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Monday, December 31, 2007

Divided We Fall -- Year in Review

Please click here!


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Sikh community seeks answers after brothers' slayings in Richmond

Two men shuffled down San Pablo Avenue on a wet December night. They passed a burger joint and doughnut shop before pausing at the door to Sahib Indian Restaurant.

One banged on the window. "You open?" he mouthed to his quarry inside.

It was a few minutes past 9 on Thursday night. Ravinder Kalsi, who owned the place with his brother, had locked up minutes earlier. Perhaps hoping to hear better, he turned the lock.

Opening the door became his last act in life.

The killers shot the 30-year-old dead in the doorway. They stepped past him and moved quickly. They touched nothing, said nothing. They found 42-year-old Paramjit Kalsi in the kitchen and shot him.

"It does not look like a robbery. It looks like these two guys went in there to kill," Richmond Detective Sgt. Mitch Peixoto said Friday morning. "That's what worries me. Why?"

The cryptic deaths of two prominent restaurateurs left the East Bay's substantial Sikh community scratching for explanations, as Richmond police reviewed surveillance camera footage and looked for witnesses....

Bal fears the killings could be a hate crime. Police say there is no clear evidence of a hate crime but say they will investigate all possibilities.

"We don't know yet, but going on what we've read in the paper, if they didn't even attempt to get into the register it tells me there's something going on here," [friend Gurman] Bal said. "Just from the facts it looks like they were targeted for who they are. It was a hate crime." [Link]

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays from DNSI

We wish you and yours a joyous holiday season!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Sikhs bring comfort to injured cabdriver

It didn't take long for word to spread through the Sikh community when cabdriver Sukhvir Singh was beaten by a drunken passenger who called him an "Iraqi terrorist" and threatened to kill him.

In the days after the Nov. 24 attack, the area's tight-knit Sikh community worked quickly to help Singh, a Kent resident who moved here from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with his family in 1999.

A national advocacy group, the Sikh Coalition found him an attorney within days. Friends and community members asked if they could help Singh with money. A SeaTac-based Indian radio station shared his story live on the air. Around 400 people attended a candlelight vigil in Singh's honor.

Those closest to the Sikh community say they're not surprised by the swift response to Singh's attack....

Singh says he is grateful for the supporters who have comforted him in the days since he was attacked, but he is eager to return to work.

His doctors have advised him to stay home for much of December. Now he is worried about money.

"Before this, I thought America was a beautiful country, somewhere where people are treated equally," Singh said.

But the 49-year-old husband and father of two says he is not deterred.

"The sympathy has helped," Singh said. "My faith is in the justice system."

The King County Prosecutor's Office has charged Luis Vázquez, the 20-year-old construction worker from Kent who police say attacked Singh, with third-degree assault and one count of malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime law. [Link]

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NYT: Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau. [Link]


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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Megahed's Attorneys Argue Search Of Car Unconstitutional

One of two University of South Florida students accused of transporting explosives has asked the courts to throw out evidence against him, saying the search was racially motivated and illegal.

Students Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed were arrested Aug. 4 after deputies in South Carolina found explosive materials in their car trunk, authorities said. Both remain in federal custody awaiting trial.

In a court document filed Friday, Assistant Federal Public Defender James W. Smith, one of Megahed's attorneys, wrote that the South Carolina deputy who pulled the students over used racial slurs, did not believe the reasonable stories they gave and searched their car without probable cause.

Megahed and Mohamed were stopped for speeding. While in Berkeley County, S.C., sheriff's deputy Lamar Blakely radioed a dispatcher to look up Mohamed's driver's license and registration information and had a conversation with his partner, the court document states.

In that conversation, captured on videotape, Blakely tells his partner Mohamed and Megahed are "graduates of suicide bomber school" and members of the "Taliban," according to the court filing. He also jokes that they have a copy of the Quran with them. At one point, the court document states, Blakely becomes concerned the remarks are being taped.

Even though the driver's license and registration came back clean and neither man had an outstanding warrant, Blakely told his partner he was going to search the car, the document states. [Link]

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Muslim Sues Restaurant For Discrimination

An Atlanta-based restaurant chain is being sued after a job applicant claimed it denied employment to her because of her religious headdress.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Folks Southern Kitchen restaurant chain.

Soumaya Khalifa, a Muslim, is required by her religion to wear a headdress in public.

“The headdress is a sign of modesty. It's part of the dress code for women, for Muslim women,” Khalifa said.

Her attorney said she was offered a cashier job in October 2006, only to be told two days later that the offer was revoked.

“Ultimately, the conversation gravitated toward the headdress she was wearing and then she was told 'You can't wear that, that isn't consistent with our dress code',” said EEOC attorney Robert Dawkins.

After a lengthy investigation, the EEOC filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Folks. The agency is seeking tens of thousands of dollars in back pay and damages. [Link]

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Muslims in Germany esteem liberty, deplore discrimination

A survey published Friday has found that Muslims in Germany value the country's freedom of religion, but complain that they face discrimination because most of them are not German.

The government-funded survey, conducted in four main cities, concluded 10 per cent of Muslims were hostile to democracy.

Only 5 per cent said they supported the use of force so that Islam would prevail, but nearly half of the 1,000 respondents said force was justified to defend Islam if it was threatened by the West.

The study was conducted by Hamburg-based sociologists Katrin Brettfeld and Peter Wetzels.

Practically all said that they could practice Islam without hindrance in Germany and that this was a positive feature.

But more than half the Muslims complained at discrimination on account of their ethnic origins, with one in five saying they had experienced an incident of racism in the past 12 months.

Bekir Alboga, spokesman for the coordinating council of German Islamic bodies, said in Cologne that the report showed there was practically no difference between the attitudes of young Muslims and young non-Muslims to democracy and the rule of law.

The survey, commissioned by the interior ministry, showed 90 per cent of Muslims in Germany agreed that suicide attacks were cowardly and damaging to the Islamic cause. [Link]

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UN General Assembly adopts resolution against defamation of religions

The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution against "defamation of religion," expressing concern about laws that have led to religions discrimination and profiling since Sept. 11. The resolution urges all:

States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions, to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and their value systems and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance.


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Woman claims call centre fired her over religious restrictions

A 21-year-old Metis woman who converted to Islam has filed a human rights complaint against her former employer alleging she was fired because she refused to shake hands with male coworkers.

Chantal Hamel was terminated during her sixth shift at RSVP Customer Care Centers, a downtown Vancouver call centre, because she was "not doing a good enough job," according to a document on the B.C. human rights tribunal website....

Hamel, who also wears a Muslim headscarf and eats only halal meat, said the meeting was proof her employer had a problem with her religious restrictions.

"I know that if I wasn't wearing the hijab, I'd probably still be working there," she said. "I'd be treated very differently."

Hamel, who said she tries to follow to Qur'an as exactly as possible, said she's noticed a marked difference in employers' treatment of her since she converted to Islam from Catholicism two years ago. [Link]

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Lincoln County Store Owners Say Hate Is Behind Crimes

The Hatata’s met in Egypt and were married; then they bought Crossroads Oasis Marathon in Hustonville, the only gas station food mart for miles.

In past several weeks, the Hatata’s say vandals have been breaking in and stealing merchandise.

Lydia Rhonda Bryant Hatata suspects a hate crime is the motive behind numerous thefts, burglaries and damage. And those she once trusted, she now suspects.

“Employees letting relatives bag up items and walk out the door,” says Lydia Bryant Hatata.

Police haven't made any arrests, but they don't suspect a hate crime. They think many of these instances have been caused by simply disgruntled employees.

However, Lydia Hatata thinks it's hate based purely on what a former worker said while walking out the door. “The first employee that chose to leave called my husband a blank, blank, blanking Muslim and she walked out,” she says.

Police say they've recommended extra security measures and the Hatata’s say when they reopen, they'll have improved lighting and cameras. [Link]

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

North Idaho police investigating racist note

Police in this northern Idaho city are investigating a note left on a convenience store door as possible malicious harassment.

Security cameras show a man getting out of a car and leaving the note at 2:57 a.m. Thursday at Piggie's Deli and Market.

Workers discovered the note tucked between the front doors when they opened at 5 a.m. The note contained a picture of a man wearing a sombrero and a slur against Latinos, and included the words, "Join the White Revolution," police said.

A Latino man worked the previous night's shift.

"This is a very serious matter," the store's manager, Dharamjit Khehra, told The Spokesman-Review.

Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood said malicious harassment, a felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Idaho law also allows victims of such activity to file civil suits for damages.

Khehra, a Sikh who wears a turban and beard, said he's been in the United States 13 years and has managed Piggie's three years. He said the note is the only racist incident he's encountered. [Link]

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Alberta soccer body OKs hijabs

Muslim girls in Alberta will be allowed to wear hijabs while playing soccer, ending the latest battle over religious clothing in sports.

Controversy erupted last month after 14-year-old Safaa Menhem wasn't allowed to finish a game with her under-16 team in Calgary because a referee said her hijab was unsafe.

The hijab is a head scarf worn by some Muslim women in keeping with the Qur'anic directive that they dress modestly.

While soccer officials insisted the decision wasn't about religion, Muslim groups quickly expressed concerns about discrimination.

The Alberta Soccer Association issued a temporary ban on hijabs while it looked at the issue.

Under a ruling announced Tuesday, the association said players will be allowed on the soccer pitch if they're wearing a sports-friendly hijab approved by the game's referee. [Link]

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Monday, December 17, 2007

4th man pleads guilty to burglarizing Naperville Islamic center

The last of four men prosecuted for burglarizing a Naperville Islamic center pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to 21 days in DuPage County Jail.

Mark Domingo, 19, also received 3 years of probation and was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution for the July 21, 2006, burglary of the Islamic Center of Naperville.

Domingo, of Naperville, is the fourth and final co-defendant in the crime to plead guilty, said DuPage Assistant State's Atty. David Imielski. He said that after about 10 break-ins during the summer of 2006, police installed a camera in the center at 450 Olesen Drive.

The burglars were viewed by police on camera. Two were arrested at the scene and two after a short car chase.

Police said the motive was robbery, not a hate crime based on religion. The four defendants believed there was always a small amount of cash in the center, police said. [Link]

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Islamic leaders look at travel

As thousands of Muslims prepare to embark on their holy pilgrimage to Mecca, local Islamic leaders are reaching out to teach others about the rituals of their faith.

Their immediate concern is for the Muslims traveling through Los Angeles International Airport. Leaders want their experience to go smoothly in light of heightened security and lingering fears on the part of the public.

"We want to make sure no one in this country is fearful while traveling," said Shakeel Syed of the Shura Council of Los Angeles, an umbrella organization that oversees mosques and masjids in Southern California. "At the same time, we want to make sure Muslims can successfully fulfill their religious obligations."

Thousands of Muslims are headed to Saudi Arabia to participate in a historic and sacred pilgrimage called hajj. Syed and leaders from other Muslim groups organized a meeting with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration earlier this month to quell anxiety over some of the travel habits of these passengers.

The pilgrims, for example, will likely gather in sizable groups to recite daily prayers in the airport, which does not have a private chapel. Upon returning, the men will likely have shaved heads in keeping with one of the rituals of hajj, and the pilgrims may be carrying gallons of water culled from a sacred well in Mecca. [Link]

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Friday, December 14, 2007

MP wants to stop racial profiling

A Burnaby MP wants to stop racial profiling by police and other law enforcement agencies.

Bill Siksay, NDP MP for Burnaby Douglas, tabled a bill this week that would ban racial and religious profiling by police, border guards, and CSIS. The bill follows meetings between NDP MPs and members of Arab, Muslim, Black, Aboriginal and South Asian communities across Canada.

Siksay said he's talked to several Burnaby residents who feel they have been "hassled" by law enforcement officials because they belong to a racial minority.

The problem has become more pronounced since Sept. 11, he added.

"We need to be very clear that this is unacceptable practice," Siksay said in an interview. [Link]


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

TSA Agrees to Provide Sikh Travelers' Screening Options Upfront

In response to community concerns, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will now proactively inform passengers subjected to secondary screening of their screening options. Under the previously policy, passengers were expected to know their 3 secondary screening options (self-pat down, puffer, TSA pat down) and then have to ask for it on their own. The change has not been made official, but will be implemented in the coming months. [Sikh Coalition Press Release]

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Half of Scots see Muslims as 'cultural threat' in wake of terrorist attacks

THE number of Scots who hold discriminatory attitudes towards Muslims has increased over the last three years following the terrorist attacks in London, new figures showed yesterday.

As increased immigration from around the world changes the social make-up of Scotland, the latest survey of attitudes showed the majority of people are willing to embrace different cultures.

But despite government campaigns to tackle racism, a hardcore of people continue to believe prejudice is acceptable. And while attitudes to gay people and women have improved, one in five people think civil partnerships are wrong and one in seven think a woman's place is in the home.

In particular, attitudes towards Muslims and ethnic minorities have deteriorated in recent years. Half of those surveyed considered the increasing number of Muslims in the country as a cultural threat and one in five feared ethnic minorities would take their jobs.

Equality groups said such attitudes are unacceptable in the 21st century and called for the "silent majority" to speak out against prejudice....

rof Curtice said the group that appears to have suffered the worse in recent years is Muslims.

He suggested this was because of the ongoing "war on terror" and the attacks on London in 2005.

In 2006, 50 per cent of people said that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live here compared to 38 per cent in 2003. Over the same period there was a four-point increase in the proportion who say they would be unhappy about a relative forming a relationship with a Muslim.

Dr Salah Baltagui, of the Muslim Council of Scotland and Scottish Interfaith Council, said prejudice remains a reality.

He said the way to address the problem was to tackle stereotypes and introduce more people to Muslims.

"This is happening and what we have to do is try to help people find out more about Muslims and break down the stereotypes," he said. [Link]

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Keep hijabs off judges, teachers, say Quebec union bosses

No public servant - including Muslim teachers and judges - should be allowed to wear anything at work that shows what religion they belong to, leaders of Quebec's two biggest trade union federations and a civil-servants' union told the Bouchard-Taylor commission Monday.

"We think that teachers shouldn't wear any religious symbols - same thing for a judge in court, or a minister in the National Assembly, or a policeman - certainly not," said Rene Roy, secretary-general of the 500,000-member Quebec Federation of Labour

"The wearing of any religious symbol should be forbidden in the workplace of the civil service . . . in order to ensure the secular character of the state," said Lucie Grandmont, vice-president of the 40,000-member Quebec union of public employees.

Dress codes that ban religious expression should be part of a new "charter of secularism" - akin to the Charter of the French Language - that the Quebec government should adopt, said Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions.

Such a charter is needed "to avoid anarchy, to avoid treating (reasonable-accommodation) cases one by one," Carbonneau said Monday, presenting a brief on behalf of the federation's 300,000 members at the commission's hearing on the integration of immigrants in Montreal.

That's the same point of view as the 150,000-member Centrale des syndicats du Quebec, which includes 100,000 who work in the school system, the commission heard.

Quebec needs a "fundamental law" akin to the Charter of Rights that sets out clearly that public institutions, laws and the state are all neutral when it comes to religion, said Centrale president Rejean Parent. The new law would also "define (people's) rights and duties . . . in other words, the rules of living together."

Under a secular charter, employers would understand that they don't have to agree to accommodate religious employees if, for example, they ask to be segregated from people of the opposite sex, Carbonneau said.

Similarly, religious students in public schools would understand they can dress as they like, but not if it means wearing restrictive clothing like burkas, niqabs and chadors, which make communication difficult, she told commissioners Gerard Bouchard and Charles Taylor.

And in the courts, "there are cases that are clear - I wouldn't want to see a judge in a veil," she said. Judges need to appear "neutral" so as to inspire confidence in their judgment, she added.

The unions' anti-religious attitude - especially the idea to ban hijabs on teachers - got a cold reception from groups as disparate as a Muslim women's aid organization and the nationalist St.-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montreal.

"What that would do is close the door to Muslim women who want to teach," said Samaa Elibyari, a Montreal community radio host who spoke for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. "It goes against religious freedoms that are guaranteed in the (Quebec) Charter of Rights." [Link]

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Justice department reviewing Muslim girl's school complaint

The U.S. Justice Department is looking into last month's allegations by a St. Petersburg Muslim girl that she was threatened and harassed by a classmate at Azalea Middle School.

In a letter to Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox, a lawyer for the department's Civil Rights Division said the agency learned of the girl's allegations through media reports and asked the district to provide information on the case.

The lawyer, Kym Davis Rogers, said the inquiry was preliminary. She could not be reached Friday for comment.

Laurie Dart, an attorney for the school district, said she was compiling the information collected during Pinellas' investigation, which has ended. She said she planned to send it to the Justice Department soon. The district received the letter Monday.

The girl, 11-year-old Hannah Chehab, alleged at a Nov. 12 news conference that a boy at Azalea pulled off her headscarf, called a hijab, and later threatened to shoot and kill her after she complained to an assistant principal. She and her parents alleged that school officials were slow to respond to the incidents.

The sixth-grader also said the school year began with students asking her if she was a terrorist and if she was hiding a bomb.

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$10,000 Reward Offered In Mosque Shooting

FBI agents announced Friday that they are increasing the reward money for information leading to the arrest of the shooter or shooters responsible for damaging a Brevard County mosque.

Police said in September of 2006, shots were fired into a Melbourne mosque. A member of the Islamic Society of Brevard County heard the shots and reported the incident to police.

Investigators now say the shooting was a hate crime. [Link]

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Race laws breach at Sikh bangle ban school

THE school that has excluded a Sikh girl for wearing a steel bracelet crucial to her faith has been breaking race equality law for more than five years, we can reveal today.

Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, was sent home by Aberdare Girls’ School on November 5 after refusing to remove her kara bangle, one of the five symbols of Sikh identity.

According to the school, wearing the kara is against regulations because it is a piece of jewellery. But Sarika, of Cwmbach, near Aberdare, maintains her human rights are being infringed, and with the help of the Valleys Race Equality Council and the pressure group Liberty is mounting a legal challenge to the school’s decision.

It has now emerged that the school has not been in compliance with a legal requirement to have a proper race equality policy in place. An audit by the local education authority, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, established earlier this year that a number of schools, including Aberdare Girls, were not compliant.

Sarika’s supporters point out that since a House of Lords judgment in 1983, after a school had excluded a pupil for wearing a turban, it has been established in law that Sikhs are a racial group that is capable of being discriminated against.

Schools in areas with a higher proportion of pupils from ethnic minorities than Aberdare, like Cardiff, have no problem with children wearing the kara.

A spokeswoman for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council explained that, while the school did have a policy in place, it was not one that complied with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. [Link]

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Hate Crime Victims Receive Little Congressional Support

SALDEF Expresses Disappointment with Congressional Defeat of Landmark Hate Crimes Legislation

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) . . . today expressed its extreme disappointed with the recent defeat of vital hate crime legislation in Congress.

"Every year, Sikh Americans across the nation find themselves the victims of hate crimes without any support from their local police departments," remarked SALDEF National Director Rajbir Singh Datta. "The United States Congress must exemplify the courage necessary to ensure that we are welcoming of our nation's diversity rather than in strict opposition to it."

The bill would have strengthened the ability of federal, state, and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. The bill helps state and local anti-bias efforts by enabling the Justice Department to assist them in the investigation and prosecution of all hate crimes. This bill is vital in areas of the United States where the local officials choose not, or do not, have the resources to investigate and prosecute assailants of hate crimes. [Link]

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Sikh community unfairly labelled 'terrorists' after Air India bombing, inquiry told

A prominent Sikh businessman told the Air India inquiry Friday he's concerned his cultural community has become unfairly associated with terrorists since the high-profile 1985 bombing.

Gian Singh Sandhu, founder of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said the bombing of Air India flight 182, which killed 329 people, devastated the Sikh community in British Columbia — but they were also stigmatized in its wake.

"The Sikh community as a whole was torn apart.... The majority of the Sikh community was categorically against these type of events," he testified in Ottawa.

However, the onslaught of news coverage and allegations of Sikh involvement in the bombing tainted his community, he said.

Sandhu described to inquiry commissioner John Major being approached while taking part in a parade in B.C. one week after the disaster.

"Kids were asking me when was the next plane going to go down," he testified. [Link]

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Neal Katyal: On the Ground at Guantanamo

Our founders would have been mystified by the idea that the Supreme Court gets in the way during wartime. In fact, anyone with even a passing knowledge of American history would reject it. In times of armed conflict, the court has upheld almost everything our presidents have done, including acts as extreme as the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II. If you are the president, it's not easy to lose a case in front of the Supreme Court during an armed conflict; you have to try hard to pull it off.

Yet, since the president announced his Guantanamo trial scheme in November 2001, and even as he has spent dozens of millions of dollars on it, his plan has not produced a single conviction at trial, and the administration has managed to lose three times in three years.

Moments after the Supreme Court sided with Hamdan in that third decision, which rejected the radical claim that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the war on terror, I rejected the predictable conclusion that "Bush lost." Instead, I stood on the steps of Gilbert's courthouse and said America had prevailed. A fourth-grade-educated Yemeni, accused of conspiring with one of the world's most evil men, brought his case against the world's most powerful man. He took his claim all the way to the Supreme Court. And he won. In few other countries could such a thing even be possible.

President Bush had an opportunity in 2006 to use the court's decision to America's advantage, by showcasing our strength as a people: In America, we let the court announce our leaders' mistakes in boldface print. Instead, the president decided to try, once again, to cut the Supreme Court out. That's why Guantanamo is back in Washington today—while Salim Hamdan is facing a tribunal that exists to avoid the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

When Chief Justice Hughes laid the cornerstone of the new Supreme Court building in 1929, he proclaimed, "The republic endures, and this is the symbol of its faith." Whatever else might be said about the Guantanamo courtroom, it will never symbolize America or what it is about. [Link]

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sikh students to carry daggers

SIKH students in Victoria have been given the green light to carry small daggers to school under a plan that has outraged teachers and principals.
A Victorian parliamentary committee has also given the green light for Muslim students to wear hijabs in the state's classrooms.

The inquiry into uniforms found all schools should accommodate clothing or other items that are religiously significant.

The Education and Training Committee report recommended that schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan - a small, curved ornamental steel dagger carried by all initiated Sikh men.

The committee found there were concerns from principals and teachers about students carrying the kirpan - which is hidden under the school uniform - but the item was important to the Sikh community. [Link]

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Tracing the Post-9/11 Landscape

“You’re cute for a terrorist.”

“Indian, Palestinian, same thing.”

“Turban equals terrorist.”

Frighteningly, these ignorant phrases were really spoken by American citizens after September 11. Politicians like to talk about how the terrorist attacks united our country against terrorism. But they don’t often talk about that other, more somber story of fear and prejudice that caused atrocious acts against America’s very own citizens during the aftermath of 9/11.

The murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, made an appearance in the media but was quickly forgotten. He was killed in cold blood in Mesa, Arizona, simply because he looked like the 9/11 hijackers. That her people were being violently targeted and misunderstood motivated college student Valarie Kaur to act.

The film Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath was conceived, filmed, and directed by Kaur. As a documentary chronicling Kaur’s journey across the United States, it is a powerful look at the backlash against Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and others post-9/11. It premiered in California at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival, part of the Sikh Heritage Gala, on Nov. 17 at the Screen Writers’ Guild Theatre.

Kaur began her trip to 14 cities across the country with a car, a video camera, and her Sikh cousin, Sonny. She traced acts of racism and violence as they occurred chronologically: Kaur and Sonny began with an interview of the victim of the first reported beating of an Arab-American at Ground Zero in New York, then continued to follow other stories of violence by word of mouth. [Link]


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Filmmaker found hate, but also hope, after 9/11

Filmmaker chronicled life for American Sikhs in the aftermath of 9/11

It was a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, when Valarie Kaur, a third-generation American of Indian descent and a Stanford University student at the time, decided to turn a senior honors paper on religion and violence into a videotaped road trip across America.

This wasn't exactly a pleasure outing. Kaur, then 20, was shaken both by the terrorist attacks as well as the vastly underreported spate of hate crimes directed mostly at male members of the American Sikh community.

The Sikhs are neither Muslim nor from the Middle East. It didn't matter. They wear turbans and beards as articles of faith, which made them targets for the ignorant and the vile among us.

"My grandfather crossed an ocean to be an American,'' Kaur, a Sikh, says at the start of the film.

"A century later, I crossed this country to discover what it means to be an American.''

What she found during her four-month, 14-city cross country trek was both ugly and inspirational.

Six years later, the college project is a thought-provoking and award-winning documentary one film critic describes as a "hopeful civics lesson on what it means to be an American.''

The film, "Divided We Fall: America in the Aftermath,'' is a gut check about how prejudices, stereotypes and misplaced fear can easily corrupt ideals and flourish during a national security crisis. But it's also about clinging to principles and higher moral ground. [Link]


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