set rules about how far the wearing of external symbols and clothing which have a religious or ideological symbolism in lessons is prohibited," Judge Karl Huber said. [Link]

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Canadians have lowest opinion of Arab community

When told that a Leger Marketing poll for Sun Media revealed that Canadians have the lowest opinion of the Arab community, Khaled Mouammar didn't pause or express alarm.

Instead there was a slight sigh of resignation as the president of the Canadian Arab Federation -- who is not Muslim -- launched into a frank dialogue on the state of Arab-Canadian relations.

"What you're saying confirms that when people have low esteem of an ethnic group, they're not going to hire them, or socialize with them," Mouammar said. "This is why young Arabs and Muslim youth are facing issues of low self-esteem, alienation and marginalization."

Little more than half of Canadians polled had a good opinion of the Arab community at 53%, while other groups received majority approval. [Link]

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

DNSI Welcomes New Advisory Board Members

DNSI is very pleased to announce the addition of three individuals to its advisory board. We look forward to working closely with these very accomplished and dedicated individuals!

Anil Kalhan, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
Anil Kalhan is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law. Before coming to Fordham, he was an Associate in Law at Columbia University School of Law, and he previously served as a litigation associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and co-coordinator of the firm's immigration and international human rights pro bono practice group. He also has previously worked for the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project in New York and the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Delhi, India, and served as law clerk to the Hon. Chester J. Straub (U.S. Ct. of App., 2d Cir.) and the Hon. Gerard E. Lynch (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D.N.Y.). Before attending law school, he worked for Cable News Network, the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and the New York City Department of Transportation. He received a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.P.P.M. at the Yale School of Management, and an A.B. from Brown University. His areas of interest include immigration and citizenship, criminal law and procedure, international human rights, law of South Asia, and Asian Americans and the law.

Nitasha K. Sawhney, Attorney, Garcia Calderon Ruiz, LLP
Nitasha Sawhney is an attorney with the downtown Los Angeles law firm of Garcia Calderon Ruiz, LLC. Ms. Sawhney specializes in education, labor, and employment law matters. She also serves as a legal volunteer with the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF) and the California Sikh Council where she assists with hate crime issues, employment discrimination, accommodation/access cases and increasing civic engagement. Ms. Sawhney also serves as a board member of the South Asian Bar Association’s Public Interest Foundation and is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s “Diversity in the Profession” Committee, the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT) Policy Task Force and served as Chair of California’s first Spinning Wheel Film Festival, a film festival focused on sharing stories through films created by Sikhs or about Sikhs.

She is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she studied Mass Communication and Ethnic Studies. She received her law degree from the UC Davis’ King Hall Law School. Ms. Sawhney was recently awarded the Spirit in Action Award from the Interfaith Councils of the City of Garden Grove, Stanton, and Westminster for her work in raising funds to aid victims of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and her dedication to public service.

June Han, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
June Han is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. She is also a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government. In the past, she was a Public Policy Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, which is now known as the Asian American Justice Center.

June was the author of DNSI's first report, entitled "We Are Americans Too: A Comparative Study of the Effects of 9/11 on South Asian Communities." The report was based on a chapter from her dissertation, which examines identity, intergroup relations, and responses to 9/11 among South Asians in the Washington, DC area. Her general research interests include racial and ethnic identity, relations, and politics.

June will be receiving her Ph.D. in June 2007. She received an M.A. from Harvard University in 2001 and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

AG Gonzales Addressing U.S. Attorneys

As U.S. Attorneys, upholding civil liberties is utterly central to your work. As leaders in your communities, talking about how we as a government achieve the balance between individual rights and national security is a matter of civic responsibility.

You also have a duty to show your colleagues and your districts that we are not engaged in a struggle against a faith or religion. On the contrary, we very much need the partnership of the Muslim community. Discouraging radicalism is vital, and that cannot be done effectively without Muslim community leadership. So seek it out in your districts. We believe in religious freedom for everyone. The Department of Justice is committed to protect these rights, and in doing so, I think we promote trust and provide an alternative way to that of radicalization. [Link]
[Hat tip: Muslim Advocates]

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Little Mosque a huge hit in the ratings - but what about in Muslims' hearts?

Many Muslim Montrealers rolled with laughter Tuesday as they watched the premiere of the CBC sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie.

The show pulled in about 2.1 million viewers, a huge audience for a Canadian show....

Tyrone Ishmael, a Muslim Montrealer originally from Trinidad, said the series is a good tool to bring Muslims and non-Muslims closer toward understanding each other.

"The series highlights the paranoia existing in the society now about Muslims and everything related to them - their prayers, fasting, habits, traditions and celebrations," said Ishmael, a former math teacher.

"Through this comedy, we are able to discuss a serious subject and point out the existing stereotyping in our society. The good thing about it is that it does that in a relaxed atmosphere to help us understand our mistakes. I think it will lead people to moderate their views," Ishmael added. [Link]

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Italian MP Proposes Banning Muslim Veil For Under-age Girls

An Italian politician who has received death threats for her campaign against the oppression of Muslim women has proposed making it illegal for under-age girls to wear a headscarf.

Daniela Santanche of the right-wing National Alliance party was quoted in Thursday's Corriere della Sera as saying she would submit a bill to parliament forbidding minors from wearing "any kind of veil".

"Eleven or twelve-year-olds are not able to decide on their own," Santanche was quoted as saying. [Link]

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Leaders Urge Attorney General to Reaffirm Unity & Fairness

On January 8, 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with leaders of the Muslim and Arab American community, including Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera, a former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In response to the apparent rise in anti-Muslim bigotry, Muslim Advocates urged the Attorney General and the administration to make public statements reminding Americans that our nation, which was founded by those fleeing religious persecution, has a rich heritage of religious freedom and diversity.

Muslim Advocates also highlighted the need for oversight of the terrorist watch list database and how individuals are being selected for inclusion in the database. Racial, ethnic and religious profiling by law enforcement is a continuing concern, and the community and law enforcement need to find effective ways to address the issue, Muslim Advocates said.

In addition, leaders raised issues such as the continuing chilling effect of law enforcement activities on Muslim nonprofit operations and charitable giving, the need to terminate the NSEERS/Special Registration program, and the application of the recently enacted Military Commissions Act to justify the continued indefinite detention of individuals arrested on U.S. soil.

The Arab American Institute (AAI), American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Islamic Society of North America also attended the meeting. Muslim Advocates expresses its gratitude to AAI for facilitating this meeting. [Email from Muslim Advocates]

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Twin Cities Muslim and East African Workers File Harassment Lawsuit Against MV Transportation

Nine current and former Twin Cities employees of MV Transportation today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, alleging that for over a year they suffered severe and constant harassment, abuse, and other discriminatory treatment on account of their status as immigrants and Muslims....

The lawsuit alleges that the employees were subjected to denigration, physical assault, threats, and termination because of their national origin and religion. The employees also claim to have been denied promotions, training and other benefits of employment, and were denied religious accommodations....

[A] manager read Bible passages at the Muslim employees, forced them to listen to loud Christian music, confiscated prayer rugs, and addressed male Muslim employees generically as "Mohammed"....

Other complaints include immigrant employees being physically pushed and shoved, sworn at and called degrading names, and wrongfully denied safety bonuses. According to their Complaint, these immigrants repeatedly took their complaints about the hostile environment to company management but MV did nothing to protect them. Instead, the company engaged in retaliatory action that included termination. [Link]

Update: Please see the comment left by a MV employee.

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Who's Killing the Immigrant Mothers of Fremont?

Alia Ansari always wore her traditional Muslim headscarf in public. She was a doting wife and mother who spent most of her time in the Afghan neighborhood of Fremont known as "Little Kabul." She typically drove her six children to and from school and cricket practice, but on the afternoon of October 19, 2006, she had no choice but to walk.

The family minivan had recently overheated, and her husband, Ahmad, an auto mechanic, was too busy to fix it. So the 37-year-old woman set out on foot to pick up her children from the nearby elementary school. Before she got far, a car stopped and a man jumped out. He walked straight up to Alia and shot her in the head. She died clutching her three-year-old daughter's hand. [Link]

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Ensaaf Releases its Summary Report on the Punjab Mass Cremations Case: India Burning the Rule of Law

On October 9th, 2006, the Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) effectively ended its consideration of the Punjab mass cremations case, arbitrarily compensating 1,245 victim families and establishing another commission of inquiry. Among its many failings in the case, the NHRC refused to investigate a single cremation, thus making any compensation arbitrary and inadequate. Moreover, the NHRC failed to hold any officials accountable for the victims’ deaths.

Ensaaf’s summary report, India Burning the Rule of Law, describes the history and legal proceedings in the Punjab mass cremations case. The ultimate resolution of the case will serve as precedent for victims of mass state crimes throughout India and will give content to the rights to life and redress. Ensaaf is working in partnership with the Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab, an original petitioner in the case, to challenge the NHRC’s ten-year denial of justice and create precedent based on international human rights and Indian law.


India Burning the Rule of Law: http://www.ensaaf.org/pdf/reports/cremations.pdf

Punjab Mass Cremations Case: http://www.ensaaf.org/docs/nhrc.php

Bhalla Commission of Inquiry: http://www.ensaaf.org/docs/bhalla.php

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Student joins suit against football coach

Another former New Mexico State University football player is seeking to join a civil lawsuit that claims religious discrimination against Muslims by head coach Hal Mumme.

On Friday, Jacob Wallace, a former running back from the 2002 through 2005 seasons, asked to be added as a plaintiff.

In August, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against NMSU and Mumme, alleging three former football players were discriminated against because they are Muslim. [Link]

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fremont to sponsor forum on prejudice

Moina Shaiq wants more people to smile at her.

The 47-year-old Pakistani born mother of four plans to tell hundreds of people that Thursday evening at an anti-hate forum in Fremont.

``If I get poor service at a restaurant, or a certain kind of look, I am always second-guessing,'' Shaiq said. ``Is it because I wear a hijab? Are they associating me with an image they have seen on TV?''

So, Shaiq, a Fremont resident since 1982 and an active Muslim community member, says it would make her feel more welcome if strangers just looked at her with a grin.

``A smile is a very simple and small gesture,'' Shaiq said. ``But it makes such a difference.''

Shaiq will be one of five panelists discussing their personal struggles with discrimination at the second annual Anti-Hate Forum sponsored by Fremont's Human Relations Commission. Last year, the program drew about 300 guests and focused on the post-Sept. 11 verbal and physical attacks Muslims and Sikhs suffered from those who wrongly assumed they were terrorists. [Link]

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Muslims say harassment is on the decline

Anti-Islamic backlash has gone down for the first time since 9/11, Toronto-area Muslim leaders say.

But even though alleged incidents of harassment and assaults against Muslims have plunged, leaders said that judging from community feedback and the number of calls being received at city mosques, they haven't disappeared. [Link]

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Airport Screeners Get Lessons On Islam

During the next few weeks, as many as 20,000 American Muslims will be returning to the United States from their pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The TSA has ramped up cultural-awareness training for all 43,000 of its screeners. The goal: to remind screeners what to expect from devout Muslims and how to go about screening them so it's in concert with their religious beliefs.

Arab-American and Muslim-American leaders are applauding the effort. But they say it's part of a much-needed larger cultural and political conversation about Islam and Arab culture that can help the nation as it heals from the aftereffects of 9/11.

"Their efforts are a modest but important beginning," says Jack Shaheen, professor emeritus of mass communications at Southern Illinois University. "But until such time that we react to the vilification of and discrimination against Arabs in the same way we react to the vilification of others like Jews, blacks, and Hispanics, I'm not going to go dancing in the streets." [Link]

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Monday, January 08, 2007

"Little Mosque on the Prairie" series creates buzz in Canada

This is the world of Little Mosque on the Prairie, a new comedy airing in January on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Even though it hasn't yet aired an episode, the show is creating such an advance buzz that the CBC pushed up its production to launch in the new year, instead of airing in the Fall as originally planned. The show will air for the first time in Canada on Tuesday.

The series' name was taken from the wholesome 1970s US series Little House on the Prairie, but unlike the show set among pioneers in the 1800s, the subject matter in this show comes solidly from the post-9/11 world.

'Little Mosque on the Prairie is a sitcom and not a political satire,' series creator Zarqa Nawaz said in the programme's release notes. 'I want people to find the hilarity in the show and recognize the similar issues that appear in all of our lives. I simply want people to laugh with Muslims like they would laugh at anyone else and feel comfortable doing so.'

The show, set in the fictional Canadian prairie town of Mercy, revolves around the lives of the town's small Muslim community and its members' relationships with each other and their non-Muslim neighbours. [Link]

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Quebeckers opposed to teachers wearing hijab

Six months after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a Sikh school child could wear a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, so long as it is kept in a sheaf that is sewn shut, 77 percent of Quebec respondents and 62 percent from the rest of Canada opposed that decision.

When it came to the hijab, a quarter of the rest of Canada respondents would not want their children to have a teacher wearing one, but the negative rate rose to 54 percent in Quebec. For the Sikh turban, 26 percent of those in the rest of Canada opposed, with close to 60 percent of Quebeckers saying no to a teacher wearing one. [Link]

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Friday, January 05, 2007

IBM Worker Says He Was Fired For Being A Muslim

A Muslim electronics engineer who developed five patents for IBM claims the computer maker fired him because of his religion and that managers at the company mocked him for refusing to eat during the Ramadan fast and once told him to ignore Islamic law and clean a knife that had been used to cut pork.

Mahmoud Mousa, who calls himself a "Jordanian Muslim American," was employed at IBM's microelectronics plant in Burlington, Vt., from June 2003 to December 2005, when he was fired because of his religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit Mousa filed last month in U.S. District Court in New York.

Mousa says IBM's stated reason for the firing -- that he had failed to show up for work -- "was a pretext to mask the motivating factor behind his termination -- discrimination on the basis of his religion and/or national origin," according the suit.

Mousa claims that he was subject to discrimination and anti-Islamic comments and behavior from two different managers while working at IBM's Burlington operations. On one occasion, a manager of non-Muslim, Indian origin criticized Mousa for taking time out for Friday prayers, asking him "Why are you doing this?", according to court records. [Link]

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Britain should integrate into Muslim values

In 2006 the gloves came off in the fight to define what it means to be British. Whereas the dominant response to the London bombings was confusion over how anyone raised in this country could commit such atrocities, the veil debate detonated by Jack Straw and the teaching assistant Aisha Azmi was notable for its muscularity. Sentiments that might once have been considered too insensitive were openly expressed. "The right to be in a multicultural society," argued the prime minister in a speech last month, "was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain." Behind these remarks was an assumption that integration is a one-way street. However, there are many things that the rest of the country could learn from Muslims.

In the present climate, integration is the only show in town and multiculturalism has joined political correctness as a favoured target of those who feel that their Britain is disappearing before their eyes. Hence the calls, growing ever louder, for Muslims to integrate: no more forced marriages; no more honour killings; accept the rule of law.

Think of the words "Muslim community" and what do you see? A succession of veiled women walking silently behind their husbands? Bearded men gesticulating outside mosques? But there is another version of the Muslim community.

It is easy to dismiss Muslim parents as old-fashioned and traditional, but when the rest of the country is busy wondering how to respond to a culture of rampant disrespect, it is worth considering whether they could learn from Muslim values. [Link]

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FBI to Conduct Recruiting Drive with SALDEF in Pittsburgh on January 7, 2007

Washington D.C. – The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and the management of the Tri-State Sikh Cultural Society have invited the Pittsburgh Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to speak with the community on Sunday January 7, 2006.

Sikh American youth and young professionals are encouraged to attend this event to learn more about FBI recruitment and possible employment opportunities.

For the past few months, SALDEF has been advocating to increase the recruitment of Sikh Americans into the FBI. In meetings with FBI Headquarters and the Washington Field Office, agency representatives have indicated that Sikh American youth, including those who possess Punjabi language skills, are highly desirable to the FBI.

The purpose of this event is to help foster greater partnership between the local FBI field office and the Sikh American community. SALDEF encourages all residents of the Tri-State area to attend this event. We thank the management and community members of Tri-State Sikh Cultural Society for supporting and co-sponsoring this event....

For more information about this event, please contact Rajbir Singh Datta at 202-393-2700 ext 27 or info@saldef.org [Email from SALDEF]

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Racist Soup?

Pork soup is back on the menu for homeless people in Paris after a judge ruled it could not be deemed racist.
Organisers of soup kitchens linked to extreme rightwing groups overturned a ban imposed by the city authorities over fears that its handouts discriminated against Jews and Muslims.

Police had shut down food distributions... because of alleged xenophobia and fears of protests.

But the judge at the administrative tribunal in Paris decided that as there was no evidence the [organization distributing food] had refused to serve Jews and Muslims, who do not eat pork for religious reasons, it could not be accused of discriminating against them. [Link]

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

German Muslim Held, Denied U.S. Entry

A German businessman of Syrian descent who wanted to surprise his daughter with a holiday visit was detained for four days in a Las Vegas holding cell before being sent back home without explanation. A civil rights group called authorities' treatment of Majed Shehadeh a case of anti-Muslim discrimination. [Link]

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007: Moving on after the veil row (BBC)

A raging debate over multiculturalism spread nationwide as Britain tried to make sense of the threat from terrorism - and found that those anxieties opened up a pandora's box of other questions.

Those at the sharp end of this angst were Britain's Muslims. So a year that started badly with the global row over cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, ended on an equally downbeat public note with a British row over the Islamic veil.

As the New Year dawns, the question is where are we now heading?

Against a background of very real fears over terrorism and security, Britain continues to struggle with some key issues, including immigration, diversity and national identity and the very simple issue of how we all get along. [Link]

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

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