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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Soccer spat goes global

The supreme authority of world soccer will tackle the question of hijabs on the playing field Saturday in Manchester, England.

The group's turf includes Quebec, where the Islamic head scarves are banned....

On Sunday, 11-year-old Asmahan (Azzy) Mansour of Nepean, Ont., a Muslim, was ordered from the game by a Muslim referee for wearing her hijab during a match at an indoor tournament in Laval that drew 290 teams. [Link]

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SALDEF Meets with FBI Director Robert Mueller

Yesterday, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest national Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, met with Federal Bureau of Investigation Director, Robert S Mueller III.

SALDEF... spoke to Director Mueller specifically about the importance of continued efforts to increase dialogue and communication amongst the leadership of America’s largest investigative and law enforcement agency and the Sikh American community.

SALDEF also proposed the adoption and formalization of Sikh American Cultural Awareness and Protocol Training for each of their new recruits at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA and through local field offices across the country. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Police look into mosque damage

Police are investigating a vandalism -- the third incident in less than 14 months -- at the Islamic Society of Frederick.

Police aren't sure whether the vandalism could be considered a hate crime until a suspect is identified and the motive is revealed. Yahya Hendi, imam of the Islamic Society, is also reluctant to say if he believes the incident is a hate crime until someone is caught.

Hendi said no one was inside the building on Key Parkway at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21, when someone threw rocks and shattered two of the building's roughly 4-foot high clear glass windows. Shards of glass littered the inside of the prayer hall, Hendi said. [Link]

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Muslim girl forced to leave soccer field for wearing head scarf

Dismayed that a referee wouldn't allow a player on the pitch wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf, an Ottawa coach pulled his team from a massive indoor soccer tournament in Laval, Que., yesterday and vowed never to return to the tournament.

"It was a no-brainer," Louis Maneiro said before leaving the ARS Laval National tourney with his girls under-12 competitive team. "I said, 'That's it, we're not playing.' "

Controversy erupted during the Nepean Hotspurs' third game of the tournament when the team's second line stepped onto the field.

The referee said 11-year-old striker Asmahan Mansour couldn't play because she was wearing a hijab.

After trying to reason with the ref and the tournament convener, Maneiro pulled his team from the remaining games, with full support from the players and their parents.

A tournament organizer said not allowing players to wear hijabs is a safety concern, not a religious one.

"It is not at all a question of religion," Carole Fortin said. "The referee of the match is himself a Muslim. There is no place for racism here." [Link]

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Complaints about religious discrimination in workplace on rise

Sehan Nabry, a school bus driver from Burnsville, said her boss confiscated her prayer mats and complained that her ritual hand and feet washing messed up an office bathroom.

Nabry said giving up her daily prayers, one of the five pillars of Islam, is not an option. Instead she did what an increasing number of Muslims are doing in Minnesota and around the country _ she sued.

"People told me I should just leave the job and find a new job, but I was thinking if I leave this job, theres no guarantee there wont be another manager like him," Nabry said. "I came to America for freedom. Why should I walk away?"

In Minnesota, the number of Muslims per year who filed federal complaints alleging religious discrimination at work climbed from four a decade ago to 66 last year. Nationally, the number has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.

Federal officials point to both the rising Muslim population and a post-Sept. 11 backlash as reasons for the increase. The ensuing lawsuits put the cherished American right to religious freedom against what many employers say is simply an effort to run an efficient business. [Link]

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Edinburgh race hate hoaxer avoids charges

In November, a 15yr old Sikh boy ran to the Police and media claiming that he was assaulted by 4 white youths as he walked through Pilrig Park in Edinburgh.

He told police that the gang taunted him with racist remarks, then assaulted him by punching and kicking him, before they ripped off his bandana style headscarf and cut of his long hair.

This supposed race attack was seen to be even more outrageous than any other loathsome race hatred because Sikh’s believe their hair to be sacred and should never have it cut. A spokesman for the Sikh community said that pinning down a Sikh and cutting of his hair was “tantamount to killing him.”

The Scottish media and politicians went into overdrive and more than 200 Sikhs from throughout Britain came to Edinburgh, to march in protest. Lothian and Borders Police even set up dedicated text and e-mail service for information and paid visits to local secondary schools in pursuit of the evil white racists....

On Christmas Eve the truth emerged however that the teenager made up the whole sorry tale as some kind of attention seeking tantrum, after a second interview with police. He admitted punching himself in the face and cutting off his own hair.

Despite a report having been sent to the Procurator Fiscal, it has emerged this month that no charges will be brought against the teenager for wasting police time because a prosecution was deemed not to be in the public interest. [Link]

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Everett man who faked hate crime convicted of arson

A Pakistani immigrant accused of burning down his grocery store in Everett and trying to make it look like a hate crime has been convicted of arson.

Mizra Akram, 40, could face as much as five years in prison for the crime. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman convicted him Wednesday.

Akram owned Continental Spices, a Pakistani and Middle Eastern grocery. Prosecutors said he recruited an acquaintance, Naveed Khan, to help set the July 2004 fire after the store's finances worsened.

The government alleged that the two tried to remove attention from themselves by spray-painting anti-Muslim graffiti around the store. Khan previously pleaded guilty to arson and testified against Akram. [Link]

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Day My Skin Came Off

In this piece, Sonny Suchdev, an activist and member of Outernational, a progressive 5-member band, writes about the time he crumpled to pieces in a New York subway after having his turban ripped off his head by a stranger.

When I was in the fifth grade, a classmate yanked off my dastar, my turban, on the playground one day, perhaps because it seemed funny to him. I will never forget how I felt walking around school the rest of the day with the black cloth of my dastar hanging off my joora, a Punjabi word for bun, because I didn’t know how to put it back on. Humiliated. Enraged. So so alone.

Now seventeen years later it’s the same [stuff].

I’m riding the F train like usual in Brooklyn when dozens of kids – perhaps in junior high – get in my subway car on their way home from school. The train is bustling with adolescent energy.

As the train stops at 4th Avenue, I hear a boy yell “Give me that!” as he and his friends run out the train door. The next thing I realize, my dastar has been yanked completely off my head. My uncovered joora dangles, and I am in complete and utter shock. Everyone on the train is staring at me. Other kids from the school are both laughing and shaking their heads in disbelief. Not knowing how to react, I stand up quickly, look out the doors of the train car and see a group of young boys of color running down the stairs. Startled and confused, I pick it up my dastar from the grimy platform and get back in the train....

I get to a corner of the platform and break down in despair, remembering fifth grade vividly, feeling so angry and exhausted from living in this country. The twenty something years of this shit is going through me at once – the slurs, the obnoxious stares, the go back to your countries, the threats, the towel/rag/tomato/condom/tumor heads, all of it. But somehow pulling off my turban hurts more than anything. Maybe it’s the symbolism of my identity wrapped up in this one piece of cloth that, like my brown skin, I wear everyday. [Link]

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

UK: Turban Taunt Thugs Batter Sikh Student

Thugs battered a Sikh student after accusing him of of having a bomb in his turban.

The neds pounced as 22-year-old Lakhivar Singh waited for a bus after he finished work as a part-time supermarket shelf stacker.

They ripped off his turban, punched him in the face and kicked him as he lay on the ground before security guards chased them away

Lakhivar at one point thought he would be killed in the attack on Saturday at Renfrew's Braehead Shopping Centre.

The Paisley Univesity student said the attack came after the gang started taunting him. [Link]

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

For First Time School May Be Held Legally Liable for Failing to Protect Sikh Child

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ("Division") found "probable cause" that a middle school failed to meet its obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination when it did not take adequate measures to protect a Sikh student from bias-based harassment. The harassment and abuse was so severe that the Sikh student's parents decided to send him back to his native England to finish his schooling.

The Sikh Coalition worked with the student's father to file the initial complaint and cooperated in the Division's investigation.

First Incident

The Sikh student, Kabir Singh, was a seventh grader at Marlboro Middle School in Marlboro, New Jersey at the time he was subject to harassment. According to the Division's Finding of Probable Cause, on November 19, 2002 a student touched Kabir's patka because another student dared him to do so. The student who touched Kabir's patka was suspended for a day and the student who initiated the dare spent the day in Saturday detention. The students also apologized to Kabir afterwards.

Second Incident

On February 12, 20003, approximately 3 months after the first incident, an 8th grade student hit Kabir on the head and called him "Osama." Later that day the student again referred to Kabir as "Osama" in a hallway and a friend of the student forcibly bumped into Kabir resulting in an injury to his head.

After reporting the incident to school authorities Kabir was kept in school but the school failed to notify his parents of what had taken place. Kabir called his parents from school to come pick him up in a very distressed state.

Later that night, Kabir's parents found that he was having difficulty maintaining his balance so they brought him to a hospital. Doctors at the hospital found that Kabir had suffered a injury to the head and contusions. Kabir also complained of headaches for weeks after the incident. A doctor recommended bed rest so Kabir stayed home from school.

School officials initially blamed and want to discipline Kabir for the incident because he acknowledged accidently touching the attacker while turning around to face his attacker and protect his head from further attacks. They however dropped the disciplinary action as a result of a letter from the Sikh Coalition stating Kabir's account of what happened and his parent's protests.

Fearing for Kabir's safety and not satisfied with the school's efforts to protect him, Kabir's parents made the difficult decision to send Kabir back to his native England to finish his schooling. He continues his education in England. [Sikh Coalition Community Advisory]

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Discrimination lives on

Soon after [September 11], we were all warned that Muslims were not terrorists. Christian preachers and Muslims were sounding that message after it was reported that a select few people actually had committed acts of violence against Arabs, and it's certain that a strain of mistrust and misconceptions grew out of Sept. 11 and previous terrorist attacks. Even now, our society has not outgrown it.

One Muslim, a student of international business at Mississippi State, said in an interview that he feels uncomfortable even going to Wal-Mart and that he often receives fearful and intimidated looks and gestures from others.

"Some college students will look at me strongly as if I am up to something ... I think because of my Middle Eastern looks and my beard, people think that all Muslims are terrorists or supporters of UBL [Osama bin Laden]. In fact, I hate UBL. Despite this, I am seen as one of 'them,'" he said. He added that he has had problems with police officers in other cities because of his ethnicity. [Link]

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Justice for the Forgotten Internees

Art Shibayama is an American who served in the Army during the Korean War. Like many veterans, Cpl. Shibayama was not born in the United States. He was born in Lima, Peru, to Japanese Peruvian parents. Until 1942, Shibayama, his two brothers and three sisters lived comfortably with their parents and grandparents, all of whom had thriving businesses. However, after America entered World War II, his family was forcibly removed from Peru, transported to the United States and held in a government-run internment camp in Crystal City, Tex.

Like many Japanese American families, Shibayama's family lost everything they owned. But the greater injustice occurred when his grandparents were sent to Japan in exchange for American prisoners of war. Their family never saw them again.

Shibayama and his family were among the estimated 2,300 people of Japanese descent from 13 Latin American countries who were taken from their homes and forcibly transported to the Crystal City camp during World War II. The U.S. government orchestrated and financed the deportation of Japanese Latin Americans for use in prisoner-of-war exchanges with Japan. Eight hundred people were sent across the Pacific, while the remaining Japanese Latin Americans were held in camps without due process until after the war ended.

Further study of the events surrounding the deportation and incarceration of Japanese Latin Americans is merited and necessary. While most Americans are aware of the internment of Japanese Americans, few know about U.S. government activities in other countries that were fueled by prejudice against people of Japanese ancestry.

That is why we have introduced H.R. 662, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act. We should review U.S. military and State Department directives requiring the relocation, detention and deportation of Japanese Latin Americans to Axis countries. Then we should recommend appropriate remedies. It is the right thing to do to affirm our commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the formation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, whose findings led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It provided an official apology and financial redress to most of the Japanese Americans who were subjected to wrongdoing and confined in camps during World War II. Those loyal Americans were vindicated by the fact that not a single documented case of sabotage or espionage was committed by a Japanese American during that time. This act was the culmination of a half-century of struggle to bring justice to those who were denied it. But work to rectify and close this regrettable chapter in our nation's history remains unfinished.

U.S. involvement in the expulsion and internment of people of Japanese descent who lived in various Latin American countries is thoroughly recorded in government files. These civilians were robbed of their freedom -- their civil and human rights thrown by the wayside -- as they were kidnapped from nations not directly involved in World War II. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians acknowledged these federal actions in detaining and interning civilians of enemy or foreign nationality, particularly those of Japanese ancestry, but the commission failed to fully examine and report on the historical documents that exist in distant archives.

Today, the Day of Remembrance, marks the anniversary of the 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066 -- the document that made it possible to intern thousands of Japanese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans and Japanese Latin Americans during World War II. Though it is important that we remember what took place, it is more critical that we act, for justice delayed is justice denied. And for the dwindling number of surviving internees who became Americans, such as Cpl. Art Shibayama, justice has been delayed far too long. They deserve our attention, our respect and the official recognition of a country that is willing to heal and to make amends. [Link]


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Saturday, February 17, 2007

NYPD liaison helps build bridges to Muslim community

Call him the middle man between the city’s growing Islamic community and the NYPD.

Last week, Erhan Yildirim, the city’s top community coordinator between cops and the Muslim community, came to the 70th Precinct Community Council meeting to explain his role as a liaison.

There are between 300,000 and 350,000 people living in Brooklyn who are Muslim, he said....

ildirim said part of his job is explaining the Islamic faith and religion to police.

“For example, when a Muslim woman doesn’t shake their hands, it is because of our faith. Those little things, like when you enter the mosque why you have to take off your shoes if it is not an emergency,” he said.

On the flip side, Yildirim said it is up to his office to visit various mosques to let congregants know that if there’s an emergency and police have to respond to a mosque, they might not have time to take their shoes off.

“Those little things make a difference,” he said. [Link]

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Montrealers attend forum on reasonable accommodation

Four hundred Montrealers attended a public forum Thursday evening to talk about reasonable accommodation, a hot-button issue that prompted Premier Jean Charest to launch a government commission after a Quebec town passed a controversial conduct code for immigrants last month.

Manjit Singh, a member of the Sikh community and the director of McGill University's Chaplaincy Services, said the Montreal public forum sponsored by CBC Radio was important because it helped clear up a lot of misconceptions.

"Just because I wear a turban, it should not be an issue for anyone," he said. "What they need to worry about is what is inside my head and not what's on my head."

Singh said some politicians are using the issue to divide people rather than promote tolerance. He said that might backfire since an election is expected to be called next week.

"If this becomes an election issue, which it seems to be headed for, people have to be able to make their choices, and it's better to be well-informed and then choose, rather than choose out of ignorance," he said.

The issue of reasonable accommodation reached a fever pitch in January after a municipal council in the Mauricie town of Hérouxville adopted a list of rules for immigrants, which was amended earlier this week after much public flak. [Link]

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'Amu': Politically charged lesson

Within hours of the death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on Oct. 31, 1984, marauding gangs of armed men swiftly sought revenge.

Her Sikh bodyguards were blamed for the assassination, and in remarkably short order the avengers located Sikh households in New Delhi and burned or slaughtered their innocent inhabitants.

As panic swept through the slums where many Sikhs lived, police and politicians stood by, denying help to stricken citizens and doing nothing to stop the rampage. The death toll inDelhi rose to 5,000; thousands more were injured.

With her film Amu, director Shonali Bose hoped to do what numerous inquiries have failed to: tell the story of the massacre to the world and obtain justice and reparation for the families of the dead and injured victims. [Link]

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Guardian (UK): Anti-terror stunts and a barrage of propaganda are demonising Muslims and making Islamophobia the acceptable face of racism

The scapegoating of the Muslim community has become the stock in trade of politicians, the Conservatives recently accusing the Muslim Council of Britain of separatist tendencies, and New Labour all too frequently indulging in the same kind of refrain - notably during the most disgraceful period of its domestic rule last autumn, when cabinet ministers were falling over themselves to make disparaging remarks about the Muslim community.

The argument typically starts from the global terrorist threat and ends up by suggesting the Muslim community nurtures and sustains such a terrorist mentality by its failure to integrate. Jack Straw squirmed about the veil, Ruth Kelly inveighed against imams, Alan Johnson proposed that faith schools admit up to 25% not of the same faith (patently directed against the Muslim community), and John Reid warned a Muslim audience of "fanatics looking to groom and brainwash [your] children ... for suicide bombing". Amid this panic-inducing rhetoric, there was little acknowledgment that Muslims suffer more discrimination than any other section of society, no recognition that every attack on their community can only intensify that prejudice. Imagine what it feels like to be a Muslim, stalked by a constant sense of distrust and suspicion? As a society we may condemn racism, but when it comes to Muslims, it seems to be somehow acceptable, from the cabinet downwards.

And what is to blame for this failure to integrate? Prejudice, perhaps? Discrimination? Racism? No, according to David Cameron, Ruth Kelly and many others, the cause would appear to be multiculturalism. Pause for a moment and spot the slippage in the argument. It is no longer only about Muslims but all our ethnic minorities. For enshrined in the principle of multiculturalism is the idea that the white community does not insist on the assimilation of ethnic minorities but recognises the importance of pluralism. It is not about separatism but a respect for difference - from colour and dress to customs and religion. The attack on multiculturalism is the thin end of the racism wedge. It seeks to narrow the acceptable boundaries of difference at a time when Britain is becoming ever more diverse and heterogeneous.

None of this is to deny the importance of finding ways of integrating the Muslim community. It is hardly surprising, though, that many young Muslims feel alienated. They face worse discrimination in education and employment than any other ethnic minority, Anglo-American policy in the Middle East has had the effect of demonising the Muslim world, and the Muslim community here finds itself the victim of a barrage of hostile propaganda. A major assault on discrimination involving the government, the media and the Muslim community is long overdue. But while British foreign policy so profoundly discriminates against the Muslim world, and New Labour remains in denial about the connection between domestic Muslim attitudes and its foreign policy, there seems little prospect of making a new start. [Link]

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hate charges drops, but group of Jewish teens still face heavy jail time

Hate crime charges have been dropped against the five Jewish teens arrested for attacking a Pakistani man outside a Midwood Dunkin’ Donuts late last year.

Despite allegations that the five teens called 24-year-old Amber Shahid a terrorist and demanded that he leave the country, hate crime charges on which they were initially arrested were mysteriously absent when a criminal indictment was handed down on February 1.

[The teens] approached Shahid as he ate an ice cream cone outside the Dunkin’ Donuts at 1524 Avenue M and began shouting at him, calling him a “terrorist motherf—ker.”

“You f—ked our country,” they allegedly screamed. “Why are you here?”

The suspects allegedly yelled, “Go back to your country” before lunging at the 24-year-old, striking him repeatedly in the face and about the body, officials said.

According to the indictment, one of the teens knocked the ice cream out of Shahid’s hand and spit in his face.

Prosecutors allege that the teens kicked, punched and threw him against a brick wall.

Through it all, one of the teens held him from behind so he could not fight back, the indictment states, adding that another teen was armed with brass knuckles.

The attack left Shahid with a black eye, swollen face and bruises peppering his entire torso, police said. [Link]

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EU: Minority report

There are 785 [Members of the European Parliament]. Of which only nine are non-white. Why is no one up in arms about it?....

With 785 representatives from 27 member countries and chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg, it is the world's only directly elected international chamber. It represents a more diverse range of people than almost any other - 492 million European citizens. It is also almost completely white.... There are just nine non-white MEPs here, 1.1% of the total....

Neena Gill was elected as a Labour MEP alongside Moraes eight years ago. She is the only Asian woman in parliament. "Nobody would believe me when I said, 'Britannique'. Only two nights ago I was at a function and this Belgian found it really hard to accept that I was an MEP because I was wearing a sari," she says. "I hear phrases such as, 'Madame Gill is wearing oriental costume.' When they realise you're Indian, people say, 'Why aren't you wearing that spot on your head?' It is the sort of thing that would have been said in Britain 35 years ago."....

The few non-white MEPs try to avoid being stereotyped as token experts on race or immigration. But it is a telling sign of their rarity that many are inundated with appeals from people in other countries who share their ethnicity or religion. As well as being the only Asian woman in parliament, Gill is the only Sikh too. She says she receives "almost weekly" calls from Sikh groups in Italy and France who are attacked because of "the turban issue". [Link]

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

US News & World Report: Is There a 'Flying While Muslim' Bias?

There's a new term of art, "Flying While Muslim," being used by some Islamic activist groups to protest what they characterize as discrimination by U.S. airlines against Muslim passengers.

The catchphrase is intended to draw parallels to the American phenomenon known as "driving while black," which refers to the tendency of law enforcement in some areas to disproportionately pull over African-American drivers. But other, more-moderate Islamic groups say their activist counterparts are exaggerating the degree to which it's taking place. [Link]

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Op-ed: Sikh Denied Entry to California Bar

As has been widely reported, Sanjum Paul Sing Samagh, a UC Irvine medical student who always wears a Sikh turban in public, was turned away from a Costa Mesa bar that does not allow its patrons to wear hats....

So what should the Annex have done on the night of Jan. 25?

It's simple. The management should have realized that its policy did not anticipate someone like Samagh.

Every rule has exceptions. This was one such occasion.

Think about it. What would the Annex do for a cancer patient wearing an inoffensive cap to hide his bald head? Tell him to go someplace else to dance?

If you did, how would you sleep at night?....

As civil-rights stages go, the OC bar is, at best, a symbol of more serious confrontations.

Sikhs have been taken off commercial flights because of the ceremonial daggers their faith can require them to carry.

In Europe, the failure of devout Muslims to assimilate in dress has sent shock waves through France and Britain. Distrust of Muslim immigrants fuels the debate.

So far, Samagh is asking for is an apology and a change of bar policy.

That should be so easy.

That is, unless the Annex has a thing about serving Sikhs.

In which case, the bar deserves to lose its hat. [Link]

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Friday, February 09, 2007

UK: Sikh Racially Abused

A HORSHAM resident was racially abused by teenagers while he waited for a train.

Police said the Sikh man was called 'a bomber' by two 16 year old boys dressed in black, who threw snowballs at him outside Horsham Railway Station at 9.40am on Thursday morning. [Link]

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UK: Lowestoft man facing jail

A man who launched a racist attack on a Sikh supermarket manager, thinking he was a Muslim, is facing jail after being found guilty of the offence.

Steven Kent, 25, from Lowestoft, turned up drunk at a Sainsbury's supermarket with Stuart Cameron and Mark Hattam two hours before it was due to open.

As they tried to force their way into the store at Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, Kent and Cameron hurled racist abuse at manager Gurminder Singh, based on their belief he was a Muslim.

When Mr Singh, known as Bobby, told them he was a Sikh, the attackers rained a flurry of blows on him, leaving him with a fractured cheekbone, the Old Bailey in London, was told.

Kent, of Kirkley Cliff Road, Lowestoft, was yesterday, found guilty of racially aggravated grievous bodily harm as well as a charge of affray for attacking another Sainsbury's employee, who rushed to help Mr Singh....

Witnesses saw Mr Singh being punched in the face repeatedly then kicked as he lay on the ground. His colleague David Wilson tried to pull the attackers away, but was himself punched several times in the face by Kent and Hattam, sustaining minor injuries, the court heard. [Link]

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Sikh wants apology from bar owner: He was denied entry for wearing a turban

A turban-wearing Rancho Bernardo medical school student claims he was discriminated against when he was turned away from a popular college hangout.

The bar in Orange County has a “no hat” rule.

But Sanjum Paul Singh Samagh, an American-born Sikh, said he tried to explain to the bar owner that his black turban was a centuries-old religious symbol, not a fashion statement.

“It may be a small thing, just getting into a bar to have a beer with my classmates, but it's the tiny things in life that add up,” Samagh said. “If I don't fight the fight, then what happens the next time?”

His classmates at the University of California Irvine Medical School have declared a boycott against the bar....

[Samagh] and his parents, Pam and Paul Samagh of Rancho Bernardo, said they have joined forces with the Washington, D.C.-based Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, formally requesting an apology....

Paul Samagh said the biggest problem he experienced living in San Diego County was people mistaking him for a Muslim, because of the turban and beard that he and most Sikhs wear. It became dangerous for Sikhs for a brief period after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, he said.

“People . . . threatened to kill me more than once,” said Paul Samagh, who owns gas stations now but ran a gourmet food store in Poway at the time. “I just stopped going to work after 9/11.” [Link]

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Common values key to equality, book says

Canada should articulate a set of common values to newcomers to promote social integration and protect equality rights, says a new book on diversity in Canada.

The book, featuring essays by leading scholars in the field, talks about the "warning signs" and "stress points" within multiculturalism, as well as growing evidence that members of certain visible-minority groups are falling behind their white immigrant counterparts.

"We don't yet have the underclasses that are in Europe," said Leslie Seidle, a co-editor of Belonging, Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada. "But we should be concerned about the people who are falling behind, which could lead to outbursts of violence and civil disobedience."

The book will be published this coming Monday by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal-based think tank....

Canada's history as a country with English- and French-speaking communities, indigenous peoples and large immigrant populations creates a unique experience of diversity, the authors point out. The country permits Sikh RCMP officers to wear their turbans and Sikh children in schools to carry the ceremonial dagger. Muslim women wear the hijab with less controversy than in France and Britain.

And yet this very celebration of diversity has weakened the sense of a common national culture or shared national identity and set of traditions. [Link]

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Do ethnic enclaves impede integration?

What are the long-term consequences of this explosion in ethnic enclaves? Does self-isolation impede integration? Will the children of these immigrants eventually blend into Canadian society like previous generations, or will their status as visible minorities block their progress no matter where they live?

Mostly, it's too early to tell. But one thing is already clear: Multiculturalism isn't working that well for visible-minority newcomers.

In a landmark study this year, University of Toronto sociologist Jeffrey Reitz and co-author Rupa Banerjee concluded that the offspring of visible minority immigrants integrate at a slower rate than the children of white immigrants. They are less likely to identify as "Canadian" and report more incidents of discrimination....

Some researchers are beginning to question whether the nation's famed multiculturalism policy -- first articulated in 1971 by prime minister Pierre Trudeau and still considered a model in Europe -- may in fact be exacerbating differences. [Link]

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'No hats' rule protested

Is a turban the same as a hat?

That question has stoked a debate about religious freedom that's pitting a local medical student against a Costa Mesa nightclub.

Sanjum Paul Singh Samagh, a 24-year-old living on campus at UC Irvine, says Sikh attire cost him entry to the Pierce Street Annex bar, where the dress code prohibits hats.

On Jan. 25, Samagh arrived at the watering hole with about 20 friends. The bar's owner refused to let him in, citing the dress code, Samagh and several friends say.

"It's not a fashion statement I'm trying to make," Samagh recalled telling the owner, explaining that his black cotton turban, or dastaar, is worn for religious reasons....

The incident's legal underpinnings are unclear.

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, said that under state law, the bar would only be liable if it intentionally discriminated. The dress code "may burden Sikhs ... more than it burdens others, but ... that's not something the bar has to worry about," Volokh said. Under federal law, Samagh might have a case, because rulings have varied, Volokh added....

Friends of Samagh's who were at Pierce Street Annex say that while they disagree with Adsit, the bar owner was polite. "He was not disrespectful," friend Paola Case recalled. "He said, 'Ma'am, this is not a policy intended to discriminate against people.'" [Link]

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is the Turban "In"?

Bad hair days are out. Turbans are in. But will the public welcome them?

According to a FOX News report, designers such as Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, and Prada are offering fashionable turbans with a whopping $700 price tag. And Prince, J-Lo, Katie Holmes, and Mendes are donning them for illustrious events....

Turbans were very popular in the flapper era, but were also worn into the '40s, '50s, and '60s by famous stars like Joan Crawford and Ava Gardner.

For centuries, men and women from many different Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Central and South Asian cultures have worn turbans. But since the 9/11 attacks, some tuban-wearing foreigners have been attacked, the attackers thinking they were turban-wearing Muslims, when in fact the victims were turban-wearing "Skihs." [sic]

The former style director for E! Networks, Elycia Rubin, told FOX News, that turban wearers "need to be careful not to offend people for whom turbans have religious or cultural significance." [Link]

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The Dartmouth on DNSI's Valarie Kaur's Film

In the months following Sept. 11, 2001, Samir Akhter, then eight years old, can recall being called "Bin Laden's son" by other boys at school. The boys would smash Akhter, who is of Pakistani descent, in the face with their lunch pails while taunting him. As years passed, however, the Bin Laden taunts ended.

Now when Akhter is teased, his offenders call him Saddam Hussein.

This is just one of the stories recounted in "Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath," a documentary presented by Dartmouth's South Asian group Milan and other cosponsoring organizations, in 105 Dartmouth Hall on Monday night. The film, which was edited down from 130 hours of raw footage, follows filmmaker Valarie Kaur in a cross-country journey to explore hate crimes and prejudice after 9/11....

"Our hope is that the film opens up a space for some deep dialogue," Kaur said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "There's a lot that we carry around inside ourselves -- no matter who we are." [Link]

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UCONN Paper on Screening of DNSI's Valarie Kaur's Film

A full audience sat quietly at The Jorgensen Center For The Performing Arts Tuesday night and awaited the premiere of "Divided We Fall," a documentary about hate crimes in America after Sept. 11, which explored the question of who counts as an American in a world divided. [Link]

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Policy keeps Muslim passenger off public bus

Bus driver Gene Bandlow says he was just following policy when he asked a woman with an Islamic veil to step off his bus last July. He didn't believe passenger Tasha Douglas was a terrorist, nor did he intend to discriminate against her religion, said Bandlow, who has been driving a city bus for 6 1/2 years.

"I'm not an idiot," said Bandlow. He said he decided to come forward after letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press suggested he believed Douglas was a terrorist.

"I didn't see her as a security risk, it was just a policy I had to enforce," said Bandlow, who compared the transit system's then-rule against passengers having their faces covered to its rule against eating on the bus.

Bandlow, 37, said he would not have told her she could not wear the veil had he known she was wearing it for religious reasons. Since September, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, working on Douglas' behalf, have been in talks with transit officials about the incident.

Douglas' lawyer, Miriam Aukerman, said she finds it hard to believe Bandlow did not recognize Douglas' garb as being religious. "If that's the case, I think it points to the need for diversity training within" (the transit system), she said. "That's a fairly common form of dress among Muslims."

"Our issue is not with the driver," Aukerman said. "He's an individual who made a mistake because The Rapid as an institution had a policy that was wrong." [Link]

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Africa: Anger at Zanzibar veil driver ban

Muslims on the island of Zanzibar are protesting over a police ban on women driving whilst wearing veils.
Police commander Ramadhan Khatib says the ban, aimed at reducing traffic accidents, takes effect immediately.

But Muslim leaders say it is as an attack on the religion observed by some 95% of the island's population.

Police recorded more than 600 accidents last year, but there are few women drivers on Zanzibar and no indications if any were caused by veiled drivers.

"A survey conducted last year showed that the number of accidents is on the rise within the island and we have to reduce the causes. Veils have the ability to obstruct the sight of the driver and we will not allow them," said Mr Khatib.

But Ali Hazan, leader of the Muslim Awareness Campaign group in Zanzibar, says the police directive is against the teachings of the religion that requires women to wear the veil and they will not accept it. [Link]

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Quebec town spawns uneasy debate

The hamlet of Saint-Roch-de-Mékinac, home to 308 souls, perches on the banks of the St. Maurice River, hard by the verdant hills of La Mauricie National Park.

According to the most recent Statistics Canada figures, there are precisely zero foreign-born residents in the town and zero visible minorities, neither of which has deterred Saint-Roch's civic leaders from adopting a code of conduct for new arrivals.

The document, which was approved unanimously at a council meeting Friday night, mirrors a citizens' code adopted by nearby Hérouxville, which solemnly forbids stoning women, the donning of burqas, and wearing Sikh ceremonial daggers in school....

In a release late yesterday, the Canadian Islamic Congress and Canadian Muslim Forum said they plan a joint complaint against the Hérouxville resolution listing behavioural norms, arguing the norms violate Section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which calls for preservation and enhancement of Canadians' multicultural heritage.

Clearly, what some quarters see as special treatment is prompting others in Quebec to wonder whether the province has reached the outer limit of official multiculturalism policy.

Some of the rhetoric surrounding the discussion has been characterized as xenophobic, prompting warnings from race-relations experts about the dangers of going too far....

Premier Jean Charest has brushed off the Hérouxville controversy as an "isolated incident," while Health Minister Philippe Couillard was more categorical.

"This in my view, is an exaggerated phenomenon that is linked with ignorance, with not knowing others," he said last week. [Link]

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Sikh film festival raises awareness

Over 11 hours, in 13 movies, Sikh culture was highlighted in Cubberley Auditorium on Saturday.

The movie marathon was the second-annual Spinning Wheel Film Festival, an event sponsored by the Stanford Sikh Students Association.

“The medium of film helps convey the Sikh culture to a very broad audience,” said Manvir Singh ‘07, president of the Stanford Sikh Students Association.

The featured films ranged from “Who Do You Think You Are?” — a documentary by acclaimed “Bend It Like Beckham” director Gurinder Chadha — to the post-Sept. 11 drama “The Gold Bracelet” to the animated feature “Saka Sirhind.” The festival played host to a number of different film genres and styles, while providing illuminating insight into the Sikh experience — from centuries past to the modern day.

From “Who Do You Think You Are?”, which examined British Sikhs’ cultural experiences, to “A Dream in Doubt,” which focused on hate crimes against Sikhs following Sept. 11, the films touched on powerful experiences in the lives of Sikhs.

The films were shown in clusters of three to four hours, with each cluster aimed at a specific age group. The festival also gave viewers the opportunity to interact with some of the films’ actors and directors in post-film question and answer sessions....

There is a feeling among Sikhs that a lack of awareness among the general public has contributed to a post-Sept. 11 backlash against the religious community. The Spinning Wheel Film Festival was founded in Toronto, Canada four years ago in an effort to combat this ignorance and to spread knowledge of Sikh culture. [Link]

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

DNSI's Valarie Kaur's Film to be Shown at UCONN

A premiere showing of Divided We Fall: America in the Aftermath, a full-length documentary about hate crimes after 9/11 will take place Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free.

The film was created by Valarie Kaur, a student from Stanford University, and award-winning director and producer Sharat Rajuto [sic].

They will answer questions at the end of the program.

After the attacks on Sept. 11, some so-called “patriots” across the country burned homes of Muslims or people they thought looked like Arabs, vandalized sacred buildings, and killed people.

According to the FBI, such anti-Muslim hate crimes increased from 354 in 2000, to 1,501 in 2001.

Divided We Fall weaves expert analysis into a cross-country road trip that confronts the forces dividing Americans in times of crisis, to discover who counts as “one of us” in a world divided into “us” and “them.”

Kaur, 20, a third-generation Sikh American, had planned a different topic for her senior thesis.

But after 9/11 and the murder of a family friend on Sept. 15, she set out across the U.S. asking, “Who counts as an American?” “Who looks like an American?” “Who looks like an enemy?”

She videotaped Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and other Americans, as they recounted their experiences.

In her own small California farming community, a man from her hometown was killed, another was nearly beaten to death, and a woman was stabbed.

Her senior thesis included a 30-minute video called Targeting the Turban: Sikh Americans in the Aftermath of 9/11.

The project first garnered awards as a thesis and book, before being made into a full-length documentary.

A post-film workshop with Kaur and Rajuto [sic] will be held in the Student Union Ballroom on Feb. 7, from noon to 2 p.m. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, contact angela.rola@uconn.edu.

Also on Feb. 7 at 4:30 p.m., there will be a reflection session at the Asian American Cultural Center.

Both Kaur and Rajuto [sic] will be present. [Link]

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Friday, February 02, 2007

UK: 'Racist' Claim As Turban Is Forced Off

A BRIERFIELD Sikh has made an official complaint to the police after he says he was forced to publicly take off his turban and let down his hair after being arrested.

Newsagent Arpan Singh (21), who was accused of having stolen goods at his shop on Colne Road, claims the custody officer's orders were racist.

As a central part of their religion and as a symbol of spirituality, Sikhs do not cut their hair and wear it on top of their head in a bun covered by a turban. It is mandatory for all adult males. The turban is the outward manifestation of a man's religion and makes the Sikh instantly recognisable.

But on this occasion Mr Singh says he was not wearing the full turban, which is like a long scarf wound around the head, but the "patka", a small covering 30cms square, over the hair and held in place by an elastic band....

After being arrested at his shop, Mr Singh was taken to the custody suite at Burnley Police Station, where, when requested, he took off his shoes, some friendship bands, his necklace and the waist cord from his tracksuit trousers.

He said: "I tried to explain to the officer that it was part of my religion that I did not take off my turban, but he did not want to know and kept talking to other officers. He said that I had no choice but to take it off and feeling intimidated I did so in front of all the other people, who were laughing. He said I also had to take the elastic band out of my hair and let my hair down. I felt humiliated." [Link]

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Book Review: Once in a Promised Land

After 9/11, Suddenly Suspect

This is a post-9/11 narrative, and if, as our president has stated, you're either for us or against us, the star-crossed couple here may at first appear to be on the "against" side. But the author asks us to put aside all notions of "terrorists, veils, oil . . . billionaires, bombers, and belly-dancers . . . turbans, burqas, or violent culture." This is a story about an ordinary couple living in Albuquerque who happen to have come to this country some years ago from Jordan. The husband, Jassim, has a PhD in water management; his only passion is the love of water and how it moves. Although he's well-to-do and seemingly safe and well-liked, he's anxious in America. He relies on routine, particularly early morning swims, to keep himself calm. He's cautious and wants nothing more than a peaceful life.

His wife, Salwa, is also well-educated (in fact, she met Jassim back in Jordan by attending one of his lectures when she was a student). But someone who didn't like Salwa might describe her as a piece of work. By one of those coincidences that happen in life and in novels, Salwa was born in America and spent a sliver of her baby-life here before her family went home to Jordan. Maybe it's that American birth that makes her just a little bit mindless and a little bit materialistic, a little bit unable to see anything beyond the end of her own nose....

When the towers fall in New York, these people are as stunned and appalled as everyone else, but at first they don't think that the terrible event has much to do with them. Then, when a Sikh gas station attendant in Phoenix is killed " in retaliation," they get scared. "People are stupid," Salwa says, " Stupid and macho. . . . throwing their weight around if something happens that they don't like. Only it doesn't matter to them if they get the people who did whatever it is that they are angry about, just as long as they've done something large and loud." Add to that the fact that rational societies are only as rational as their craziest citizen, and the news for this couple isn't good. [Link]

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sikh Teen Assaulted

A MacArthur High School student was allegedly attacked by a group of males on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3:29 p.m. while walking along Gardiners Avenue in Levittown, school officials confirmed.

"We have been contacted by the 8th Precinct," Assistant Superintendent Victor Longaro said, adding that the student is a Sikh. "We also spoke with the student to see if there was anything he needed or anything we could do to help him."

Longaro also confirmed that the student was in attendance at school on Monday morning, Jan. 29.

Longaro stressed this was an active investigation and could not release further details. [Link]

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Non-Muslim students experience a day 'Behind the Veil'

"Behind the Veil," an event Sara Yasin, a junior in textile and apparel management, said she thought up last summer, invited students to experience firsthand the life of Muslim women by mirroring their attire for a day, which includes covering their hair and entire bodies minus their faces and hands.

Yasin encouraged participants to abide by Muslim guidelines, such as not eating pork or drinking alcohol when wearing the hijab.

Wednesday evening, the organizers of the event along with a panel of female Muslim students sat to talk to the participants about past experiences and impressions from the day.

While one student said she participated "out of sheer curiosity," Meghan Witzke, a junior in graphic design, said she participated because she thought it was an interesting concept.

"I didn't get any kind of weird looks [while wearing the hijab]," she said.

Witzke said she sensed people were looking at her less than when her hair is uncovered, which she guessed was out of respect.

She said understanding the lives of Muslim women wearing hijabs on a daily basis could not be achieved without experiencing it firsthand.[Link]

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Court told that savage attack on shop manager was racist

A SAVAGE attack was launched on a supermarket manager by a gang who had been drinking heavily the night before, the Old Bailey was told this week.

It was alleged that three 19-year-olds, Mark Hattam, of Ranleigh Walk, Harpenden, Stuart Cameron, of Glemsford Drive, Harpenden, and Steven Kent, of Lowestoft, turned up drunk at Sainsbury's in the town two hours before it was due to open on Sunday, May 28, last year.

When duty manager Gurminder Singh, who is in his thirties, tried to stop them forcing their way in, the gang punched and kicked him, leaving him with a fractured cheekbone.

All three pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray and Kent and Hattam also deny racially aggravated grievous bodily harm. Cameron is pleading guilty to the latter charge.

Prosecutor Jamie De Burgos said the three teenagers had arrived at the store in a state of intoxication during what was a Bank Holiday weekend. The store opened at 10am and as staff were arriving early for work that morning, so did the three defendants.

They appeared at the front door and tried to force their way in by pressing the glass doors. Mr Singh, a Sikh of Asian appearance, opened the door to speak to them.

He was immediately abused about the opening time of the store and was told they had fouled the supermarket lift. They then turned to his racial origin, accusing him of being a Muslim before he corrected them and said he was of Sikh origin.

Mr Singh asked them to leave and a fight broke out. Witnesses saw the duty manager being punched in the face repeatedly then kicked as he lay on the ground trying to protect himself.

His colleague David Wilson tried to pull the men away and was himself punched several times in the face.

The trio began walking away but rushed back to attack Mr Singh again when he got to his feet and started shouting at them. Staff managed to restrain Hattam but both Kent and Cameron fled. [Link]

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About DNSI

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

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The Blog

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The purpose of this web-log is to offer news and commentary in a fluid, dynamic format while our more substantive reports are forthcoming.

Recent Posts
Court orders UPS to pay Jersey City man for religi...
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IRS Kirpan Case Heads to Federal Court
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Bellerose man injured in hate attack
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