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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Pastime' blends love, baseball and World War II internment

The score is tied as the runner leads off third base, the batter tenses and the pitcher gets ready to deliver. The crowd in the small-town ballpark holds its collective breath as the battle between two local rivals comes down to the last inning and the last pitch.

A little earlier, the lovers, who had been separated by her father, share a tender, hidden moment under the grandstand.

Except ... this is 1944, the game is between the local community’s ballclub and a team of Japanese Americans interned in a nearby relocation camp in rural Utah, and there’s a lot more at stake than a game of baseball.

American Pastime, a new movie released last week on DVD (Warner Home Video, $19.98, not rated) and enjoying a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Fresno, Salt Lake City and Tokyo, is set in Utah’s Topaz internment camp during World War II. Beginning early in 1942, after Pearl Harbor, more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent—of whom about 75 percent were U.S. citizens—were forcibly removed from their homes and locked up in camps in isolated parts of the country.

To help themselves survive, many of the internees played their favorite sport—baseball....

Baseball was important to the internees, says [Kerry Yo] Nakagawa, “because it raised the spirits of the people and brought normalcy to a very abnormal condition and situation.”

For Nakano, although “baseball was a way that could let an audience into the movie,” he “wanted it to work on a level where a general audience would be able to understand the story....”

Both Nakano and [writer-director Desmond] Nakagawa have high hopes that their film will help educate all Americans—particularly young people—about the internment camps yet also reveal parallels to contemporary American society.

“I think our film really resonates today,” says Nakagawa. “We now have Arab Americans, Sikh Americans, Muslim Americans really feeling the racial profiling and hatred after 9/11. And currently, Mexican Americans are having to deal with xenophobia. ... We hoped that we would have learned the lessons of the past and therefore wouldn’t repeat them.” [Link]

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Some [three people] irked that banner at Lodi's Sikh Temple doesn't include American flag

The new Sikh Temple in south Lodi has a 60-foot-high canary-yellow banner with the faith's emblem, but some Lodi residents wonder why there isn't an American flag to go with it.

"It's almost a slap in the face as an American and as veterans," said Lodi resident Robin Sarisky. "You're an American first; then everything else falls under that."

Sikh temple leaders say that they don't mean to offend anyone. In fact, the banner isn't really a flag, according to two Lodi Sikh board members, Nirmal Samra and John Takhar.

It's a symbol of their religion, not India, the country where a majority of Sikhs were born.

"That's what American people should understand. It's not a flag," Samra said. "It's like a cross in the Christian church."

Sikh members are confused if some people are offended by their banner. They maintain the banner at the temple doesn't show preference to their native country. It's symbolizes their religion....

Bill Pfeiffle, ex-commander of Lockeford Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he doesn't see a problem with flying a church banner without an American flag.

An assistant professor of history and religious study at University of California, Davis, said he sees no problem with hanging a religious banner without an American flag.

"It's not like they're hanging the Indian flag there," said professor Baki Tezcan. "The Sikhs cannot represent a nation. It is an unfortunate controversy, as far as I can tell." [Link]

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Op-ed: Does US insecurity put liberty at risk?

The BBC Persian Service's Kambiz Fattahi recounts his own experience of being singled out on the basis of his appearance and asks whether fears of terrorism are undermining America's traditional values.

People often ask if I have ever experienced prejudice in the US because of my Iranian background.

Up to now, I have always replied in the negative.

The last place I ever expected to encounter ignorance and apparent discrimination was at my university, a place renowned for international studies.

But last week, at Georgetown University's graduation ceremony, I found myself in shock and awe.

In awe at the inspiring keynote speech about America's tradition of freedom made by Harvard historian Dr Bernard Bailyn....

Two portly university security guards brought me back to reality.

"Please come with us," one of them ordered. He caught me off guard. When I asked why, he told me, "You're making some people here nervous."

It was disturbing to think that nothing more than my Middle Eastern appearance had aroused someone's suspicion. More shocking was the blunt inquiry of one of the guards about my national origin.

I told him I was a US citizen. After showing forms of identification, including my card from the BBC Persian Service, he commented: "So, you're from Persia. Aren't Babylon and the Tigris River in Persia?"

Officials at Georgetown say they have strict policies prohibiting racial and ethnic profiling, and have begun an investigation into the matter....

This prominent university boasts on its website of a student body representing over 130 countries, and requires its first-year students to complete a "Pluralism in Action" programme even before beginning their studies.

Given this, the guard's cultural insensitivity took me by surprise. But observers note that this kind of singling out has become pervasive in the US since the terror attacks of 9/11....

The guards at Georgetown eventually let me go, too late to see my friend walk across the stage to collect her degree.

As I left the building - which nine months earlier had housed the Pluralism in Action programme - Georgetown's President John J DeGioia's remarks to the graduating class resonated in my head.

"You will face challenges - and enjoy opportunities - that previous generations of citizens and leaders, scientists and scholars could not even have imagined."

Apparently, one of these challenges will be how America can address its insecurities, compounded by 9/11 and the immigration debate, all the while preserving its ideals of "liberty and justice for all". [Link]

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Faith and fitting in

Younger Sikh men choose between turbans and blending into the suburbs

There's no mistaking a Sikh man who follows the tenets of the religion: He grows his hair and ties it in a turban.The look is unique and makes him stand out, as the religion intended.

That individuality, however, has some younger Sikhs turning away from the turban because they don't want to stick out when they perceive pressure to fit in.

This trend, some Sikhs say, isn't limited to America. Even in India, fewer youths are wrapping their hair in a turban every morning.

"In general it's a kind of a natural desire to fit in," said Rajinder Singh Mago, a member of the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine....

Three young men tied to the Palatine gurdwara shared their own stories of wearing the turban. One decided to counteract stereotypes after Sept. 11 and embraced the idea.

Another felt he was no longer able to wear a turban as he grew older.

The third felt a pride in his religion as he studied it, which reinforced his lifelong practice of not cutting his hair....

Some Sikhs have been attacked because of their outward appearance.

On Friday, a Pakistani student at a New York City high school was charged with a hate crime for cutting the waist-length hair of a 15-year-old Sikh, police said.

Just four days after Sept. 11, 2001, a Sikh man planting flowers in front of his shop in Arizona was shot and killed, reportedly because he was wearing a turban.

Parminder Mann, a 26-year-old Oak Park resident and a Sikh, said the murder was shocking to his community.

"It was kind of like an awakening," said Mann, who works at Motorola in Deer Park.

Although the Sikh community expected to face some backlash because members are often mistakenly thought to be Middle Eastern or Muslim, a death like Balbir Singh Sodhi's in 2001 was jarring.

"Even in the '80s with the Ayatollah, we were confused with Iranians," Mann said. "I think almost every Sikh knew then that we're going to face a lot of hatred."

It was after the Arizona murder that Mann decided he needed to grow out his hair and start wearing a turban to educate people about Sikhs.

"I was seeing all this stuff happening, people getting beat up and old people getting yelled at," Mann said. "I thought about what I can do for my community. The whole thing about being an American is being proactive."

He equates wearing a turban to the hijab, or head scarf, that Muslim women wear.

"You're kind of the ambassador of your faith," he said.

Not the right time

Kevindeep Atwal, an 18-year-old resident of Palatine, wore a turban until he was 14.

The Sikh faith is a strong part of his family, which is deeply involved in the Palatine gurdwara. His grandfather helped found the temple.

When Atwal turned 14, however, he decided he could no longer wear a turban, at least not in this stage of his life.

"It was more of a utility thing for me," Atwal said. "I think of myself as pretty religious, but I had to perform a routine every morning that lasted 35 to 40 minutes."

While he knows other Sikhs who have gotten teased in grade school and high school for wearing a turban, he said that was never an issue for him.

"I had my own choice to make," said Atwal, a Northwestern University student. "I do consider wearing it in the future, within the next 10 years."

He said others his age have probably forsaken the turban for a simple reason: It's easier to date if you don't wear one.

"A lot of younger guys are into the guy-girl relationships in order to be more Western," Atwal said. "Appealing to the opposite sex more: That, I think, is a pretty big reason people stopped."

He said although wearing a turban is a symbol of honor, he feels that he's found a good balance without it. He's found an internal spirituality even though it's no longer externally displayed. That decision, however, doesn't come without doubts.

"I feel more pressure to wear it than I do not to," he said. "I understand where it's coming from because I believe in the same things. (Those who want me to wear a turban) are coming from something loftier than just an interest in appearance."

Pride in your faith

While Narinder Singh grew up in a strong Sikh household, as he matured he started questioning why his family practiced the religion the way it did.

"I wanted to know why we looked so different, why it is so important," said 24-year-old Singh, who works for a bank in Rolling Meadows and lives in Palatine.

The more he read about the Sikh history, the more pride Singh felt in his creed.

One of the turning points for Singh was when he read of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth of 10 Sikh gurus, who sacrificed his life for the freedom of all religions, not just Sikhism.

"Right there I knew there was something special that made me want to practice my religion even more," Singh said.

Although he always sported long hair, after he graduated from high school, Singh decided to start wearing a turban.

Singh said many of his friends have been concerned that a turban could affect their jobs or personal lives. They question how they can find work when they look so different, but Singh said that wasn't a major issue for him.

"Wearing a turban can either break you or make you stronger," Singh said. "It's just the wanting to assimilate, wanting to blend in when we were made to stand out."

He said he feels like he represents his religion now and is more careful about how he acts.

"It's more of a lifestyle than something you do on a particular day," Singh said. "It's the way you treat people in a particular day." [Link]

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Teenager arrested for allegedly cutting Sikh's hair

Observant Sikh Vacher Harpal had never had his hair cut until an older teenager at his high school chopped it off in what authorities are calling a hate crime.The older youth, Umair Ahmed, 17, violated 15-year-old Harpal’s religious beliefs by forcibly removing Harpal’s turban and cutting his waist-length hair in a high school bathroom in the New York City borough of Queens, authorities said.Ahmed was charged on Friday with two counts under hate crime statutes: unlawful imprisonment and menacing, Queens District Attorney Richard A Brown said in a release. Ahmed, of Queens, was also charged with aggravated harassment, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.His sister told the Daily News that Harpal had asked Ahmed to cut his hair, because he “didn’t have a lot of friends”.“He told my brother to improve his look,” said the sister, Nida Ilyas, 16.But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Ahmed and Harpal were trading insults at Newtown High School on Thursday afternoon when the younger youth tried to apologise. Ahmed, carrying a pair of scissors, told Harpal that he would accept only a haircut as an apology.“I have to cut your hair,” Ahmed said, according to Brown. “For what? It is against my religion,” Harpal replied, according to Brown.
'Ahmed threatened to punch the younger student before dragging him into a school bathroom, according to Brown. The suspect pulled the boy’s turban off and cut his waist-length hair with the scissors while two other students acted as lookouts, Kelly said.“The defendant is not accused of some schoolhouse prank, but an attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim’s religion and his freedom to worship freely,” said Brown.Sikhism requires men to wear their hair long. “When you lose your hair, for many Sikhs, it’s like dying. … You can’t hurt someone more than to cut their hair,” said Amardeep Singh, the executive director of the Sikh Coalition, a Manhattan-based civil rights group.If convicted, Ahmed could face up to seven years in prison.No one else was charged in the incident, according to Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for Brown.A city Department of Education spokeswoman, Dina Paul Parks, said the agency was “shocked and dismayed” by the attack.Another Sikh student said there was generally little religious or ethnic tension among Newtown students.“There are no problems at this school at all,” said the student, Sukhrit Kaur, 18. http://www.irishexaminer.com/breaking/story.asp?j=33431829&p=3343y936&n=33432036&x=

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Bias Attack or Juvenile Brawl?

The police have come down on the side of the former. At a press briefing following a promotions ceremony at police headquarters this morning, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said investigators deemed the attack a hate crime because the Pakistani students’ remarks were religiously biased.

According to Mr. Kelly, the Sikh student and a Pakistani student got into an argument, and the young Sikh student apologized after making an insult. However, the apology was not accepted, Mr. Kelly said, and the Pakistani student said, “To apologize appropriately, you will have to cut your hair.” The Pakistani student dragged the Sikh student into the bathroom and, with two other students standing watch outside, tore off the Sikh’s turban, and cut his hair, Mr. Kelly said. After the Sikh student filed a complaint, the Pakistani student was charged with hate crime and menacing, Mr. Kelly said. [Link]

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NY teenager accused of cutting Sikh student's hair

A Pakistani student at a New York City high school was charged with a hate crime on Friday, accused of cutting the waist-length hair of a 15-year-old Sikh.

The Sikh religion was founded more than 500 years ago in the northern Indian region of Punjab. Adherents do not cut their hair or beards and wear turbans.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Umair Ahmed, 17, was charged with unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.

He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

"The defendant is not accused of some schoolhouse prank but an attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim's religion and his freedom to worship freely," Brown said in a statement. "Crimes of hate can never be tolerated here."

Prosecutors said Ahmed approached Vacher Harpal in a school hallway on Thursday armed with a pair of scissors and told him, "I have to cut your hair."

When Harpal asked why and told him it was against his religion, Ahmed allegedly displayed a ring with Arabic inscriptions and stated, "This ring is Allah. If you don't let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring," according to prosecutors.

Once inside the bathroom, officials said, Harpal removed his turban while crying and begged Ahmed not to cut his hair, which had never been cut.

"The defendant is then alleged to have used the scissors to cut the (the boy's) hair to the neckline and thrown the hair into the toilet and onto the floor," Brown said. [Link]

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sikh taxi driver murdered with his own cab

From The Times
May 25, 2007
Sikh taxi driver murdered with his own cab
Michael Horsnell
An elderly Sikh taxi driver was knocked down and killed by his own cab after a passenger hijacked the vehicle in what murder squad detectives believe could have been a racial attack.
Police appealed for calm yesterday after the incident in which Gian Chand Bajar, 71, chairman of the Guru Nanak temple in Gravesend, Kent, was run over at least once by his assailant.
Chief Superintendent Gary Beautridge, who is leading the murder investigation, described Mr Chand as an “upstanding member of the community” who had been the victim of a “heinous and cowardly crime”.
He added: “We are keeping an open mind but we would certainly not rule out that the attack was racially motivated.”
As the Sikh community voiced its anger, local taxi drivers claimed that the murder had been “waiting to happen” because of the failure of police to tackle taxi assaults.
Mr Beautridge, who was confronted by drivers during an emergency meeting at the temple, said later: “This murder is a matter for the police to resolve and we appeal for witnesses. This is not an issue where individuals or groups should take the law into their own hands.”
Mr Chand’s son, Telu, 35, fought back tears as he said: “I don’t want anything to happen to these people responsible for my dad’s murder. I just want the police to catch them so they do not have the opportunity to do this again.”
Police have established that Mr Chand picked up a passenger at 9.43pm on Wednesday in Armoury Drive, Gravesend, and dropped him off at 9.57pm in Tooley Street, near by.
He is then believed to have been flagged down in the Springhead Road area, where he picked up a fare, and headed to the Westcourt area of Gravesend.
Witnesses saw him being assaulted and run over in St Benedict’s Avenue at 10.10pm. Residents put blankets under his head and over his body as they awaited paramedics. He was taken to the Darent Valley Hospital, in Dartford, but died later from his injuries.
Witnesses have told police that Mr Chand, who was married to Amarjit, 62, the mother of his five children, had been driven over by his own vehicle, possibly twice.
One resident said he saw burn marks on Mr Chand’s arms, possibly from where he came into contact with the car’s exhaust pipe.
His silver Skoda Octavia, registration GK02 YKA, was found burnt out in an alley adjacent to Dorchester Avenue and Lamorna Avenue.
Neil Batcheldor, 45, a taxi driver, said: “We’ve been waiting for this. We’ve had so many attacks in the last few years. We’ve been speaking to police, Gravesham Borough Council and Cab Watch, and we told them it was a case of when, where and who. It had to happen.”
Mr Chand was semi-retired and worked part-time for Millennium Data Cabs in Gravesend. Nirmal Thandi, the firm’s co-owner, said: “You could not have met a nicer man. He was very family oriented and did a lot of work for the community. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Bruce Parmenter, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Gravesham and a taxi driver for 11 years, said: “My opinion is that this was a tragic incident that was bound to happen because police are not tackling crime.
“I speak from experience, having been attacked myself two and a half years ago, and I waited three days for a police response, in which time the crime scene was destroyed.”
Gurvinder Sandher, of the North West Kent Racial Equality Council, said: “There was shock at what has taken place. The shock has not just been felt in the Sikh community but in the whole community.”
Mr Chand came to England in 1971 from the Punjab where, as a civil servant, he was responsible for land allocation. At first he first worked as a builder, and later on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project through Kent.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article1837693.ece

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SALDEF Working with TSA to Address Improper Screening of Sikh Americans at Nation’s Airports

Sikh Americans across country have been subjected to inconsistent and improper screening procedures

Over the past several months, SALDEF has lodged several complaints with the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) regarding Sikh Americans being required to either have their daastars (the Sikh religious head covering) patted down or in some cases removed completely, in violation of stated TSA protocols, prior to passing through airport check points at different airports across the country. In response to these complaints, SALDEF has initiated dialogue with leading officials of the TSA to address the communities’ concerns. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Sikh American Student in Alabama allowed to Return to School with both Turban and Hair Intact

SALDEF defends Sikh convert's right to maintain the Sikh identity in Alabama Public High School

ast week, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, successfully represented a 15 year old Alabama high school student who was allowed to return to school after being kicked out of Good Hope High School for keeping his hair uncut and wearing his patka – a religiously mandated Sikh head covering.

Earlier this Spring, while researching religion on the internet, Mr. Tommy DeForest came across the Sikh faith and immediately felt an affinity for the faith. After reading more about the religion, Mr. DeForest started to keep his hair uncut and wear a make-shift head covering. Upon trying to attend classes at Good Hope High School, Mr. DeForest was turned away at the campus gates and told that he would not be allowed on campus with his long hair. Mr DeForest was also subjected to repeated disciplinary punishment and finally suspended for his resolve to freely practice his faith.

A meeting was subsequently arranged between the DeForest Family and the school administration. At this meeting, Principal Anita Kilpatrich and the Superintendent for Education of Cullman County Hank Allen, adamantly supported their decision to deny Mr. DeForest from practicing his faith freely while attending public school. Additionally at this meeting, the suspension was extended indefinitely – effectively denying Mr. DeForest the right to public education simply due to his religious affiliation and forcing him to chose between his faith and an education.

Mr. DeForest contacted SALDEF with his concerns surrounding his ability to freely practice his faith, as guaranteed by the Freedom of Religious Expression principle within the United States Constitution. Mr. DeForest and his family were put in contact with local Alabama Sikh American community activist Rajinder Singh Mehta who provided Tommy with a patka and kara (steel bracelet), both mandated Sikh articles of faith.

“For a public school in our Nation to essentially tell a child to check his faith at the door and to force the student to choose between receiving an education and practicing their faith is a tragic violation of the principles that our country was founded on,” stated SALDEF Managing Director Kavneet Singh. "This type of action is completely inexcusable and counter to the rich diversity found in the South and across the country."

SALDEF is pleased that Tommy DeForest has been allowed back in school while maintaining the articles of the Sikh faith. We thank the school and district administration for working with SALDEF to resolve this situation satisfactorily. SALDEF is hopeful that faculty and administration of schools across the United States will take steps to understand and inform themselves of the diversity of religious practices among their student populations, so instances like this will not happen in the future. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Sikh plea for tolerance in air security

The Sikh community is calling for tolerance and understanding of the religion if changes go ahead with aviation security legislation.
Making a submission from Auckland yesterday, Sikh Centre chairman Verpal Singh said the Sikh community understood and accepted the need for tighter security at airports following the events of 9/11.
Concern was also raised in January about airport security after a group of Sikh priests were able to board an Air New Zealand flight carrying kirpans (ceremonial knives) under their robes.
But it was hoped changes could be implemented in a way sensitive to Sikh people so they weren't unfairly targeted during security checks.
"We don't want this campaign to be aimed at the general public. We don't want to publicise that Sikhs wear a kirpan because that might make us a target," Mr Singh said.
In particular aviation security staff needed to be educated about the Sikh religion so they understood that the kirpan was a religious symbol, not a weapon.
He said Sikhs were happy to stow the kirpan in their luggage but if someone forgot and accidentally walked through a metal detector with one, he should not be automatically treated like a criminal.
He should instead be given the chance to remove the kirpan and place it in his luggage.
Mr Singh said the wearing of a turban was also an important issue that security staff needed to understand.
This practice was a religious requirement as the turban covers the hair - one of the most private and intimate parts of a Sikh.
Removing the turban in full view of other passengers would be the equivalent of being strip-searched in public.
Mr Singh said Sikh passengers should have to remove their turban only if there was a strong suspicion that something was being hidden, not solely because it looked suspicious.
Removing the turban should be done in a private area and the passenger should be given a mirror and enough time to replace it.
A committee is currently hearing submissions on the Aviation Security Legislation Bill, which aims to provide security officers with more powers to search passengers and seize prohibited items.
Air NZ yesterday supported the bill. However, it said it would rather ground a flight than allow it to take off despite a security threat, even if it was carrying a security officer.
The airline was concerned about the implications of the bill requiring it to store seized items for 30 days until they were claimed or destroyed.
It said the items should not be able to be reclaimed and should be destroyed.
The company's chief pilot, David Morgan, said 750kg of items a day were seized.
"Over time the cost involved in trying to repatriate these goods back to passengers would be too expensive."
Captain Morgan put to rest one long-held belief about guns in aircraft - he said a bullet hole in the fuselage would be highly unlikely to cause a "catastrophe".
Auckland Airport management was also concerned about the cost and time impact of the bill, saying it might mean twice the number of screening machines were needed at the airport.
The Aviation Industry Association opposed having armed guards on flights.
- additional reporting: NZPA
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=301&objectid=10440294

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Divided We Fall to be Featured on CNN

We have some exciting news! Divided We Fall's premiere in Los Angeles a few weeks ago caught the attention of CNN, and Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju sat down to a long interview with a senior producer. We just received word that the Paula Zahn show will feature the film in a segment this Tuesday night! Set your TiVos and VCRs now. And forward the message below to your friends across the country...

Tune in to CNN this Tuesday Night May 15 at 8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific
Paula Zahn NOW Featuring Divided We Fall ( www.dwf-film.com)
Interviews with Filmmakers Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju
http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/paula.zahn.now/

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Muslims Fear Backlash from Fort Dix Terror Plot

According to several news sources, the Muslim community in New Jersey is fearing a backlash over the Fort Dix plot. Following September 11, hundreds of Muslim men were questioned by officials in New Jersey. None were connected with 911.

The New Jersey AP reports that now, Muslims fear a resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiment and incidents of bias.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented many of the of detainees after the 2001 attacks told the AP. "But when the government says 'Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous. Don't equate actions with religion."

Per the NJ AP, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's New Jersey chapter has been in contact with the FBI about the Muslim community's fears. "What we're all afraid of is a new backlash," said Hesham Mahmoud, group spokesman. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee issued the following statement: "It seems clear that a potentially deadly attack has been averted. We applaud the FBI for its efforts and repeat the American Muslim community's condemnation and repudiation of all those who would plan or carry out acts of terror while falsely claiming their actions have religious justification."

The six suspects in the plot are Muslim, male, and in their mid-twenties, the same profile as those of the 911 attackers. The affidavit of Eljvir Duka, one of the accused Muslim jihadists, points to what appears to be his religious justification for the planned attack on Fort Dix. He is quoted in The Christian Science Monitor as stating, "and at the end when it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying [to attack] your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad." [Link]

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Asian Panel Debunks “Model Minority” Myth

When early news reports about the Virginia Tech shootings last month indicated the alleged perpetrator was Asian, Yixin Li, a University of Maryland freshman, said he prayed the shooter, Seung Hui Cho, would be Korean or Vietnamese and not a fellow Chinese.

That distinction didn’t matter to some observers because “after the incident people started calling me Cho,” recalled Li Wednesday at a forum, “The End of the Model Minority Myth: Reflections on the Virginia Tech Tragedy from Asian American Perspectives,” sponsored by The University of Maryland, College Park Asian American Studies Program and others.

Li said family and friends didn’t want him to attend the forum, preferring that he stay quiet, but he attended so that he could get an understanding of why he was facing the personal backlash from the tragedy.

“I was praying, which I knew was wrong of me, that he was not Chinese. I was praying that he would be Korean or Vietnamese,” said Li, an economics major. But he added, any wholesale comparisons between himself, Cho or any other Asian is wrong.

“I am not a model minority; I am me, I am myself,” Li said.

Li’s comments came during a panel discussion of mostly Asian university professors, community activists and students who reflected on their reactions to the tragedy and the media’s role in the racism that minorities face after an individual from a certain ethnic group commits a crime.

Frank H. Wu, dean of Wayne State University Law School and author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White,” was the keynote speaker.

Wu said the reactions from the Asian American community to the tragedy can be looked at in two ways — the stereotypical passive approach or the more traditional remorse, which is what the Korean Embassy offered. The reaction illustrates how Asians now navigate society — the old tradition model that says they’re supposed to be passive versus the emerging approach in which Asians take a collective stand.

Jen Park, a senior and president of the Asian American Student Union, said the forum confirmed for her that she and other Asians shouldn’t have to feel guilty about Cho’s actions.

Cho “was a person that looked like me; that doesn’t mean I have to apologize about the tragedy,” Park said.

Several forum participants likened the backlash that Asians received to the stigma associated with people of Middle Eastern ancestry post the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, raising concerns that crimes committed by minorities will always fall back on the community from which they hail.

Larry H. Shinagawa, director of the Asian American Studies Program and associate professor of American Studies, said the general public needs to be educated about Asian stereotypes and racism they face. Being proactive about these issues will help to ensure whole communities aren’t again blamed for the actions of a few. [Link]

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City Council approves ordinance to prohibit the profiling of immigrants

An ordinance that bans profiling was approved Wednesday by the Detroit City Council. It prohibits police and city employees from asking about the immigration status of residents.

The council voted unanimously for the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, dress, physical appearance and immigration status. Under the new law, police cannot ask people for their immigration papers unless it was related to a crime.

In Detroit, some immigrants complain that, after being pulled over by police, they have been asked for residency papers. Others say they are afraid to apply for city help or programs such as home-repair assistance because of their immigration status.

"It's not something a city employee should be asking," said City Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr., who introduced the bill. "It's not within their purview."

Cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles have passed similar ordinances in recent years, making them what are sometimes referred to as sanctuary cities.

The ordinance was introduced after talks with Latino, Arab and Muslim groups. [Link]

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"I was told to remove turban at Buffalo airport for security check"

Gurinder Singh a resident of Sacramento in USA a green card holder Sikh who allegedly faced humilation in the hands of TSA security and US police officials said he was asked to take off the turban for security clearance at the Buffalo airport.

Gurinder Singh is Real Estate Broker in California and Nevada andGeneral Secretary Northern Nevada Sikh Society. He is living in USA since 1996 and is native of Village Adhoyee, District: Ambala, Haryana in India.

He has written a letter to all Sikh organisation to take up his case.
[Gurinder Singh wrote a letter to the TSA, which is available here].

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Muslim can wear kufi at work after deal is reached with NY state

State prison officials will let a Muslim correction officer wear a skullcap while on duty as part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit that claimed it was unconstitutional for the state to refuse to make religious accommodations for prison guards.

The deal, announced Wednesday, came after the New York Civil Liberties Union last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of Abdus Samad N. Haqq, who said New York's Department of Correctional Services ordered him in 2005 to stop wearing a kufi to his job at a halfway house. A kufi is a knitted skullcap that carries religious significance for many Muslim men.

The U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division later filed its own lawsuit on Haqq's behalf to force the correction department to overhaul its grooming regulations for uniformed guards. That lawsuit is pending.

The deal settling the NYCLU lawsuit was approved by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. on Friday.

The commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Brian Fischer, said in a statement Wednesday that resolving the case demonstrates the kind of "reasonable accommodations in the workplace" that need to be made regarding religious beliefs....

The case is one of several brought in recent years challenging policies restricting religious head coverings at work.

In 2004, a Sikh police officer won the right to wear a turban while directing traffic after complaining to the city's human rights commission. In 1999, two Newark, N.J., police officers won a court battle so they could have short beards.

A year ago, U.S. Coast Guard officials retired a rule requiring anyone seeking a merchant marine license to submit photographs containing no religious head coverings. The action came after the NYCLU challenged the Coast Guard in court. [Link]

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Fort Dix Plot and the Profiling Dilemma

Federal charges were filed May 8 against six individuals for plotting to attack U.S. troops at Fort Dix, N.J., with assault rifles. Although al Qaeda allegedly inspired the suspects in this attempt to carry out "jihad" in the United States, the suspects bear the hallmarks of amateur jihadists, and probably were not connected to the jihadist network. The case, however, serves as a reminder to U.S. authorities that not all potential militants fit the Middle Eastern profile....

Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided a house the night of May 7 in Cherry Hill, N.J., arresting six men suspected of plotting an attack with assault rifles at the U.S. Army's nearby base at Fort Dix....

Officials identified the six men, all in their 20s, as three brothers, Dritan, Eljvir, and Shain Duka; Serdar Tatar; Agron Abdullahu; and Mohamed Shnewer. All six of the alleged plotters were foreign-born. Abdullahu, born in Turkey, and Tatar, born in Jordan, were naturalized U.S. citizens. Shnewer and the three Duka brothers were ethnic Albanians; at least two of the Albanians entered the United States illegally. U.S. law enforcement sources believe that at least two of the alleged plotters entered the United States illegally via the Texas-Mexico border....

For U.S. counterterrorism authorities, the arrests in New Jersey show that not all militant suspects fit the same profile. The four Albanians are European in appearance, not Middle Eastern. They were able to blend in easily in New Jersey's ethically diverse population of Irish, Polish, Italian, and African-Americans. Other non-Middle Eastern jihadists include Muriel Degauque, a Belgian who traveled to Iraq with her Arab husband to blow herself up as a suicide bomber, and Sulejmen Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim who opened fire on a mall in Utah, killing five shoppers and wounding four others. Their appearance made them difficult to detect. Al Qaeda realizes this, and thus encourages the use of non-Middle Eastern male operatives, especially those of European stock. [Link]

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Scholar asserts 'cracks in French universalism' seen in headscarf ban

On March 15, 2004, a French law was passed banning students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols in primary and secondary public schools. The law is widely referred to as the "French headscarf ban." Last week, Professor Joan W. Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study, author of the forthcoming Politics of the Veil (Princeton University Press, October 2007), spoke to a capacity crowd at the Humanities Center's Levinthal Hall to explore the complex and underlying motives for the ban. The talk was a Stanford Presidential Lecture in the Humanities and Arts.

"The French idea of 'one and indivisible' is different from E Pluribus Unum. There's a lack of any recognition for social difference," Scott said. Yet despite the claims of égalité, the French have "a deep uneasiness about sharing power." Scott outlined the emerging "cracks in French universalism."

The French portray their concept of universalism as "dating back to the French Revolution in a seamless story," she said. However, in the 19th century, class became the "great exception" to equality. After women received the vote in 1945, their inequality "had to be explained away." In the 1990s, gay rights and domestic partnership issues flagged more "exceptions." Now France continues to face the challenges of racism, immigration and religious intolerance.

The headscarf brought several of these issues to a head in a nation where "assimilation is seen as the passport to Frenchness."

One issue is the specter of Muslim inassimilability. Scott recalled that, during the 2005 riots in the Parisian housing projects, then-Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy blamed the troubles on "illegals." However, in the investigations, "they couldn't find many—they were French citizens," some of them second- and third-generation French.

She also pointed out that, in France, the word immigrant "doesn't refer to Portuguese, Spanish, Italians—Europeans or Eastern Europeans"; it only refers to former colonials, further pinpointing the Muslim population as different and problematic....

"Surely there is a better way of dealing with terrorism besides banning the headscarf," she added....

When [a] student asserted the ban was part of a general attempt to keep public schools secular, Scott said that no laws had been passed affecting yarmulkes, or Sikh turbans, until the headscarves became a concern. "This is a symbolic stand against Islam." [Link]

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FBI: Muslim Mother Target of Hate Crime

She is a mother of two, a Muslim Arab American, and a manager at a Sheraton Suites Hotel in Philadelphia. What could she possibly have to do with the 9/11 attacks more than five years ago?

Nothing, of course. But that didn't stop one of her employees from allegedly leaving her an ominous threatening note filled with venomous words and phrases such as "REMEMBER 9/11" … "You and your kids will pay" … and "death."

After getting the threat letter, the woman did the right thing: she contacted us for help. We were able to investigate the incident as a civil rights violation because the note involved a federally protected right of employment in a private business; the threat of force; and apparent bias involving race, religion, or ethnicity.

"Initially I was very hesitant about approaching the FBI," the victim said in an interview with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or MPAC, which joined our Philadelphia office and the local U.S. Attorney's Office at a press conference Wednesday in announcing the indictment of a 36-year-old Philadelphia woman in the case earlier this week. "But along the way I found good people investigating my case."

That included an FBI agent from our Philadelphia office, who did some basic detective work to find the alleged culprit. The cryptic note, left in the victim's office last October, contained a series of threatening phrases cut from publications and attached to a partial sheet of lined paper. The agent discovered that the clippings appeared to come from brochures at the hotel, which led him to the suspect.

Brian Lynch, assistant special agent in charge of our Philadelphia office, noted that hate crimes targeting Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities spiked after the 9/11 attacks, leading to more than 500 investigations and more than 100 local and federal convictions. Our latest stats show that 11 percent of the 1,314 hate crimes motivated by religious bias—128 in all—targeted Muslims. More than 30 percent of all reported hate crime offenses in 2005 involved intimidation similar to this case.

"Incidents of hate are under-reported out of fear of the FBI and government in general," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of MPAC, which works to protect the civil rights of Muslims. "In this case, the victim acquired the confidence in government as she interacted with law enforcement…. Our partnership with the FBI and with the Department of Justice, something we've worked on before 9/11, has helped support more government engagement from Muslim Americans."

With the success of this case and the positive interaction between this mother and FBI agents, we only hope that more Muslim and Arab Americans will have the confidence to step forward and report attacks against them based on hatred and discrimination. Our commitment to protecting their rights—and the rights of all Americans—remains strong. [Link]

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Arabs aren't singled out, Gonzales says

The U.S. Justice Department understands the frustrations of Arab and Muslim immigrants and is trying to speed up how long it takes to process permanent residency and citizenship applications, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday in a visit to Metro Detroit.

But Gonzales dismissed complaints that immigration applications from Arabs and Muslims are singled out for slower treatment. "I disagree with that," he told reporters after a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in Dearborn.

The large volume of immigration applications, which some community leaders say are at a standstill, was among the concerns Gonzales heard during a morning meeting at the U.S. Attorney's Office with about a dozen Arab-American and Muslim-American representatives.

"I understand about the frustration," Gonzales said. "We're looking at ways in which we can be more efficient."

Background checks required to process the applications can take months and sometimes years, he said.

The department is looking at subcontracting some work, improving its databases and other measures to speed things up, he said. [Link]

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Muslims fear backlash

Authorities' description of six suspects charged with plotting an attack on Fort Dix as "Islamic militants" is causing renewed worry among New Jersey's Muslim community.

Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained by authorities in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but none were connected to that plot.

Now, Muslims fear a resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiment and incidents of bias.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks. "But when the government says "Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous. Don't equate actions with religion."

The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's New Jersey chapter participated in a conference call Tuesday with FBI officials to discuss security.

"What we're all afraid of is a new backlash," said Hesham Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group. [Link]

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Canada hotel denies Sikh entry; Badal protests

May 08, 2007 03:07 IST

Shiromani Akali Dal working president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday protested against the treatment meted to a Sikh in Canada, who was denied entry into a restaurant for wearing a turban.
In a communique to David Melone, High Commissioner of Canada in India, Badal said the incident was a clear case of denial of individual's right to practice one's own religion.
Expressing his anguish and concern over the incident, Badal said it was unbelievable that in a progressive and liberal country like Canada, a person could be denied entry into a restaurant on the basis of his religious identity.
"It is more surprising that the restaurant continued to escape legal and administrative actions all these years," Badal said.
Demanding an enquiry into the whole incident, Badal demanded exemplary punishment for the guilty.
Badal said he hoped that Canada would follow the policy of zero tolerance towards any disrespect shown to symbols of any religion including Sikh religion, and asked the Canadian authorities to take remedial measures to prevent such incidents in future. http://ia.rediff.com/news/2007/may/08badal.htm

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Getting tough in battle on hate

Three years ago, the Ismail family stared in disbelief as an inferno rose from their convenience store in Northeast San Antonio.
The Conoco food mart at 14330 Nacogdoches Road had been torched by a man Kabiruddin and Mumtaz Ismail didn't know, but whom police said acted out of bias toward them. Their store was one of five targeted by arson or vandalism between 2003 and 2004 whose operators were of foreign descent, according to San Antonio police and arson investigators.

Kabiruddin and his wife, Mumtaz, have lived in San Antonio for more than 25 years and are now U.S. citizens. But to the arsonist, what mattered was that the two are Muslim and originally from Pakistan. That's why the fire — set at about 3 a.m. April 9, 2004 — was classified as a hate crime and the man who pleaded guilty to setting it, 35-year-old Thomas C. Carroll, was sent to prison for 30 years.

That outcome was unusual, however.

Fourteen years after Texas passed its own hate crimes law, prosecutions remain few — eight in the past six years. The state did not keep track of hate crime prosecutions before 2001, but a report issued in 2000 by the Human Rights Commission, a national civil-rights group, said the Texas hate crime law had only been used "a couple of times" since it was first enacted in 1993.

Prosecutors here complain that the law poses the difficult hurdle of proving that suspects are motivated by hatred, and similar concerns have also been heard regarding federal hate crime law, with prosecutors and civil rights groups complaining that the bar is set too high.

Mumtaz Ismail and her son, Shehzad, talk about the family's struggles in rebuilding their convenience store after it was burned down.

In those cases, the government must prove that a defendant committed an offense not only because of a victim's race, color, religion or national origin, but also because of their participation in one of six narrowly defined "federally protected activities" — interfering with someone's voting rights, for example.

As a measure of the current confusion over the effectiveness of hate crime laws, Democrats in Congress and in Austin, including state Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Democrat who pushed for the Texas law, are seeking both to toughen existing measures and study why they aren't being more widely used.

In Austin, a bill being sponsored by state Sens. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Royce West, D-Dallas, would amend the Texas hate crime law to add the homeless as a protected class. Van de Putte said attacks on the homeless in San Antonio spurred her to support the measure.

A bill introduced by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, calls for the state attorney general to study how effective the law has been.

It's unclear how these measures will fare as the session's May 28 end date nears.

Ellis pushed for expansion of the state hate crime law in 2001 in the wake of the highly publicized murder of James Byrd Jr., an African American man dragged to his death by three white men. That year, the law was also renamed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

"We are trying to get more information on why those numbers are where they are," said Jeremy Warren, a spokesman for Ellis. "As much as we'd like to believe that hate crimes aren't occurring, we know that isn't the case."

Speaking out

The FBI defines hate crimes as those motivated by prejudice, hatred or advocacy of violence against victims because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability.

A 1968 federal law protects people against violence and intimidation because of their race, color, religion or national origin. It was followed by a patchwork of legislation meant to close loopholes and enhance sentences.

A series of failed attempts to include other groups of people as protected classes under the law also followed. Forty-five states, including Texas, have passed their own hate crime laws.

On May 3, the House passed a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, that would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability as protected classes and increase penalties to up to life in prison if the offenses involved kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to kill a person protected by the bill.

The so-called "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act" proposal would presumably remove hurdles so it can be used more. The bill would also authorize $5 million for fiscal 2008 and 2009 for grants to law enforcement agencies — no more than $100,000 per agency per year — to help cover expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

"The point (Conyers) is trying to make is A) these crimes are greatly under-reported, and B) there is a lack of prosecution because locals lack the resources," said Melanie Roussell, a press secretary for Conyers.

In Bexar County, no one has been prosecuted federally for a hate crime in the past eight years, but officials say there likely were prosecutions under the larger civil rights section of federal law.

The arson at the Ismails' store is counted among hundreds of incidents labeled "hate crimes" in Texas since 2000. It was one of 30 such incidents reported in Bexar County and 309 in the state in 2004.

One reason for few prosecutions, say community leaders and advocates, is that victims can be reluctant to report incidents that might well be defined as hate crimes.

"A lot of them, they don't speak out," said Pamela Lim-Jensen, a state licensed Korean-language interpreter in San Antonio. "They have a language barrier, they don't know the law or their rights or they're afraid it might backfire on them."

Sarwat Husain, president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said others won't come forward because they are afraid of a backlash.

"The fear factor is high in the community," Husain said. Hate crime "is under-reported."

Until now, the Ismails have opted not to speak publicly for fear of retaliation.

Today, they proudly talk about the Conoco they struggled two years to rebuild. Shehzad Ismail, their only son, said it was best to speak up in order to educate the community about what took place, and to heal.

Using the law

The Texas hate crime law allows prosecutors to seek stiffer penalties, called enhancements, for lower-level crimes like arson if district attorneys can show the victims were selected "because of a defendant's bias or prejudice" against them.
After complaints from prosecutors that the law was too vague, it was amended in 2001 to list specific categories of people who are protected. It now protects race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual preference, age and national origin.

But amending the law has yielded little in the way of prosecutions, according to the state judiciary's statistics, which show that districts attorney have pursued hate-crimes enhancements eight times since 2001 — despite more than 1,600 incidents in Texas reported to the FBI during that period.

No one keeps track of state-by-state hate-crime prosecutions, so it is unclear what kind of job Texas is doing. Federal law requires the FBI to collect statistics on hate crime incidents from state and local jurisdictions that voluntarily report them, but not to keep track of prosecutions. In Texas, counties must report to the state's judiciary any time prosecutors file enhancements under the state law, and the outcome.

Prosecutors may choose not to seek an enhancement because there is insufficient evidence that the crime was motivated by hate. Instead, they may opt to prosecute an offender for a more serious crime, like attempted murder, which already carries high penalties, said Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

"Texas law is already so broad," he said. "It's a good system that accommodates all kinds of motives. In cases where you already have facts that justify the death penalty or a first-degree felony charge, there's very little utility to a hate-crime enhancement."

Beverly McPhail, an adjunct social work professor who runs the Women's Resource Center at the University of Houston, examined the issue as part of her dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin. She interviewed 19 prosecutors and a summary of her findings was published in October in the Prosecutor, a magazine of the National Association of District Attorneys.

She said prosecutors prefer not to include the enhancements because doing so creates an extra evidentiary burden and may lead to acquittal.

"One of the biggest things prosecutors don't like is having to prove bias," McPhail said. "They want to win the case. They don't care how they win the case."

Fighting hate

Carroll, of San Antonio, was suspected of setting fire to at least five businesses operated by Muslims or Hindus, and had been investigated for several weeks. However, the federal government did not prosecute him because it could not show he violated federal hate crime law and the state already was prosecuting him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann and FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said.

The Bexar County district attorney's office — which accounted for half of the state's eight hate crime prosecutions — charged Carroll with arson, a second-degree felony but later re-indicted him under the state's hate crime law. The upgrade raised the potential penalty to a maximum of 99 years in prison.

Carroll was sentenced to 30 years as part of a plea deal in which he admitted setting three of fires because of bias.

"We think (the sentence) sends a strong message," First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said. "This stuff is not going to be tolerated here."

That message has been clear to the Ismails.

After the fire, a steady flow of customers came with condolences, hugs and hundreds of dollars in donations.

"We're a nation made up of everybody is what people don't realize," said Mark Brownlowe, a repeat customer. "It wouldn't be America otherwise." [Link]

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Years after 9-11, American Muslims increasingly targets of hate

[S]ix years after 9-11, Muslims in America continue to be the targets of violence and abuse.

We especially need it now, with President Bush threatening a veto of legislation that would expand the national hate crime law. Currently, the federal government is only allowed to get involved if a hate crime specifically targets a federally protected activity. Voting, for example.

The president believes the new law isn't needed. There are already state and local laws addressing the issue of hate crimes, he says....

Official state data shows that, in 2005, 260 hate crimes were reported in Florida. Of those, 36 percent were attacks based on religion and ethnicity.

But that's misleading. Because Muslims -- particularly in these post-9-11 days when they feel so isolated from the rest of American society -- tend not to report such crimes....

And things seem to be worsening rather than improving....

The reality is that a lot of people are scared of Muslims. They think anyone who prays facing Mecca is a possible suicide bomber.

Which is precisely why expanding the federal government's power to deal with hate crimes is a good idea.

You would think signing off on the new hate crime law would be a no-brainer, particularly given the president's horrendous reputation among Muslims. [Link]

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Short-tempered auto-body painter wins settlement after being called 'Bin Laden' on shop floor

It was a rough world inside the Richmond Auto Body Ltd. shop in North Vancouver, where workers put in long hours and often broke the tension with dirty jokes and racial slurs that passed for humour.

But for Shahram Dastghib, who immigrated to Canada in 1989 in search of a better life, that world became increasingly unbearable after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. According to a ruling by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, he then became the focus of a campaign in which two managers - Joel Franske and Pierro (Peter) De Santis - labelled him a terrorist.

According to the findings of the tribunal, he was called Bin Laden on the shop loudspeaker, a poster was put up in the lunchroom identifying him as a wanted terrorist and, although he was at one time regarded as the best auto-body painter in the shop, he was eventually fired, in July 2004, after losing his temper at work.

The tribunal has ruled, however, that Mr. Dastghib was discriminated against both in regard to his conditions of employment and in the termination of his job.

The ruling by tribunal member Diane MacLean gives the parties 60 days to come up with a mutually agreeable financial settlement or have one imposed.

None of the parties could be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Dastghib, who worked 14 hours a day and who rose through the ranks to become the highest-paid painter in the shop, testified that he loved his job, but that he became the butt of insulting slurs after Mr. Franske became manager in 2000.

"Mr. Franske would call him 'Shahram Hussein,' 'camel rider' and 'Baboo,' " wrote Ms. MacLean in her decision.

"After 9/11, Mr. Franske would call him 'Bin Laden' on the loud speaker or would call to say his uncle 'Bin Laden' was on line two. There were also other comments or jokes. These comments were made every day and every week.

"The frequency would depend on what was going on in the Middle East. ... Mr. Dastghib alleges that they made these comments only because he was a Muslim and from the Middle East."

The tribunal heard that after Sept. 11, Mr. Dastghib asked his managers to stop calling him names, but that the practice continued anyway.

"Mr. Dastghib testified that the racial jokes and insults affected him emotionally; he had trouble sleeping and sometimes he had the shakes at night. ... He said that he hated to go to work because of Mr. Franske's and Mr. De Santis' insulting and bad behaviour," wrote Ms. MacLean.

Although Mr. Franske and Mr. De Santis disputed making some of the slurs, Ms. MacLean said witnesses confirmed some of the worst offences - including a poster that was put up in the lunchroom.

"Mr. Franske was responsible for printing out the Internet poster," stated Ms. MacLean. "It attributed the following characteristics to Mr. Dastghib: that he was a terrorist; that he was wanted dead or alive; that he dressed in drag; that he was indicted for a bombing; that he was arrested as a street hooker, bestiality pornographer and selling beer to kids; that he said he committed the crimes because of his love of Bin Laden."

Ms. MacLean described the poster as "a particularly venal document" and said it was clearly discriminatory.

"It would be bad enough for this poster to come from a co-worker, but is much worse when it comes from a manager. In my view, the workplace at Richmond Auto Body's North Vancouver location can be characterized as a 'poisoned workplace,' " she said.

The tribunal heard that Mr. Dastghib was not without faults himself. He had anger-management issues, threw his tools, swore at co-workers and was disciplined for issuing threats. After one "heated argument" in the body shop he was fired.

However, Ms. MacLean said "the discriminatory actions of Mr. Franske and Mr. De Santis ... added to Mr. Dastghib's anger ... and tended to exacerbate his short temper." She concluded that the discrimination he was subjected to was therefore a factor that undermined the company's grounds for dismissing him. [Link]

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Flying while Muslim

Muslims say when booking a flight, they feel everyone is watching them. Recently six Muslim Imams were removed from a flight in Minneapolis, sparking the national debate: is there such an issue as "flying while Muslim", racially profiling Muslims after 9-11, or is it just prudent?
Toledo area Muslims are aware of the controversy and many say they are deeply offended by it.

Here is what happened: six Imams were traveling from the Minneapolis - St. Paul airport. Police say the men where praying in the airport terminal. Some witnesses said they were praying loudly. Passengers became concerned with the repeated use of the word "Allah" during the prayers. Allah is the Arabic word for God and is always recited in prayers.

In addition, passengers became alarmed with the men's seating arrangements, requests by two for seatbelt extensions and alleged discussions about the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. Passengers reported this as "suspicious behavior". The Imams were then detained, questioned and banned from U.S. Airways flights. So did the passengers over react?

"In this situation, absolutely, they falsely reported." Dr. Zaheer Hasan from Islamic Center of Greater Toledo says flying as a Muslim is disheartening. "As I board a plane, I see all the eyes tracking me. I see numerous visits by the airline crew. It affects me, but I can bear that."

There comes the time and the place, as some Imams endured, that it is too much.

Nadeem Salem says he is always singled out for random security checks when he flies.

"There is something underneath that is driving this that is really disturbing. I do believe it is racial profiling."

The Imams have now filed discrimination suits against the airline and unnamed passengers. Opponents of the suit say suing passengers will discourage others from reporting suspicious behavior, but some Muslims think differently.

"I think if you legitimately are afraid you are going to say something and you are not going to be concerned about whether someone is going to sue you afterwards."

UT student Sarah Alfaham says the suit makes a statement.

"I think that is really important. You can't be just accusing people for no reason."

Meanwhile, attorney Chereffe Kadri has a different take on the issue. "I have a problem with everybody being the eyes and ears because not everyone is trained, not everybody is well informed."

Kadri believes people need to know more before they jump to conclusions. "If you don't know what is normal, typical or ordinary, then how do you know what is out of the ordinary?"

Muslims we talked with say feeling uncomfortable is not reason enough to be kicked off a flight. They say the government needs to better define what suspicious behavior really is. Investigations by the airline and police show the airline and ground crews acted appropriately, but so far, no ruling on the discrimination lawsuit. [Link]

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Welcome: Hardeep Singh

I am pleased to introduce Hardeep Singh as a contributor to DNSI's blog. Mr. Singh has an avid interest in the history of British India, the Moghul empire and the history of the north western frontier province. He works as the media correspondant for Panjab radio in the UK covering issues and debates which effect the Panjabi/Sikh community in Britain and Europe, issues which pertinent to and often raised on DNSI's blog. He also works as Religious advisor for publishers and writes articles occassionally for the Sikh Times, a UK based newspaper.

Mr. Singh is a graduate in Medical Biology from the Brunel University in London. His dissertation looked at "current and new developments in the chemoprophylaxis and chemotherapeusis of malaria." Hardeep is currently working in strategic planning for a global company.

He is the founder of the ethnicconfusionbritain blog.

He is a valuable addition to our team, and we look forward to his insightful posts!

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Sweden: Muslim woman wins headdress battle

A Muslim woman has won her battle with a supermarket in western Sweden which informed her that she could not work there if she chose to wear a headdress.

The Ica Kvantum supermarket in Västra Frölunda has now made adjustments to its dress code following criticism from the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen - DO).

The supermarket has agreed to apologize to the woman and pay her compensation to the value of 80,000 kronor ($11,700).

Having applied for a job with the supermarket, the woman was called to an interview. There she was told that she could not wear her headdress if she wanted to get the job, Sveriges Radio reports.

Ica has admitted that it made a mistake and has changed its dress code accordingly. [Link]

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Restaurant sorry for 'alleged' turban ban

A Richmond Hill restaurant that initially denied claims it had refused entry to a Sikh man because of his turban has issued an apology of sorts.

In a news release sent yesterday by co-owner Andrew Taranowski, Marlowe Restaurant and Wine Bar apologizes "to all our customers or any individuals who were offended by the recent news relating to alleged racist comments made towards any individual which apparently occurred at our establishment."

Taranowski sought legal advice before drafting the release.

Gaurav Singh, who describes himself as a "proud turban-wearing Sikh," demanded the apology after saying he was denied admission to Marlowe last Saturday night because of his religious headgear.

Singh wanted to meet the owner-manager to "personally educate him about the Sikh faith, along with explaining to him the contributions Sikhs have made to Canada in breaking discriminatory barriers that apply to many immigrants."

Taranowski initially said yesterday he wouldn't agree to such a meeting.

"I don't feel that I have to, only because I don't feel I'm ignorant of their faith or any faith for that matter ..."

However, in a subsequent phone call, he said, "I would be open to anything really ... because I would really like to meet the gentleman."

Singh had threatened to go to the media unless Marlowe apologized by today, but his case gained international attention after a friend posted his letter, detailing the incident, on the Facebook website. He got more than 1,000 emails of support from as far away as the U.S., Britain and India.

The letter said that, after waiting in line for an hour at Marlowe to celebrate the birthday of a friend, he was told by both the doorman and the owner-manager, whom he does not identify by name, that he couldn't enter because of the restaurant's no-headgear policy. Marlowe's website stipulates a "no baseball hats" rule.

Singh explained his turban is an article of religious faith and shouldn't be considered typical headwear. Singh added he and other turbaned Sikhs that had been welcomed at Marlowe in the past, the letter states.

The owner-manager refused to budge, stating "this was his sandbox and he could do what he pleased," Singh wrote.

Singh sent copies of his letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Liberal MP Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Brampton South).

Bains, who also wears a turban, said Singh told him he plans to pursue the issue with the human rights commission. [Link]

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

School fears on the rise

Threats are increasing, and schools are reacting — or, some say, overreacting.

The 12-year-old girl was surprised when she was ordered to the Voorhees Middle School office last week - and more surprised when she found out why.
Other students had accused her of "threatening to kill everyone," said her mother, South Korean-born Jennifer Um.

For hours, the sixth grader was questioned by school and police officials, then evaluated by a mental-health professional. The allegation was not substantiated and no disciplinary action was taken, the school said.

But the little girl was left "shocked and crying" and did not attend classes for two days, said her mother, who says the family now plans to move.

After the Virginia Tech massacre and the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School bloodbath, edgy school officials across the country are not taking chances, but are wondering how far to go, say national school security experts....

The Voorhees students told school officials that the 12-year-old girl had made a threat. She was summoned to the school office, where police later questioned her.

"Anybody can say bad words; nobody can believe it," said Jennifer Um, 49, who said she believes her daughter was accused because of her race. "At that age, they can be cruel."

She said school officials "treated my daughter like a terrorist. . . . Her only weapons were a pencil and eraser."

Because of the ordeal, Um said, she and her husband plan to sell their house and have enrolled their daughter in a private school in Moorestown.

Irene Afek, the Voorhees school's affirmative-action officer and spokeswoman, said officials did not target the sixth grader because of race and were following the school district's protocol when they investigated the allegations.

"We would do the same thing for any incident of this nature," she said. "Any threat is taken seriously, before or after Virginia Tech. This was not part of any backlash."

Lee said he had heard stories of other young Koreans having recent problems in school - including a Lansdale student who was suspended from school for a week for drawing a bomb.

Etzion Neuer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in New Jersey, said that the ADL had contacted Asian American groups, but that "we haven't heard of any widespread problems." [Link]

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Woman Accused of Hate Crime against Arab-American Boss

Federal charges Wednesday night against a West Philadelphia woman accused of committing a hate crime against her supervisor at work.

The FBI says the suspect sent a threatening letter to the Arab-American woman referencing September 11th and threatening her boss along with her two children.

"She went everyday in fear."

It was at Sheraton Suites near the airport where federal investigators say an Arab American hotel manager was threatened by one of her employees.

"Remember 9-1-1, you and your children will die like dogs," the victim's lawyer recounted.

Now the FBI has announced hate crime charges against [the employee]. [Link]

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'Islamaphobia' is on the rise, group says

The leader of a major Arab-American advocacy group said yesterday that there was a "rising tide of Islamaphobia" in America and that more Muslim-Americans are being targeted and threatened now than immediately after 9/11.
Salam Al-Marayati and FBI officials here spoke with reporters yesterday after a federal civil-rights charge was lodged against a Philadelphia woman for sending a threatening note to her Arab-American boss.

Al-Marayati and FBI agent Brian Lynch said the case was unusual because of the cooperation among the Arab-American community, the FBI and the victim.

Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said most Muslim-American victims of hate crimes are reluctant to alert authorities because they don't trust the government.

But he said the victim in this case, a hotel manager, "broke through the fear and barrier of engaging" with community organizations and the FBI.

Lynch said that the feds want victims of hate crimes to come forward but that the FBI can investigate them only if they involve the threat of force; are motivated by bias involving race, religion or ethnicity, and interfere with a person's civil rights.

Al-Marayati said if Muslim-Americans don't report hate-crime incidents, they will be forced to live in "psychological, if not physical, ghettoization."

There were 37 such incidents reported in Philadelphia in 2005, up from 20 in 2004, according to the FBI.

It's unclear how many involved violations of federal law or resulted in charges. [Link]

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Muslim leader in Florida gets mailed death threat

The head of Florida's most prominent Muslim group told the FBI on Wednesday that he had received a death threat.

Altaf Ali, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he received the threat calling Islam "the religion of Satan" in the mail Monday.

The two-page letter came in an envelope addressed to him in large letters, he said. Inside, a handwritten message read, "Death to Islam," and called Ali "a walking dead man." It also included a cartoon picturing nuclear bombs raining down on mosques in Medina and Mecca, the two holiest cities in Islam, he said.

Ali said he did not report the threat until he talked to his wife and realized how frightened she was.

"It's only when my wife became alarmed that I saw this was more important," Ali said. "She said, `Listen, can you put up the hurricane shutters?'"

Two FBI agents arrived at his office Wednesday morning, he said.

Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Miami field office, confirmed the bureau was investigating the death threat. "We want to double-check to see if there are similar letters being sent," she said. [Link]

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Canadian Sikh's turban sparks online campaign

An incident where a Canadian Sikh was allegedly denied entry into an upscale restaurant has grown into an international campaign after details were posted on a popular social networking portal.

Gaurav Singh, an employee of a multinational bank, claims that after waiting in line for an hour to get into the Marlowe Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ontario Saturday to celebrate a friend's birthday, he was told by the doorman and the manager that he would not be allowed in because of the establishment's no-headgear policy.

Singh's friends posted details about the incident on Facebook, a popular networking site originally developed for college and university students.

Within no time an international campaign of support was launched, with hundreds of online responses to his plight pouring in from India, Britain and the US, the 'Star' newspaper reported.

"What occurred was something I have never experienced in my 25 years in North America," wrote Singh. "I have travelled across the globe and I am sad to admit that the only location I have ever received such treatment was the country of which I am a proud citizen. There was no other reason other than my religious head covering."

Singh has already approached the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund and Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Bains.

"As you know, everyone consults their lawyer before they do anything nowadays," said John, the restaurant manager, adding that he was 'under strict guidelines' not to discuss the incident.

"If you heard our side, you'd be shocked. Right now there are so many lies and accusations going around, it's unbelievable. The misinformation is unbelievable," he added. [Link]

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Despite fear, campus Asians face no post-massacre backlash

Asian students at Virginia Tech university, where Korean-born Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people, said Monday they felt no rebuke or blame from other students in the wake of the massacre.

"I think some Americans may think Asians are not good. But people at VT understand that Cho was mentally ill," said Boonta Chutvirasakul, an undergraduate from Bangkok, Thailand.

"There has not been any negative treatment of anyone," said Jing Wang, a computer science student originally from Xian, China who now lives in Sheldon, Connecticut.

"Twenty years ago maybe there would have been something, but not now," he said.

Out of some 26,000 full time undergraduate and graduate students, the state-run university counts some 1,800 Asians and Asian-Americans in its student body.

Many said they got worried when the media reported shortly after the shooting that the killer was Asian, and then one outlet reported incorrectly that the killer was Chinese.

Cho, who was born in South Korea but grew up in the Washington suburb of Centreville, Virginia, is one of a few hundred Koreans at the university -- most of whom fled the campus after the shooting out of fear.

Few of his fellow students, including the Korean community, knew anything about the angry loner who earlier this year bought two handguns and on April 16 unleased a rampage killing 27 students and five faculty before committing suicide.

Not only Asians saw cause for concern. On Friday the university sent out toughly-worded emails to all students and faculty calling for anyone to report even the slightest hint of anti-Asian sentiment.

And one professor who would not be named said last week that he was concerned how many undergraduate students would react to their Asian teaching assistants -- graduate students who take on lecturer roles -- when classes reopened Monday.

Rafael Jose Gonzales, a US citizen born in the Philippines and a second-year student at the university, said he worried at first that people might react badly against Asians at the rural southwestern Virginia college.

But he said that there was no sign of recriminations across the campus, and rejected the idea that there was anything specifically "Asian" about the tragedy, whatever the identity of the shooter.

"This is a reflection of the hardships that certain people go through. It just happened that he was Korean," he said.

But Asian students have gone out of their way to demonstrate they too felt the loss and that their sympathies were with the families of the dead, which included an Indonesian graduate student.

A South Korean group in Austin, Texas sent 33 vases of flowers -- including one for Cho -- to be placed in the university chapel two days after the massacre to demonstrate their sympathy.

On Friday the 600-strong association of students from China laid out white sheets on the drill field near the campus memorial to the dead and invited their members and anyone else to pen their condolences and thoughts on it.

"We feel the need to show our sympathy and our sadness," said Xue Hong, president of the association and a doctorate candidate in economics.

"Some Asian people are worried about their safety. But most people treat this tragedy as individual behavior."

"There is always someone who will see it racial," he added.

Mental health professionals said in a counseling session days after the massacre that they worried about anger directed at Asian students from people in the greater Blacksburg community without direct links to the university.

That sentiment was reflected by a local Bangkok-born restaurateur, Thanadoul Khunngam.

"I don't want people to think all Asians are bad," he said. —AFP [Link]

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Remarks by Secretary Michael Chertoff at the Anti-Defamation League's 29th Annual Leadership Conference

One of the projects that we in our department are very concerned about is making sure that we continue to develop, cultivate and maintain partnerships with key leaders in our American Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. If we are going to win the struggle against this ideology of evil, which I began my speech talking about, we can only do it by competing with an ideology and a narrative that is more appealing to young people – in fact to everybody – in this country and around the world. You can't beat a set of ideas, even if they're bad ideas, unless you offer competing ideas. And the only way to develop those ideas and to be able to communicate those ideas is by working with community leaders who are, in fact, those who influence thought and education and belief.

And that's why reaching out to embrace these communities – Arab communities, Muslim communities, and South Asian communities – is so important to us. We need to make sure that everybody in this country, whatever their religious belief and ethnic background, feels connected to the American way and to the government. We have to listen to their concerns and ideas. We have to encourage people from these communities to join public service, to become part of the FBI, or DHS, or part of the military, so that they have a full stake in the venture and nobody feels excluded.

It is one of the strengths that this country has had, and an advantage that we have that some countries overseas do not have, that we've been willing to weave new immigrants and second- and third-generation decedents of immigrants into the fabric of our country – living side by side, raising our families together, prospering in our professions and our businesses, and worshiping in accordance with the dictates of our conscience.

The motto on the seal of this country, again, "e pluribus unum," is in many ways a recipe for the best ideology and the most powerful ideology to use against bin Laden and those who subscribe to his evil world view. [Link]

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Why Navdeep Bains Likes His Turbans Red

Navdeep Bains turns 30 next month. Three years ago he became one the youngest MPs to be elected to the House of Commons. Since his election in 2004, he has served as parliamentary secretary to former prime minister Paul Martin, and has been the Liberal critic for international trade since Jan. 19.

Jokes aside, the real reason he wears red is because it matches his ties and his party's colour is red, too.

Others mistake him for a Muslim because of the turban.

"I have had people come up to me saying 'Salaam aleikum' [peace be upon you] and I have no objection replying," he says. [Link]

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Borders Spell Trouble for Arab-American

Abe Dabdoub calls the day he was sworn in as an American citizen last year the proudest moment of his life, little suspecting that his new identity would set off a bureaucratic nightmare at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

Most of his family members live in Canada, and on each of Mr. Dabdoub’s 14 trips to visit them since last August, on his way back across the Ambassador Bridge into Michigan, the Customs and Border Patrol agents have sent him through a security gantlet, he says.

He has been fingerprinted 14 times, his body searched 9 times, been handcuffed 4 times and isolated in a separate detention room 13 times. On the fourth trip, the border patrol agents started subjecting his wife to similar scrutiny.

Two months ago, he sought relief through a new online system that the Department of Homeland Security trumpets as a one-stop shop for travelers who think they have been wronged, the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP. But the problem continues unabated and, typical of such cases, no one in the federal government nor his elected representatives will tell him why he is being singled out.

“I’ve always believed that in America if there is some type of injustice going on, that if you make it known to the right people, it will get taken care of,” said Mr. Dabdoub, 39, who was born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian parents. They moved to Canada when he was 5.

“This time I’ve lost faith in the system; it’s either indifferent or inefficient or both,” Mr. Dabdoub, an engineer and manager of a plant in Cleveland that provides steel to automobile companies, added, in a telephone interview. [Link]

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Turban tale sparks campaign

Sikh who alleges eatery barred him entry wins international support after Facebook posting

Gaurav Singh, "a proud turban-wearing Sikh," says he was looking forward to a fun night on the town with friends on the weekend when he was refused entry to a Richmond Hill restaurant because of his religious headgear.

Singh's friend posted a letter detailing the incident on Facebook, inadvertently launching an international campaign of support with hundreds of online responses to his plight from as far away as India, the U.K. and the U.S.

Singh sent copies of the letter to Marlowe Restaurant and Wine Bar, the upscale eatery that is at the centre of the controversy, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and MP Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Brampton South).

Singh did not return calls from the Star yesterday.

"What occurred ... was something I have never experienced in my 25 years in North America," writes Singh, an employee of a multi-national bank. "I have travelled across the globe and I am sad to admit that the only location I have ever received such treatment was the country where I am a proud citizen of. There was no other reason other than my religious head covering." Andrew Taranowski, co-owner of Marlowe, did not return calls from the Star yesterday.

"As you know, everyone consults their lawyer before they do anything nowadays," said a restaurant manager, who would only identify himself as John, adding that he was "under strict guidelines" not to discuss the incident.

"If you heard our side you'd be shocked. Right now there are so many lies and accusations going around, it's unbelievable.

"The misinformation is unbelievable," said John.

Singh's side of the story is that after waiting in line for an hour to get into Marlowe on Saturday night to celebrate the birthday of a friend, he was told both by the doorman and the owner/manager, whom he does not identify by name, that he would not be allowed in because of the establishment's no-headgear policy.

Singh explained that his turban is an article of religious faith, which should not be considered typical headwear and should not be discriminated against.

Moreover, Singh said he, as well as other turbaned Sikhs, had been welcomed at Marlowe in the past.

MP Bains, who is also a turbaned Sikh, confirmed he got Singh's letter.

"I haven't heard both sides of the story, " said Bains. [Link]

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Asian-American students worry about image after tragedy

When news of the Virginia Tech tragedy broke, Asian-Americans reacted with the same horror as everyone else.

But another concern loomed as reports surfaced that the shooter might be Asian, first from China and then South Korea.

Would there be a backlash against immigrants, or Asian-Americans in general, as in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks? Should they feel any responsibility? Or shame? Or fear?

Anne Saw, a University of Illinois graduate student and counselor, said she "didn't sleep a full night all week" in the days following the shootings.

"It's been hard for me to reconcile all my different feelings – sometimes guilt, sometimes anger, sometimes confusion," she said.

Saw and a dozen other Asian-American students aired their feelings Sunday night in a meeting with Eric Byler, a Chinese-American director in town for the Ninth Annual Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Byler, who grew up in Virginia, has worked to promote Asian-American political candidates and more Asian-American representation on television.

In the days since the shootings, Asian-Americans at the UI have reported some backlash.

One student was asked, as she sat down in class, "Do you have a gun in your backpack?" Another had his chair shoved by a man who walked by him in a bar. When he asked why, the man replied, "Figure it out." A Filipino-American student walking through an off-campus parking lot said someone drove by her and shouted "Gook, go home!"

Asian-American students say they're getting "more looks and stares," and their friends at other campuses have been spit on, said graduate student Matthew Lee, who is also a counselor at the UI.

"It's kind of sad to say, but it's about what I expected," Saw said. [Link]

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Asian students react to Va. Tech

Asian Americans fear backlash for Virginia Tech


The tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16 seized the nation's attention. World-class journalists and student bloggers alike waited anxiously for investigators to release the identity of the man who killed 32 people and shot several others in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

By the next day, the shooter was publicly identified as Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui, a resident alien from South Korea.

But after images and articles related to Cho's life began to flood the media, Asian Americans at the University said they had another reason to mourn the tragedy - it could reflect on them.

Psychology Prof. Phillip Akutsu said because Asian Americans don't often receive media attention, focus on the shooter's nationality was painful for the Asian American community.

"The tragedy in and of itself was very, very sad," said Akutsu, who studies mental illness in Asian Americans. "But to see an Asian American face was even more so. We hear so little about Asian Americans in the news to begin with."

Several Asian students said they were stunned to find out the shooter was Asian.

"My initial reaction - I was shocked and ashamed to be Asian," said LSA sophomore Jae Jun Hong, who is a South Korean international student from Dubai. "I wouldn't expect an Asian to do that."

Hong said he doesn't think Asian Americans should feel guilty about the tragedy, but that he fears the incident will cast Koreans in a negative light.

"I live in Dubai, but somehow, even there, we represent Korea," he said.

The day the shooting happened, Hong's mother called him from Dubai to make sure he was handling the news all right. She also worried that Hong would be harassed.

Hong said he didn't experience any harassment, but the concerns Hong's mother expressed over potential backlash toward Asians echo the fears of several members of the University's Asian community.

Recent University graduate C.C. Song, who was a member of the University's chapter of the United Asian American Organization, said many Asian American students told her they were worried about being persecuted on campus because of Virginia Tech.

"They are afraid anti-Asian American sentiment will arise, understanding that the after storm of 9/11 did affect Pacific Rim Asians and Muslims," she said.

Both Hong and Song said they thought the media put unwarranted emphasis on Cho's ethnicity that they feared the tragedy could damage people's perception of Asian immigrants. [Link]

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