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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sikh Shop owner’s tale of prejudice a jolt of reality

Periodically, a local occurrence hits the reasonable people in our community with a jolt of reality: There are still those among us — perhaps many — who judge a man by his appearance rather than, as Martin Luther King Jr. advised, the content of his character.

The community was struck by one of those jolts Friday, when The Herald Bulletin related the trials of the new owner of an Edgewood convenience store and gasoline station who has been confronted with blatant prejudice.

An unidentified man delivered a letter July 18 to the store owned by Jaswant Singh Banwait. The letter contained a rambling diatribe against “Arab/Muslim terrorists,” apparently targeting Banwait because he has dark skin and wears a turban. Furthermore, Banwait says that, since purchasing the former Milk Barn in March, he and his employees have been “cussed out” in his store and that someone told him to “go back to my country.” And the store’s general manager says that he’s been told he has committed “treason” by working for Banwait.

Adding another troubling thread to this disturbing pattern, when a Herald Bulletin reporter stopped at a nearby home to ask the residents about the convenience store and Banwait, the replies of the man and his wife were shocking. They said they were boycotting the store because they had received subpar hotel service in the past from people of Indian descent.

“I don’t care for those people,” the man said. “They come over here and take over our businesses.”

The woman added, “We resent the fact that they’re here” and noted that she wouldn’t shop at a Muslim-owned store because “they’re our enemy.”

The fact that Banwait isn’t even a Muslim stains the prejudice demonstrated by these bizarre words and actions with another coat of ignorance. Banwait is an Indian Sikh, a member of a religion with 25 million followers.

“As part of my religion, I do not look at anyone as bad,” he said. “In my daily prayers, I pray for the whole universe.”

Banwait, who has lived in the United States since 1989, is determined to make a go of it in Edgewood. He’s determined to demonstrate to customers and neighbors that he is a good man and a good businessman.

Perhaps that’s the best thing that could come from this sordid tale: A realization might dawn on some folks that good people come from all different sorts of cultures and have all different sorts of appearances.

In the meantime, it is the responsibility of the reasonable citizens of this community — and that’s most of us — to advocate for the respectful treatment of all who live here and all who visit here. [Link]

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Legal Brief Filed in Historic Kirpan Case

The Sikh Coalition recently filed a 41 page opposition brief in a historic case involving the right of an Internal Revenue Service employee to carry her kirpan to work. The Coalition previously wrote about this case in March 2006.

To the Coalition's knowledge this is the first time that a Sikh has fought for the right of a federal employee to carry the kirpan to work. The Coalition is committed to litigating this matter in order to ensure that America is a friendly place for the Sikh way of life. Kawal's workplace is replete with thousands of objects more dangerous than her kirpan. It make little sense to restrict her religious freedom in this context.

Ultimately the Coalition believes that it is standing up not only Sikh rights, but American values and basic human rights. [Sikh Coalition Press Release]

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Brooklyn Man Charged In Quran Desecrations

New York City police have arrested a 23-year-old man for allegedly throwing Islam's holy book into a toilet at Pace University on two separate occasions.

Stanislav Shmulevich of Brooklyn faces hate crime charges.

The Quran was found in a toilet at Pace's lower Manhattan campus by a teacher on October 13. Police say a student discovered another Quran in a toilet on November 21.

Muslim activists had called on Pace University to crack down on hate crimes after the incidents. As a result, the university said it would offer sensitivity training to its students. [Link]

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Many Asians 'do not feel British'

More than a third of British Asians do not feel British, a BBC poll suggests.

The research among the under-34s for the Asian Network found 38% of the UK residents of South Asian origin felt only slightly or not at all British.

More than a third agreed to get on in the UK they needed to be a "coconut", a term for somebody who is "brown on the outside but white on the inside".

ICM Research interviewed 500 Asian people aged 16-34 and 235 white people aged 18-34 between 4 and 12 July.

Of those polled 84% were satisfied with life in Britain and almost half thought they have more opportunities here.

All of the British Asians polled were of South Asian origin.

Half of them, and nearly two-thirds of the white people interviewed, agreed it was too easy for immigrants to settle in Britain. [Link]

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Store Owner Shakes Off Anonymous 'Terrorist' Query

Indian Man Says He's Not Intimidated

A man recently hand-delivered an anonymous seven-page message to the Madison Pantry -- a gas station and convenience store owned by Jaswant Singh Banwait -- and walked out.

Store manager Tim Bedwell read the letter and was reluctant to show it to his boss. It asked whether Banwait was a Muslim terrorist.

"How do I differentiate," the letter read, "between the true Arab/Muslim Americans and the Arab Muslim terrorists ...?"

Banwait, who wears a turban, is neither Arab nor Muslim. He is Indian and a Sikh.

"They have nothing to fear from me," Banwait told 6News' Derrik Thomas Friday afternoon. "If they have questions, they can come straight to me. They can call me anytime."

Banwait recently purchased the Madison Pantry, located in Edgewood in Madison County. Some customers have rallied to his defense.

"I don't have anything against these people. I'm just sorry our community is kind of getting a bad name," customer Steve Douglas said.

Bedwell, a military veteran, said some people have questioned why he would work for Banwait.

"They've told me I'm committing treason. They've told me I'm destroying America by working for my boss," Bedwell said.

Bedwell said the letter reflected ignorance.

"The people, they haven't given him a chance to express himself or tell anything about him," Bedwell said.

The letter concluded by telling Banwait in bold letters: "YOU WORRY ME."

Banwait, who also owns stores in Indianapolis, New Castle and Kokomo, said he is not intimidated and will continue to operate the Edgewood store.

"America is a land of opportunity. That's why I came here," Banwait said.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Divided We Fall

September 11th, 2001 shook the very core of American society. But for one religious faction, the terror attacks spawned a violent retaliation, unlike anything they had ever known.

This week on San Diego People, KUSI's Kimberly Hunt takes a look at the impact of 9/11 on the Sikh Community. A monotheistic faith begun in the 15th century. Its members preach a message of peace. But because of misdirected anger following 9/11, Sikhs have become the targets of violence.

The hate crimes prompted a young Sikh American to begin documenting the cases throughout the country, including a brutal attack in San Diego.

She turned those stories into a documentary called, 'Divided We Fall'. [Link]

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tactics Can Alienate Muslim Americans

By using European tactics to search for homegrown sources of terrorism in the Muslim-American community, the U.S. risks fostering the kind of alienation that some Muslims feel in Europe, writes Moushumi Khan, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Muslims' trust in U.S. civil society has encouraged them to work with local police in finding terrorists, the most effective way to uncover terrorism, says Mr. Khan. For instance, a local Federal Bureau of Investigation office credited the Muslim community with stepping forward last year to expose a plot in Toledo, Ohio, to build bombs and aid the insurgency in Iraq.

But rather than build on such links between the Muslim community and the government, the U.S. has a tendency to rely on European tactics that increase suspicion on both sides. The government pays informants, sends undercover police into religious institutions and carries out racial profiling. Those tactics might be appropriate in Europe, where the Muslim population tends to be poorer and less integrated, says Mr. Khan. But in the U.S., strategies like these are perceived by some Muslim-Americans as entrapment of young people who have done little to arouse suspicion beyond practicing their religion. Taped conversations with a government informant about planting a bomb in a New York City subway station helped convict Shahawar Siraj Matin in 2006. But Mr. Khan says those tapes show the informant pressuring Mr. Matin into planning the attack. Many Muslims interpreted the tapes as a signal that "they could not afford to voice their political beliefs," Mr. Khan says, increasing their suspicion of the government.

Despite the risks of these practices, the hunt for homegrown Muslim terrorism hasn't turned up many real-world examples, Mr. Khan says. Most of the prominent cases have involved immigrants, and even some of those have crumbled."While the vast majority of Muslim youth are wondering how they can be civically minded Muslim Americans," he says, "the government seems to be stuck on the theme of the radicalization of Muslim American youth." [Link]

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9/11 bill prompts civil liberties groups, some Dems to warn of racial profiling

As Democratic leaders crowed Wednesday about nearing completion of a bill to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, some civil liberty advocates and lawmakers were furious that conferees slipped in language that they said could substantially increase racial profiling across the country.

The measure would grant liability protection for people who divulge information to authorities about possible terrorist actions. It was included in the conference report at the insistence of Republicans, with support from a key independent and some Democrats.

The final provision is not as far-reaching as previous versions. It would only apply to people giving information in good faith and would not protect those making false statements with “reckless disregard” for the truth, aides said. [Link]

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School bus driver fired after alleged hate crime

The school bus driver arrested in May after he allegedly cursed and spit at Muslim children in a local fast-food restaurant has lost his job at Bay District Schools. [Link]

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Sikh name-change letter 'poorly worded': Immigration Canada

An Immigration Canada letter that said people with the common Sikh surnames Singh or Kaur have to change their last names before coming to Canada was "poorly worded" and is not government policy, a spokeswoman from the department says.

"Permanent resident applicants with the surnames Singh or Kaur are not required to change their names in order to apply," Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an e-mail to CBC News Wednesday. [Link]

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Muslim street warden wins £42,000 after 'Saddam' race jibes

A Muslim street warden nicknamed 'Saddam' by his colleagues has won nearly £45,000 from an employment tribunal. Iqbal Rasheed, 59, suffered four years of abuse while working for a security firm contracted out by Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority. [Link]

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Intimidation Sparks Showdown Between Muslim Couple, Neighbors

Some apartment residents in Auburn could face hate-crime charges after a Muslim couple claimed they were subjected to racial taunts and threats.

Kenneth Post, a Muslim convert, and his Yemeni wife, Raihanah Alsameai, said other residents in their building began intimidating them after they moved in earlier this month. Post said his wife is afraid of dogs and that a neighbor's pit bull lunged at her and chased her. He said the situation grew worse when neighbors shouted, "What's your religion?" and "Are you a Taliban?"

Police escorted the couple from the building and checked them into a hotel while also serving protection orders on three of the tenants. No charges were filed, but police asked the state attorney general's office to look into whether hate-crime charges should be filed. [Link]

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Sikh group slams immigration name change policy

A Sikh-Canadian group is slamming the long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Jasbeer Singh, of the World Sikh Organization, said the policy is incredibly out of synch in this day and age.

"The reason we should be concerned is this is a very sneaky attack on our individual rights and freedoms and persona," Singh said. "Today they are challenging or don't like Singh or Kaur. Tomorrow they will not like Mohammed. And how soon will it be before they are asking all Browns and Smiths to change their names?"

The policy came to light after a Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada learned her husband's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.

The Citizenship and Immigration department says the policy to ask people to provide a third name has been around for 10 years. It's used only in the New Delhi visa office and does not apply to any other last names.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the reason for the policy is that it helps officials with the paperwork and allows them to identify people's files quickly, efficiently and accurately. [Link]

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Sikh group slams immigration name change policy

A Sikh-Canadian group is slamming the long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.
Jasbeer Singh, of the World Sikh Organization, said the policy is incredibly out of synch in this day and age.
"The reason we should be concerned is this is a very sneaky attack on our individual rights and freedoms and persona," Singh said. "Today they are challenging or don't like Singh or Kaur. Tomorrow they will not like Mohammed. And how soon will it be before they are asking all Browns and Smiths to change their names?"
The policy came to light after a Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada learned her husband's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.
The Citizenship and Immigration department says the policy to ask people to provide a third name has been around for 10 years. It's used only in the New Delhi visa office and does not apply to any other last names.
Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the reason for the policy is that it helps officials with the paperwork and allows them to identify people's files quickly, efficiently and accurately
A Sikh-Canadian group is slamming the long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.
Jasbeer Singh, of the World Sikh Organization, said the policy is incredibly out of synch in this day and age.
"The reason we should be concerned is this is a very sneaky attack on our individual rights and freedoms and persona," Singh said. "Today they are challenging or don't like Singh or Kaur. Tomorrow they will not like Mohammed. And how soon will it be before they are asking all Browns and Smiths to change their names?"
The policy came to light after a Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada learned her husband's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.
The Citizenship and Immigration department says the policy to ask people to provide a third name has been around for 10 years. It's used only in the New Delhi visa office and does not apply to any other last names.
Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the reason for the policy is that it helps officials with the paperwork and allows them to identify people's files quickly, efficiently and accurately.
full article http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/24/name-singh.html?ref=rss
also posted on http://ethnicconfusionbritain.blogware.com/blog

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

U.S. backs lawsuit against Wayne

ederal justice officials are backing a lawsuit by an Albanian Muslim group that claims the township discriminated against it by trying to take its property even as it sought to build a mosque in town.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the township's actions against the Paterson-based Albanian Associated Fund bore the "classic trademarks'' of discrimination. In court papers, the government said there was reason to conclude the township tried to take the property for open space to stop members of the fund from building a mosque and community center in the township.
What's next

Mayor Scott Rumana, however, said the Colfax Road property is environmentally unsuitable for development and that is why the township tried to acquire the land through eminent domain.

A federal court hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday.[Link]

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Common Sikh names banned under Canada's immigration policy

A Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada is upset by a long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Tarvinder Kaur, who is pregnant, said her husband Jaspal Singh's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.

He has no choice but to legally change his name in India so he can get to Calgary before she gives birth next month, she said.

CBC News has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stating that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada."
[Link]

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Common Sikh names banned under Canada's immigration policy

A Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada is upset by a long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.
Tarvinder Kaur, who is pregnant, said her husband Jaspal Singh's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.
He has no choice but to legally change his name in India so he can get to Calgary before she gives birth next month, she said.
CBC News has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stating that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada."
"Why are we needing to make a different last name?" said Kaur. "You choose what your last name is going to be and if it's always been a certain way, then why should you have to change it?"
Traditional Sikh names
Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh.
The names are used differently by different people. Some use Singh or Kaur as middle names, while others use them as their last names.
Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last 10 years.
"I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it's just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no such policy against other common last names.
Kaur, who was born in Canada, says that's unacceptable.
"If it's going to be a standard policy it should be standard with all common last names. Why is it that it's only Singh or Kaur that's being attacked by this?"
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/07/23/names-immigration.html

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Attacks on Scottish Muslims on the rise after foiled Glasgow Airport attack

Racist crime has increased by almost a third in parts of Scotland since last month's foiled bomb attack on Glasgow Airport, reports The Independent.

According to the paper, the incidents include a suspected fire bombing of a mosque and verbal assaults on Asians.

Community and political leaders in Scotland have called for calm in the aftermath of the June 30 attack, but statistics released this weekend show that the country's Asian community has faced a backlash.

Strathclyde Police said it had recorded more than 10 racially-motivated crimes per day since the airport attack.

In the 12 days following July 1, there were 142 racist incidents.

Scottish Muslim representatives have voiced concerns over the figures, and believe many more have gone unreported.

Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: 'We still need to build bridges and ensure that those responsible [for the attacks] are punished.' [Link]

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Memorial shows fragility of rights

Canadians tend to see themselves as a generally tolerant, fair, and unbiased people. But if one of the treasures that we value as British Columbians and Canadians includes our constitutional rights, then we owe it to ourselves to visit places that illustrate how fragile those rights can sometimes be in moments of crisis.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is Canada's only interpretive centre that is dedicated to the memory of the uprooting and internment of more than 22,000 Canadians of Japanese heritage -- one of the worst violations of human rights in B.C. and Canadian history.

In 1942, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the declaration of war against Japan, the Canadian government passed an Order in Council authorizing the removal of "enemy aliens" within a 160-km radius of the B.C. coast. It didn't matter that the vast majority of these people were Canadian citizens and that most had been born in Canada. They were given 24 hours to pack a maximum of 68 kg of possessions (34 kg for children) before being displaced. Women, children and older people were sent to internment camps. Able-bodied men were forced into road-construction camps. Those who complained or violated a curfew were sent to prisoner of war facilities in Ontario. Meanwhile, their confiscated homes, furniture, cars and boats were sold off to pay for the cost of their internment.

As if this were not enough, at the end of the war, the government gave Japanese Canadians the choice of being "repatriated" to Japan and losing their Canadian citizenship, or moving to Eastern Canada. It was not until 1949 that they were allowed to return to the West Coast. By this time, for most Japanese Canadians, there was nothing to return to.

Those who believe that something like this could never happen again need only think of the Maher Arar case in which Canadian government agencies were complicit in the U.S. detention and forced removal of a Canadian citizen to Syria where he was tortured for nearly a year. Though in his case, it took only four years for the Canadian government to admit culpability and offer compensation, Japanese-Canadians were forced to wait 46 years for limited redress and an official apology. [Link]

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Group welcomes only Arab American U.S. Attorney

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid of Colorado was the special guest at the BRIDGES meeting on Wednesday, July 18, at the Lebanese American Heritage Club (LAHC) in Dearborn.

The meeting hosted representatives from numerous organizations and government agencies, as well as several local community leaders. BRIDGES Co-Chair Dan Sutherland, Civil Rights Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, along with Stephen J. Murphy, U.S. Attorney for Michigan, opened the meeting by welcoming Eid to Dearborn and thanking him for his presence.

Eid, an Egyptian American, has held office as a U.S. Attorney since 2006. After serving as Colorado's chief federal criminal prosecutor, he received the nomination by President Bush, shortly followed by unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Eid spoke to the attendees about his life experiences and his journey to becoming a U.S. Attorney. He told stories about his family's struggles as immigrants to the U.S. in 1957, and the obstacles he faced as a young man as the only Arab American at an all-white school.

ADC Michigan Regional Director and Co-Chair of BRIDGES, Imad Hamad, recognized the importance of Eid's presence at the meeting.

"It is extremely refreshing and gratifying to see a young Arab American in such a leading position as the only U.S. Attorney of Arab descent in the nation," stated Hamad after the meeting. "He resembles a true model of success, and stands as an example to all young Arab Americans in this and other communities who wish to engage themselves in government and politics. His presence here today is an affirmation of the fact that Arab Americans can achieve great things in this country."

Eid spoke extensively about the need for government agencies to work vigilantly and without bias or influence when handling cases involving suspected terrorism. He has had personal experiences with discrimination, including a post-9/11 incident involving his father at a hospital near his home in Colorado. Eid recognized that there needs to be a sense of responsibility in the process of gathering intelligence, and that people should avoid making quick assumptions. [Link]

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Congress fails to adopt lawsuit guards

Protection from lawsuits for wrongly reporting suspicious behavior has failed to pass the U.S. Congress.

The legislation was inspired by a suit brought by a group of Muslim imams who were removed from a U.S. Airways flight to Phoenix before it left Minneapolis last November, The Washington Times reported. Some passengers on the plane said they had seen the imams, behaving suspiciously by praying together before boarding.

The imams, who were allowed to leave after several hours of FBI questioning, sued the airline, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission and unnamed passengers.

Democratic leaders said that the lawsuit protection could lead to racial profiling. The provision was kept out of a homeland security bill during a House-Senate conference.

"This is a slap in the face of good citizens who do their patriotic duty and come forward, and it caves in to radical Islamists," said Rep. Peter King, R-NY, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee. [Link]

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Officials, cops reach out to U.S. Muslims

Speaking at a private meeting of Arab-American and Muslim leaders in Dearborn, the only U.S. Attorney of Arab descent told the group Wednesday that the U.S. government should be smarter in how it combats terrorism.

The U.S. Attorney for Colorado, Troy Eid, joined other federal officials and metro Detroit police chiefs at the meeting to discuss concerns about civil rights in the war on terrorism. Eid was invited to participate in the talk, part of an ongoing series of private discussions between Arab Americans and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Eid left on a flight after the meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment.

"It was refreshing and inspiring to hear his story," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who cochaired the meeting. "He spoke about the challenges that are facing the Arab-American and Muslim communities across the nation. ...He said the government should be smarter in how it gets at potential terrorists."

Hamad led the meeting, along with Daniel Sutherland, officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday's meeting was the latest in Michigan between the department and Arab Americans. Last week, the head of the department, Secretary Michael Chertoff, met with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders at a Shi'ite mosque in Dearborn, the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center.

Flanked by the center's leader and the head of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Chertoff spoke about the importance of reaching out to American Muslims and not bashing them. [Link]

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Scots resolute in wake of attack

Nearly three weeks removed from the [Glasgow] attacks, Cresswell said he's surprised there hasn't been any "backlash against the minorities. It was surprising, yet good to hear as well."

Yet, there appears to be an underlying fury that a quiet country would be attacked for no apparent reason, no apparent cause for retribution.

"It was shock, as such, I wouldn't say it was any fear," Cresswell, said. "We allow these people to come over here and better their lives, and this is how they repay us.

"At this point, it's just anger." [Link]

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Chance To See Beyond The Veil Of Bias

In the days and weeks that followed 9/11, we were gripped with incomparable fear. Mothers on soccer sidelines whispered about gas masks on e-Bay. We questioned the efficacy of duct-taped plastic wrap as a household barrier against chemical warfare.

The hysteria has since been quelled, but the fear remains, simmering, and reminders of our vulnerability - a car bomb in Glasgow, Michael Chertoff's "gut feeling"- are too frequent.

But I fear more than potential acts of terrorism: I fear the angry swell of our own anti-Muslim backlash. I fear the ugly vitriol spewed forth on the Internet, where anonymous commentators unleash torrents of raw hatred. When The Courant reported on the Muslim convention, the reader responses on the paper's website were so hateful and profane that the editors shut the comment thread down.

I fear for the Pakistani and Indian boys and girls in Glastonbury, who hear other children hiss "terrorist!" as they brush past in school hallways. I fear for the West Hartford teenage Muslim who denies his faith to avoid being bullied. We've become a nation that sanctions hate against 1.2 billion fellow inhabitants of the planet - very frightening.

In an effort to confront my fears, I attended the annual convention, which offered a free symposium for non-Muslims....

When I left the conference and entered the parking garage, I saw a Muslim woman walking in my way. Her face was covered, except for her eyes, by a veil - a niqab. My discomfort and uncertainty returned: Should I say hello? Is she allowed to speak to me? Does she hate me? Is she afraid? Am I?

We approached one another. A casual voice came from under the niqab, "Hi, how're you doing?" I could see the smile in her eyes.

I responded in kind. As people do. [Link]

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Vandalism to vehicles investigated as hate crime

San Antonio police say they're investigating vandalism to a Muslim family's vehicles as a hate crime.

Said (sah-EED') and Amel (ah-MEHL') Motawea (MOH'-tah-way) found their cars vandalized Friday with profanity and a message to leave the neighborhood in which they've lived in for eight years.

In the week before the vandalism, the Motaweas found that someone had thrown beer bottles and eggs at their home and cars.

The Motaweas are originally from Egypt but have lived in the United States for half their lives and have four US-born children.

The family also plans to meet with the FBI.[Link]

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Arab-American drivers accuse FedEx bosses of discrimination

Four Arab-American drivers who said they were harassed by their supervisors at a FedEx Corp. facility in Wilmington have filed a lawsuit alleging they were subjected to a steady flow of vitriol and discrimination.

In a lawsuit the plaintiffs' lawyer said was served on FedEx yesterday, the drivers said managers called them terrorists, asked them if they were sending money to Osama bin Laden, made a call to the FBI that prompted one of them to be questioned, and restricted their delivery routes.

"FedEx has abdicated its responsibility of employers to make sure that their drivers are not discriminated against," said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston lawyer representing the men. "This is a particularly egregious example of an employer abdicating its responsibility. . . . They [the Arab-American employees] all came to this country because they wanted a better life for their families, and this is what they got."

FedEx spokesman Maury Lane has declined to comment on the specific allegations in the lawsuit.

"The company has a zero tolerance policy on this kind of behavior," Lane said in a recent interview. "If this behavior is reported or seen, we will immediately investigate and terminate any employee at any level guilty of these actions. These contractors are our lifeline to our customers. We wouldn't do anything to jeopardize those working relationships."

In a complaint filed in July 2006 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Loay el-Dagany, from Kuwait, said his supervisor, David Goyette, repeatedly called him a terrorist and threw packages at him.

Goyette also asked Dagany if he was planning to send money to bin Laden or Al Qaeda, Dagany said. After Dagany complained about route changes, Goyette told him not to lose it and "blow up my car," according to the complaint.....

"We were treated as less than human beings," said Dagany, who has worked for FedEx since 2003. "I really just want people to know that in a big company like this, where a lot of foreigners work, people shouldn't be treated that way."....

FedEx has argued that the plaintiffs, who worked for the company's ground package division, were independent contractors and ineligible for protection under state antidiscrimination laws.

In March, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ruled the employees' complaints were valid, clearing the way for the drivers to pursue their case. They are seeking punitive damages similar to a discrimination case filed last year by drivers of Lebanese descent in California, where a jury awarded $61 million to two FedEx employees who contended that a manager had harassed them with racial slurs. A judge later reduced the judgment to $12.5 million. (FedEx, which has 275,000 employees and contractors, earned $35 billion in revenues in fiscal 2007.)

The lawsuit filed June 29 in Middlesex Superior Court says Dagany, Montaser Foad Harara, who is of Palestinian descent, Oukhayi Ibrahim of Morocco, and Yasir Sati from Sudan experienced a "pervasive hostile work environment and have been treated differently and less favorably than non-Arab, non-Muslim drivers in the terms and conditions of their employment."

The suit adds that the men were involuntarily transferred to an office comprised mainly of minorities, had their routes made less profitable, and were subject to religious and ethnic slurs.[Link]

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Vehicles of terror

For Britain's overseas doctors, all this has been bad news and the writing on the wall is already clear. It is now official that they are to be subjected to a more stringent vetting regime before they are considered for employment in the NHS. Doctors from India fear that they are likely to face greater scrutiny because of the Indian "connection'' to the London-Glasgow plot. Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, acknowledged that there was a great deal of "worry" among Indian doctors. Already, some 10,000 doctors from India are struggling to find jobs as a result of new immigration rules, which are discriminatory towards overseas doctors outside the European Union. Things can only become more difficult for them.

Muslim doctors are particularly concerned. "If a doctor is identifiable as a Muslim because of the beard or the hijab, we are worried that the trust between a doctor and a patient could be compromised,'' said a spokesman for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies.

So far, fears of a social backlash have proved unfounded. Unlike Australia where apparently some patients refused to be seen by Indian/Muslim doctors, there has been no such case in Britain. But anxiety remains and as one doctor said: "Just because nothing has happened does not mean that we are not under greater scrutiny. We are all quite conscious of it.''
[Link]

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Sikh Coalition Meets with Chancellor Joel Klein

The Sikh Coalition met with Chancellor Joel Klein today to discuss ways to make schools safe for Sikh children. As head of New York City’s Department of Education, the largest school system in the United States, Klein expressed his concern about bias incidents in schools and pledged to work with the Sikh Coalition on an ongoing basis.

Today’s meeting marked the first time Sikhs have been given a place at the table on the issue of education in New York’s schools. The meeting was prompted by the Sikh Coalition’s recently released report - “Hatred in the Hallways” – that documents incidents of harassment against Sikh schoolchildren throughout the city. In revealing that over 75% of Sikh boys in Queens are regularly harassed at school on account of their religion, the report highlighted serious shortcomings in the Department's ability to protect Sikh children from bias-based harassment.

To counter some of these problems, the Sikh Coalition has asked the Department of Education to implement a number of changes. These include issuing a letter from the Chancellor to all school principals asking them to pay close attention to incidents of bias-based harassment against Sikhs, ensuring that all school personnel know about the unique issues that Sikh students face on account of their appearance, and issuing a regulation that clearly sets out the Department of Education’s anti-harassment policy. In addition, the Sikh Coalition asked that students and parents be informed of how to report incidents of bias-based harassment to the Department of Education. [Sikh Coalition Press Release]

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

DNSI's Valarie Kaur on CNN's Paula Zahn

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Authorities say home fire is a hate crime

Authorities said they were investigating a blaze at the home of a Bosnian family, where vandals sprayed anti-Muslim slogans in red paint.

Sheriff's detectives and authorities from the state Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the arson and vandalism as a hate crime, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

The Sheriff's Office has a detective working only on this case, but there are no suspects yet, said sheriff's Lt. Chuck Lesaltato.

Hasib Sejfovic lived in the house with his wife and three children.

"I'm starting a new life here," Sejfovic said. "I love America and Florida. That's why I come here, but this is not the America I know."

The family came home from vacation to find the inside of their house destroyed and their garage vandalized with graffiti. [Link]

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Asian Americans Remain Vigilant Against Hate Crimes

On July 1, 2007, Satendar Singh, a 26-year-old Fijian man of Indian descent, was picnicking by a lake with his friends when he was beaten to death in what witnesses say was an ugly racial hate crime. Singh’s friends said that “a group of Russian-speaking men and women had directed homophobic slurs at Singh, and racial insults at his group before the physical attack,” according to a report in The Sacramento Bee.

No one else was injured in Singh’s group. Singh’s family members and doctors decided to end life support after four days. Singh is one of the latest victims in the growing number of hate crimes against Asian Americans.

According to a report by The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, on a national level, 46.3 percent of 11,430 offenses that occurred within the single-bias incidents were motivated by racial bias in 2001. Investigators determined 6.6 percent out of the 46.3 percent (5,290) offenses reflected an anti-Asian or anti-Pacific Islander bias.

In the post-Sept. 11 climate, experts say that Asian Americans are even more at risk of being victims of hate crimes.

In a nationwide Hate Crime Statistics Act study done by the FBI in 2001, the known hate crime offenses against Asian/Pacific Islanders were 349 compared to 317 in 2000. The number of victims in 2000 was 339 in comparison to 363 in 2001. The data on the report in 2001 was gathered post-Sept. 11.

Hate crime is an especially sensitive topic in the post Sept. 11 world, with the increase in hate crimes against South Asians. “There has always been an escalation of hate crimes against people who are deemed to be the other,” said Kavneet Singh, managing director of Washington-based Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He noted the recent rise in hate crimes against Sikhs who are mistaken to be Muslim. South Asians have to always look over their shoulders when they are out in public, Singh said.

He indicated that cultural beliefs are being compromised because of the fear of hate crimes.

“Sikh men specifically [are] shedding their turbans, shaving their beards.”
South Asian cab drivers or convenience store owners are even more at risk of hate crimes because they do not have any control over who they interact with publicly, he said.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans continue to plague the community 25 years after Chinese-American draftsman Vincent Chin was beaten to death because of his race. His case was a turning point for Asian-American activism for fighting hate crimes and finding justice within their community.

On June 19, 1982, Chin was beaten to death at his bachelor party in Detroitby two unemployed auto workers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz. Ebens and Nitz blamed the growing Japanese auto industry for taking their jobs away and killed Chin even though he is Chinese-American. Chin was attacked solely because of his racial appearance. Ebens and Nitz never served time. They received three years probation, which created enormous outrage from the Asian-American community.

At a panel discussion last month held by Asian Pacific Americans for
Progress to commemorate Chin’s tragic death, Asian-American community leaders say that the media and police don’t always necessarily view attacks against Asian Americans as hate crimes.

A hate crime last November against Hai Vo eerily resonates Chin’s case. Vo was beaten into a coma outside a bar in Grand Rapids, Mich. According to news reports, a group of men made racial remarks against Vo’s friends and family, who were celebrating a birthday that evening. Although Vo survived, he suffered many medical complications. None of the men accused of the crime was charged.

In June 2003, another crime that hit close to home for many San Franciscans involved five Asian-American boys who were beaten by a group of students who attended Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory high school in San Francisco. Though there were as many as 20 boys accused of the attack, only one was brought to trial and sentenced to community service.

San Francisco Police Commissioner Yvonne Lee said it is time to recognize how the authorities’ tendency to overlook the “racial angle” on a crime has influenced society’s opinion on hate crimes. She emphasized that Asian
Americans must speak out because a lot of cases slip under the media radar because authorities did not label them as hate crimes.

According to Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally known independent law firm that specializes in fighting hate groups, just 44 percent of hate crimes are reported to police. They argue that some hate crimes don't make it into FBI statistics for various reasons: police may not necessarily report it as a hate crime; their departments may not report hate crime statistics to state officials; and in turn those officials may not accurately report to the FBI.

“If we had taken the word [of] what the authority tells us, many of these hate crimes would never come out as a hate crime statistics, and without statistics we could not make a point,” Lee said. Chin’s crime was not initially labeled as a hate crime by the authorities. Instead, it was seen as just another bar room brawl. It was not until the Asian community pushed for further investigation that the case became one of the first high-profile hate crimes against an Asian American.

Helen Zia, an award-winning author and activist, was one of the primary activists involved in advocating justice for Chin and his family.

“None of us thought it would still be talked about 25 years later,” Zia said. She recalled that at the time, she and other activists were cynical that the Chin case could gain such momentum in the public eye. Lee pointed out that even with the increased dialogue on hate crimes, there is a lack of activism today compared to when the Chin case was on trial. She said the Asian-American community needs to personalize hate crimes and let people know that anyone can be a victim of a hate crime.

“Anyone of us has the potential of becoming a target of a hate crime,” Lee said. “Just because we have the best and the brightest in law enforcement working with the most determined in the community does not mean hate crimes will be addressed. We have to continue to be vigilant.” [Link]

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

CSUS student sues, claims head scarf cost her a job

A Muslim woman has filed a discrimination suit against a national chain of jewelry stores, alleging that she was "enthusiastically" recruited to return to work at a Fairfield shop in 2006 but then turned away after managers saw she had begun to wear a head scarf.

Shereen Attia, who studies nutrition at California State University, Sacramento, had previously worked part time for two Whitehall Jewellers stores at the Westfield Solano Mall in Fairfield beginning in December 2004.

"I felt betrayed, and this has made me less confident in applying for any job now," said Attia, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen of Italian American and Egyptian descent.

The suit was filed by the San Francisco law firm of Minami Tamaki and the nonprofit Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, which considers Attia's alleged treatment the continuation of a pattern of "post-9/11 backlash discrimination" nationwide.

Joan Ehrlich, San Francisco district director of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Attia's case "seems clear-cut to me."

"It's just not acceptable, and it's just not lawful," Ehrlich said, to recruit job applicants and turn them down because of religious conviction or attire.

"I certainly hope the employer will come to his senses and settle this," said Ehrlich, whose office investigates discrimination claims.

Robert Nachwalter, Whitehall senior vice president and general counsel, said the Chicago-based company's policy "is not to comment on litigation." [Link]

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Backlash is feared in India over terror plot

The foiled terrorist attacks in Britain last month have prompted anxiety and soul searching in India, a country whose economy relies heavily on its citizens' ability to work overseas.

Some of those arrested in connection with the thwarted bombings in London and Glasgow are Muslims from India. It is the first time since 1985, when a bomb downed Air India Flight 182 near the coast of Ireland, that Indian citizens have been implicated in a major international terrorist incident.

The revelations have prompted fears that Indian professionals, Muslim or otherwise, will face increasing difficulty finding employment overseas.

Concerns that relatives already working abroad will face a backlash have also been heightened.

Some Indians remember that the first hate crime victim in the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh filling station owner in Arizona shot to death by a man who apparently saw Sodhi's turban as a symbol of terrorism and anti-American hatred.

A pledge by Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain last week to review policies for screening foreign doctors was met with a plea from the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, not to single out citizens of any country for scrutiny.

"A terrorist is a terrorist and has no religion or community," Singh said he told Brown. [Link]

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Scottish Muslims Fear Revenge Attacks

In the entire row of stores, the only one that was targeted - the one that still smells of smoke - is owned by a man of Pakistani descent.

Shafiq Ahmed said vandals rammed a car into his 'One Stop Shop' convenience store, then set a fire - an assault disturbingly reminiscent of the attempted terror attack just days earlier on the airport of this gritty Scottish city.

Police are investigating the alleged attack and others as part of an apparent backlash against Glasgow's Muslims since the failed airport assault and attempted car bombings in London. At least 24 incidents are being probed, from graffiti on a mosque to firebombed businesses.

As he cleaned the soot from his charred store, Ahmed, who moved to Britain as an infant, hoped the attack on his family business wasn't racially motivated. After 30 peaceful years in Scotland, the idea that some may no longer welcome him and his Scottish-born children is highly uncomfortable.

'I haven't got words to describe it. I'm hoping it's not retaliation,' Ahmed, 41, said Sunday, in a thick Glasgow accent. 'It's a shame to think you can't work with people and enjoy the company of people and instead have to worry.'

Unlike in Muslim enclaves in northern England, Asian Muslims in Glasgow do not live in complete isolation. White customers are common in curry restaurants and ethnic grocery stores. Glaswegians wearing the colors of the local soccer team, the Glasgow Rangers, share the sidewalks with Muslim community elders clad in the long tunics and matching baggy trousers traditionally worn in Pakistan. [Link]

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A Sikh teen’s perspective: Young author works for tolerance in wake of 9/11

Harkirat Hansra is not your typical teenager.

The 17-year-old is the only turban-wearing Sikh at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento. That turban has been the cause for discrimination ever since Sept. 11, 2001.

Hansra’s moment of awareness came in a Sacramento mall when someone told him and his father to “Go back to Afghanistan,” he said.
“We aren’t from Afghanistan. We’re from India,” he said. “We’re not terrorists, and we’re not Muslims.”

Hansra’s father, Gurpreet Singh, said his son has only been to India once.

“If someone tells him this is not your country, where will he go?” Singh asked.

Hansra said he didn’t feel out of place in his community when he was growing up and still doesn’t. But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he heard several disparaging comments and realized that many people were ignorant about Sikhs. Consequently, he made it his mission to educate people and work for racial tolerance.

He started by participating in Yuba City’s annual Sikh parade and last year created a Web site, www.infoaboutsikhs.com, on which he receives feedback from around the world.

In May, he self-published a book called “Liberty at Stake.” It is subtitled “Sikhs: The Most Visible, Yet Misunderstood, Minority of America, a Teenager’s Perspective.” It is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other stores....

The message is in the book’s title, he said. The Pledge of Allegiance says there is “liberty for all” – but that liberty is at stake, said the father.

Singh said he is proud of his son’s efforts to educate people about Sikhs and their beliefs.

“He is fighting the American way – through education.” [Link]

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Sikh who refused to wear helmet gets cash from Canada's Wonderland

Paramount Canada's Wonderland awarded compensation to a Sikh man after he complained he was discriminated against for refusing to take off his turban and wear a helmet to drive a go-kart.

The amusement park has since asked the provincial regulator to allow it to exempt turban-wearing Sikhs from the helmet requirement, which is standard at go-kart operations throughout the country for insurance purposes.

Gurcharan Dran bought tickets for the Speed City Raceway attraction but was not allowed to ride because of a helmet use regulation, the Ontario Human Rights Commission reported last week.

He filed a complaint with the commission but due to a backlog, the case -- dating from 2001 --did not go to tribunal until last year. Mr. Dran reached a settlement with Paramount Canada's Wonderland last October, which included payment of an unknown amount. [Link]

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Turban row - Sikh who refused to wear helmet gets cash from Canada's Wonderland

Published: Monday, July 09, 2007
TORONTO - Paramount Canada's Wonderland awarded compensation to a Sikh man after he complained he was discriminated against for refusing to take off his turban and wear a helmet to drive a go-kart.
The amusement park has since asked the provincial regulator to allow it to exempt turban-wearing Sikhs from the helmet requirement, which is standard at go-kart operations throughout the country for insurance purposes.
Gurcharan Dran bought tickets for the Speed City Raceway attraction but was not allowed to ride because of a helmet use regulation, the Ontario Human Rights Commission reported last week.
He filed a complaint with the commission but due to a backlog, the case -- dating from 2001 --did not go to tribunal until last year. Mr. Dran reached a settlement with Paramount Canada's Wonderland last October, which included payment of an unknown amount.
Mr. Dran could not be reached for comment but Kevin Fox, his lawyer, said Mr. Dran "thinks [Paramount Canada's Wonderland] could have handled it a bit better when they told him to get off."
Mr. Fox said he did not know the details of the confrontation, but said Mr. Dran was in his fifties at the time.
Adam Hogan, a spokesman for Paramount Canada's Wonderland, located in Vaughan, said he was unfamiliar with how much Mr. Dran had been compensated and the details of the incident because it occurred in 2001.
But he did say the helmet requirement has not changed at the amusement park since the incident.
"Nobody can ride the ride without a helmet," Mr. Hogan said. "When it comes to safety, we don't make exceptions."
Paramount Canada's Wonderland and other businesses with go-kart tracks are required to enforce helmet use by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, an arm's-length government agency.
The regulation is part of Ontario's Technical Standards and Safety Act, which also regulates roll bars and seat-belt use in go-karts.
As part of the settlement, Paramount Canada's Wonderland agreed to request an exemption to the helmet requirement for Sikhs from the Ministry of Government Services and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority. Both parties are in the process of reviewing the request, said Tom Ayres, a lawyer with the organization.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is also seeking an exemption for Sikhs at all go-kart tracks in the province.
"We do take the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code very seriously, but this is a complex issue," said Sam Colalillo, a spokesman for the Ministry of Government Services. He said it was too early to speculate if and when an amendment would be made to the helmet law.
Hart Schwartz, the director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission's legal branch, suggested alternatives to the law such as designing safer cars or asking patrons to sign a liability waiver.
But in order to get exemptions to any regulations, there would have to be a safe alternative, Mr. Ayres said.
"No one's been able to give us a measure that will serve the same purpose as a helmet from a safety perspective," he said.
Similar laws for go-kart racing exist in other provinces, but not all. Richmond Go-Kart Track in Richmond, B.C., asks patrons to wear helmets, but only because the business's insurance company instructs them to, said employee Jack Picken.
"If someone with a turban came in, we'd encourage them to wear the helmet, but we wouldn't force them," he said.
Peter Primdahl, underwriting director at K&K Insurance Group in Mississauga, said he would be very reluctant to insure an amusement ride business if they allowed some patrons to ride without helmets -- even if the helmet law is amended.
"Any breach of [safety regulations], should it cause injury, would certainly have an impact on the insurance pricing and would be a very difficult insurance claim to defend," he said.
Religious freedom and helmet use legislation have come head-to-head before.
In November, a case is scheduled to be heard in Ontario involving a Sikh man who was charged with riding his motorcycle without a helmet.
In Manitoba and British Columbia there are exemptions to motorcycle helmet laws for Sikhs who wear turbans.
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=325bc24f-4b3f-4c55-95f8-53d2606088a9

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Muslim doctors here condemn UK attacks

Trying to avoid a backlash here, a group of Muslim physicians who call St. Louis home felt compelled Friday to condemn the terrorist actions in Britain said to involve doctors and medical students.

Police overseas are questioning eight people — all thought to be Muslim foreigners who worked for Britain's National Health Service — in connection with foiled car bombs in London and an attack at Glasgow airport in Scotland.

In Britain Friday, an Iraqi-born doctor was charged in the Glasgow attack.

Muslim doctors here say they are trying to be more vocal in denouncing terrorism. They condemned the "crazies" who are "misguided" and did those acts.

"If we keep quiet, we become kind of a silent supporter of that, although we are not," said Dr. Ghazala Hayat, a professor of neurology at St. Louis University. "This is actually sickening and shocking to doctors, that this would happen." [Link]

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In wake of botched terror plot, Scottish Muslims fear retaliation

In the row of shops, a Pakistani immigrant owns the only one that was targeted. Shafiq Ahmed says vandals rammed a car into his "One Stop Shop" and set it on fire — an assault disturbingly reminiscent of the terror attack just days earlier on the airport of this gritty but until now racially well-integrated Scottish city.

Police say there has been a backlash against Glasgow's Muslims in the wake of the attempted airport bombing, with at least 24 attacks, ranging from graffiti on a mosque to firebombings of businesses.

Soaping off soot with his family in his charred convenience store, Ahmed is hoping that the attack on his family business wasn't racially motivated. After 30 peaceful years in Scotland, the idea that some may no longer welcome him and his Scottish-born children is simply too uncomfortable.

"I haven't got words to describe it. I'm hoping it's not retaliation," Ahmed said Sunday, in a thick Glasgow accent. "It's a shame to think you can't work with people and enjoy the company of people and instead have to worry."

British police are still threading together the terror plot investigation, reaching out to India, Australia, Jordan, Iraq and to communities here in Scotland where Muslims and non-Muslims have long lived in peace together — and where the majority are determined to keep it that way.....

In Glasgow, some Muslims fear that they will now face the same unwelcome scrutiny, even alienation and violence, that others across the border in England have complained of since four British-born Muslims blew themselves up on trains and a bus in London on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.

Senior officials have since urged Muslims to better integrate. Jack Straw, the justice secretary and lord chancellor in the new government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, spoke out in October against the head-to-toe black veils worn by some Muslim women.

"After 7/7 it was not that bad for Muslims here," said Imran Ali, a 22-year-old in Pollokshields, the most populous Muslim district of Glasgow. "It's going to be worse now."

John Neilson, one of Glasgow's most senior police officers, told The Associated Press that they have made 25 arrests in the 24 attacks they suspect were revenge for the airport assault. But he also pointed out that for every attack, there were hundreds more expressions of support for Scotland's 60,000 Muslims. [Link]

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Friday, July 06, 2007

School bus driver pleads not guilty to harassing Muslim kids

A school bus driver pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges involving the harassment of Muslim children.

Thomas Plaisted, 60, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of evidencing prejudice while committing an offense.

Plaisted was arrested in May after he allegedly cursed and spit at the children in a Lynn Haven fast-food restaurant.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference before the arraignment and demanded prosecutors not waiver on the felony charge and that the Bay District School Board fire Plaisted.

Ahmed Bedier, of organization's Tampa chapter, said the number of anti-Muslim incidents in Florida is increasing.

"We don't want to wait until it gets worse," he said.

According to Bay County Sheriffs Office reports, Plaisted was in a Taco Bell when a Muslim mother, wearing a traditional scarf, entered with her children.

When the mother went to the counter to order, Plaisted cursed and made threatening gestures at the children. He then uttered anti-Muslim epithets and spit food on one of the children, deputies reported. Plaisted also shoved an 11-year-old child, the report stated.

He left after customers and employees confronted him, according to his arrest report. [Link]

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WaPo: Indian Doctors Fear Bomb Plot Backlash

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced more rigorous background checks on foreign doctors applying for visas to work in Britain, panic spread through India's medical community, whose highly skilled professionals have always found it easy to work and study abroad.

The prime minister's announcement this week followed the disclosure that, among the medical professionals being held in connection with the failed bombings in Britain, three are from a single family in Bangalore. It was the first time that Indian Muslims have been accused of being linked to a possible al-Qaeda plot.

In emotional television broadcasts, Indian political and medical leaders said they worried that it would be harder to get visas to Britain and that Indian professionals living abroad would face racial profiling.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, displaying rare emotion while speaking with journalists Thursday in New Delhi, said that he had spoken with Brown on Wednesday evening. Singh said he told Brown that he was "against all labeling of terrorism by nationality." Singh also said: "A terrorist is a terrorist and has no religion or community. As a Sikh I know what it's like to be called a Sikh terrorist." [Link]

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

26 year-old Sikh American lies in critical condition after being attacked on July 3rd

Earlier this week, a 26 year-old Sikh American, Satender Singh of Sacramento, CA, was violently assaulted by a group of individuals while at a local park with several of his friends. The perpetrators of this vicious attack reportedly yelled xenophobic and homophobic remarks at Mr. Singh as they beat him unconscious. As of this morning, Mr. Singh lies in critical condition in a local hospital on life support and with minimal brain activity....

Over the past decade, SALDEF has observed that following any incident relating to terrorism, bias-motivated crimes against the Sikh American community have often increased. Over the July 4th holiday celebration and holiday weekend, SALDEF urges the Sikh American community to remain vigilant against possible bias motivated comments and hate crimes. [SALDEF Press Release]

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"Strong Backlash" Against Muslims after London Plot

Since the attacks, the Muslim community in London has experienced a strong backlash. Police say there have been at least 38 racist incidents, including a number of beatings, though no serious injuries. [Link]

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Bloomberg: U.K. Muslims Suffer Terror Backlash, Group Says

U.K. Muslims and South Asians suffered several reprisal attacks after terrorists tried to explode car bombs in London and murder people at Glasgow International Airport, the Muslim Council of Britain said yesterday.

Over the past week, a Muslim man was stabbed in Manchester, northwest England, a Pakistani-run convenience store was attacked in Glasgow and a premises next to an Islamic center in the Scottish city had an explosive device thrown through the window.

``We've already had some in Scotland, Muslim businesses have been attacked,'' Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said in a telephone interview. Muslims in the U.K. number 1.6 million, or about 2.8 percent of the population, according to the 2001 population census. The Muslim Council of Britain is an umbrella group founded in 1997 by more than 250 Muslim organizations.

On June 29, police officers dismantled two car bombs made from gas canisters, gasoline and nails parked in London's theater and shopping district. A day later, two men rammed a Jeep Cherokee, filled with flammable material, into a terminal entrance at Glasgow airport. Eight people have been arrested in connection with the plot. All are Muslims who worked in the state-run National Health Service.

Ghulam Mustafa Naz, 47, a Pakistani-Syrian, was stabbed in Manchester's Blackley district on June 30 in a brutal assault, a Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said. No motive has yet been established, the spokeswoman said. He was dressed in a track suit at the time, a police spokeswoman said.

Convenience Store Rammed

In Glasgow, a driver repeatedly reversed a car into the convenience store on July 3, before setting fire to it, a Strathclyde Police spokesman said.

In another attack, a Century 21 real estate agency was targeted with an incendiary device on July 1. The office is next to the Sarajia Islamic Studies center and its back windows are adjacent, John Darrock an agent at Century 21 said.

``Some sort of device was thrown through the upstairs toilet window.'' Darrock said. The intense heat melted the water pipes in the rest room so the fire was extinguished before it was discovered, Darrock said.

The real estate agents was attacked ``by mistake'' and the Sarajia Center next door was probably the intended target, Bunglawala said.

There hasn't been an increase in racial attacks in Glasgow following the terrorist attacks, Strathclyde Police said.

``Individuals are responsible for their actions -- not communities,'' Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister and head of the Scottish Parliament, told reporters on June 30. ``No community in Scotland should feel threatened or under suspicion because of this incident.'' [Link]

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LA Times: British arrests worry India's Muslims

The arrests of two Indians in connection with the Al Qaeda- style bombing plots in London and Glasgow have sparked surprise and consternation here in their homeland, where Islamic radicalization is of relatively small but increasing concern.

News of the arrests was splashed on front pages across the country yesterday, and raised fears among India's millions of Muslims that they could fall under greater suspicion at home and abroad. Community leaders appealed to the public not to rush to judgment concerning Mohammed Haneef, a doctor who was arrested in Australia, and Sabeel Ahmed, a trainee physician who was detained in northern England, where he reportedly had worked with Haneef....

"The community is a bit shocked. You don't expect young doctors to be connected with such incidents," Mohammed Belgami, a urologist who is president of the local chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a national Muslim organization, said by telephone from Bangalore.

"Secondly, I'm a doctor and I do know most students here. And from what I know, they are very upright and very morally sound doctors," Belgami said of the two young men, both in their 20s. "Nothing is proven. It's as if they're already incriminated."....

India is home to more Muslims than any other country besides Indonesia and Pakistan. About 13 percent of Indians are Muslim, out of a population of 1.1 billion. The proportion in Bangalore is higher -- about 1 in 5, Belgami said....

"Muslims in India have a lot of problems. They don't have jobs, a good education," said Sayeed Khan, who runs the Muslim Youth of India organization. "At least 43 percent of Muslims live in slums. They don't have basic facilities."

His organization is trying to keep young Muslims from becoming radicalized, which he acknowledges "is happening, but on a very small scale."

With the arrests of Haneef and Ahmed, Khan expressed concern that India's Muslims could face more harassment.

"This creates a stigma for all educated Indian Muslims in Britain and the States," he said. [Link]

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Sikh teenager's book seeks to explain his faith

It wasn't long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that Sikhs living in the United States realized something was terribly amiss. They had a big bull's-eye across their chests, or at least it felt that way.

Sikh men were wearing turbans -- so of course, they must be anti-American terrorists. That case of mistaken identity has been well documented and, for the most part, remedied.

But one young man in the Sacramento area didn't think it went far enough. Harkirat Hansra, a 17-year-old Mira Loma High School rising senior, wrote a book to explain who he is, what he believes and clear up the whole thing about the turbans once and for all.

His book is about Sikhs but not for them. His audience is everyone else.

Although Hansra never felt in danger, he recalls a time soon after 9/11 when someone shouted, "Terrorists, go back to Afghanistan."

For one thing, Hansra was born in San Jose and his parents came to the United States from India.

His book is called "Liberty at Stake" and is subtitled "Sikhs: The Most Visible Yet Misunderstood Minority in America."

It went to press through the self-publishing venture iUniverse and costs $12.95. [Link]

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Sikh teenager's book seeks to explain his faith

It wasn't long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that Sikhs living in the United States realized something was terribly amiss. They had a big bull's-eye across their chests, or at least it felt that way.
Sikh men were wearing turbans -- so of course, they must be anti-American terrorists. That case of mistaken identity has been well documented and, for the most part, remedied.
But one young man in the Sacramento area didn't think it went far enough. Harkirat Hansra, a 17-year-old Mira Loma High School rising senior, wrote a book to explain who he is, what he believes and clear up the whole thing about the turbans once and for all.
His book is about Sikhs but not for them. His audience is everyone else.
Although Hansra never felt in danger, he recalls a time soon after 9/11 when someone shouted, "Terrorists, go back to Afghanistan."
For one thing, Hansra was born in San Jose and his parents came to the United States from India.
His book is called "Liberty at Stake" and is subtitled "Sikhs: The Most Visible Yet Misunderstood Minority in America."
It went to press through the self-publishing venture iUniverse and costs $12.95.
Male Sikhs are visible because of their turbans.
As Hansra notes at the beginning of his book, he is one of two students at his high school who wear one.
As most people know by now, Sikh men don't cut their hair for religious reasons. Hansra's hair is now down to his lower back, and he doesn't shave his face.
Hansra opens his book with scores of bullet points about the Sikh religion, hoping that even if people flip through the book and don't buy it, they will learn a thing or two.
One heading states that "Sikhs DO NOT believe in: terrorism or hurting people, hate or racial profiling, war based on religion and converting other people to Sikhism."
He also points out that the turban must be worn in public at all times.
Hansra is in many ways a typical American young man. He is a serious student who dreams of a career in the sciences.
He loves sports and has played soccer for 10 years. He has also dabbled in basketball, baseball and tennis. And he wears a gold rubber wristband, indicating he is a big fan of the San Francisco 49ers.
Because he didn't have a publishing contract and, thus, no deadline, Hansra said he had to discipline himself to write the book in a timely manner. He said his primary motivation was serving the Sikh community. In greater Sacramento, there are an estimated 10,000 Sikhs.
"I wanted to take away the fear of the unknown," he said.
Earlier, he created a Web site -- www.infoaboutsikhs.com -- as a school project to do the same thing.
http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/257285.html

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Muslims in Glasgow, London plan rallies to denounce terrorism

uslims are organizing a rally in Glasgow on Saturday to demonstrate a united front against terrorism and to quell fears of a backlash against Scotland's Islamic community.

The announcement came on the same day that thousands of Indian and Pakistani cricket fans gathered in the city to watch a goodwill match between their countries' national teams, which had been planned before the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow last week. The game was washed out by rain.

Mosques and Islamic organizations hope the event, which will be held on July 7, the second anniversary of the fatal bombings in London, will demonstrate their resolve against terrorism. Under the title "Scotland United Against Terror," they are inviting everyone to take part, including faith leaders, churches, trade unionists and others in civic society. [Link]

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Sikhs free to fly flag as they please

Time again for "Self-Appointed Censor," today involving a Lodi veteran and others who insist a Sikh temple fly the U.S. flag higher.

The veteran is Dennis Regan, 63, an Air Force veteran. Regan lives near the temple. The Sikhs fly the Sikh emblem higher than the U.S. flag, though not on the same flagpole.

"As a veteran, that offends me," Regan said.

Regan generously instructed the Sikhs on choices that would not offend him: "Maybe they should be Americans first and use their religion second."

In addition to telling the Sikhs what priority their religion should occupy, Regan offered other life coaching. Flying a Sikh flag high alienates people, he explained.

The Lodi community will better accept Sikhs if they don't keep to themselves, he added. He was one of several letter writers who upbraided Sikhs in a Lodi paper.

With due respect to Regan, a country based on freedom of religious expression allows any religious group the right to fly its flag as high as it deems proper.

The protection exists precisely because others, usually others in the majority, want to impose their values. But the Sikh temple isn't about their values. It is about Sikh values.

Besides, flying the Sikh emblem higher than the U.S. flag does not automatically mean - well, anything. Appearances can deceive.

If I were an al-Qaida operative, I would fly a bodacious U.S. flag high outside my home, just to throw off those who place such importance in symbols.

Besides, it's a temple. A temple doesn't need to fly any national flag at all.

If the fear is that the flag's placement expresses more devotion to religion than to country, then the Sikhs are dwarfed in this respect by certain evangelical Christians.

Yet I doubt Lodians are firing off letters to the editor about those fundamentalist Republicans who seem to see the U.S. Constitution as a barrier impeding the spread of their brand of Christianity to every level of government.

Or if the fear is that the flag's placement signals allegiance to the Sikhs' home country over America, the whole Fifth Column thing during wartime, then I suspect the problem may not be flags at all.

It is an increasingly diverse Lodi where some in the majority prefer ethnic homogeneity and the good old days of cultural dominance.

Or maybe it is just a time of fear. A time when others are suspect. When a narrow, judgmental patriotism holds the country in its thrall.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe a civilian can't grasp how hard it is to suspect a flag is being disrespected when your buddies have died for it.

But then, there may be sacrifice behind the things Sikhs stand for, too, as well as the flag they fly.

Then there's the human side.

Lodi's Sikhs must be keenly aware of the federal government's recent terror investigations, deportations and prosecutions of Lodi's Pakistani Muslims.

The Sikhs probably fear jingoistic Americans confuse them with Muslims and doubt their patriotism. They must have nightmares that hostile government agents unloosed by the Patriot Act may appear and destroy their lives.

So the Sikhs may ratchet up the U.S. flag as high as the pole will allow. Then what will be achieved? Hollow flag-waving. As if there isn't enough of that already.

Lodi's Patriot Posse should realize being "offended" does not mean anything to the law. It merely means the Sikhs expressed values with which they strongly disagree.

And possibly not even that. They're flying the flag, after all. They deserve static? Half the Christian churches don't fly a flag. Churches serve a different authority.

I don't know ... calling for submission to majority ideas seems a poor way of selling the Land of the Free.

It would be better to actually visit the temple. To talk to members, not at them. To exchange ideas over coffee or kacchi lassi.

People on the receiving end of that sort of Americanism will wave the flag on their own. [Link]

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fears of backlash against Muslims rising as 'copycat' firebomb attack is carried out on Glasgow shopowner

Fears of a backlash against Muslims are rising tonight in the wake of the car bomb plot.

It came as a Pakistani-born Scotsman's newsagents was ram-raided and fire-bombed in Glasgow.

Racial incidents rose in the days after the July 7 bombings and there was a similar backlash after the September 11 attack.

Tonight a prominent Muslim leader spoke of his fears of a "rising hostility" towards the Asian community. [Link]

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Muslim leader fears 'rising hostility'

A MUSLIM leader spoke today of his fears of a "rising hostility" towards the Asian community in Scotland after the car bomb attack on Glasgow Airport.

Osama Saeed, the Muslim Association of Britain's Scottish spokesman, made the warning as police launched an investigation into an attack on an Asian newsagent's in Glasgow.

A car was rammed into the shop which was then set alight in the early hours of this morning.

It follows an incident in Bathgate yesterday where an estate agency next door to a mosque was set on fire. In a separate incident, two men were arrested after allegedly racially abusing a pair of Asian shopkeepers in Edinburgh

Mr Saeed said today: "In some ways it was expected as there was a backlash after September 11 and 7/7.

"I think we did have a sense of foreboding about it. But we have got to stress to people we are in this together.

"It hurts when these things happen. You are Scottish born and bred, yet people look at you when you walk down the street as if you don't belong.

"I know the people of Scotland as a whole will react to this as they should. But what you get are a small group of individuals who are out of control and want to take out a misplaced sense of revenge."

A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: "There have been a few incidents across the force area which may be related to the recent events in Glasgow and London. However, we have not experienced any significant increase."increase." [Link]

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Huffington Post: Waving the Flag -- Patriotism or a Guise for Commercialism?

Sometimes, though, besides commercialism, people elevate the red, white and blue above reason. One example of this is happening in Lodi, where a Sikh temple has a Sikh insignia banner flying, as was reported in Recordnet.com.

"And that irritates Dennis Regan, a 63-year-old Air Force veteran who lives less than a mile east of the new temple. If the Sikh worship hall is going to fly its religious emblem over the neighborhood, he said, it should hoist an American flag even higher."

I cannot help but wonder if it weren't a Sikh temple would Regan be so annoyed.

"The real problem here is ignorance," said Amardeep Singh, executive director of the New York-based Sikh Coalition. "Our articles of faith make us stand out."

The nonprofit Sikh Coalition was founded shortly after Sept. 11, in response to an incident in which an elderly Sikh and two teenagers were assaulted in Queens the night of the terrorist attacks. The organization promotes civil rights for Sikhs and provides legal assistance for victims of hate crimes, airport profiling and other causes.

Singh said the Sikh flag represents peace, truth and justice. "They're the values that you think anyone would want in their neighborhood," he said.

While all Sikh halls fly their religious flag, an American flag would be an odd addition, he said.

Regan doesn't respect such a notion, though, and I cannot help but agree with Jespal Singh Brar, a Lodi resident and temple member.

"America is all about freedom of religion, the pursuit of happiness," he said. "It's almost ridiculous, because the ideals of the Sikh religion are intertwined with American values."
[Link]

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Call for calm as anger rises

ANXIETY, fear and anger rippled through Britain after three failed bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.

Government and religious leaders appealed for calm, but some Muslims braced for a backlash — while some non-Muslims looked for someone to blame.

The attacks sparked scattered incidents of racist abuse in London, with young white men targeting Muslim taxi drivers and others of South Asian appearance. Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar said some Muslims in Scotland had been threatened or targeted with abusive graffiti.

"I have spoken to a number of people from the Muslim community and the Asian community who feel very angry," he told BBC radio. He said Scottish Muslim leaders were meeting in Glasgow to discuss the attacks' impact on their community.

Muslim anger was directed at the terrorists — but also at a society some felt singles Muslims out for scrutiny whenever there is a terrorist attack.

"We are seething with anger about this," said Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain.

"As a community not only are we just as likely to be victims as anyone else, but we are also looked to in order to provide direction and in some respects take responsibility for this," he said.

On an official level, Government and Islamic groups say they have made great strides since July 7, 2005, when four British Muslims blew themselves up on the London transport system, killing 52 commuters, despite incidents of arson on mosques and attacks on women wearing headscarves. Many Muslims also feel they have borne the brunt of the Government's tough new anti-terror measures. The Government has made a point of reaching out to Muslim groups and consulting organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 400 affiliated mosques and organisations.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also appointed Shahid Malik, an up-and-coming legislator from northern England, as the country's first Muslim government minister. [Link]

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Scotland: Police investigate fire at mosque

Racist incidents including a suspected fire attack on a mosque were reported across Scotland yesterday as communities said they had been targeted after the weekend's events.

There were claims of racial abuse in Glasgow and Edinburgh, while Lothian and Borders Police said they were investigating a suspicious fire at an estate agent next door to a mosque in Bathgate.

Detectives said accelerant was used to start a fire in a toilet at the rear of the building adjoining the mosque in West Lothian, which was extinguished by a sprinkler system before anyone was injured.
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Sajid Mohammad, spokesman for the Bathgate Mosque and Islamic Centre, said last night he was convinced his place of worship had been the target. He said: "It seems likely the mosque was the target. We are meeting with police to discuss security measures."

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "There is a mosque next door to the premises and there has been some speculation that it was the intended target.

"At present police are not able to say if that is the case but we are investigating the matter.

"There have been a few incidents across the force area which may be related to the recent events in Glasgow and London. However, we have not experienced any significant increase."

While a spokesman for Strathclyde Police said it had no reports of incidents, Glasgow MP Mohammad Sarwar said some Muslims had been threatened or targeted with abusive graffiti and a meeting of community leaders was called in response.

Grampian and Tayside police forces both said there had been no incidents reported but that officers were "monitoring the situation".

Last night religious leaders united to condemn the weekend's attacks.

Allan Forsyth, chair of the Baha'i Council for Scotland, said: "We are confident that this terrible attack on Glasgow airport will not impact on the close relations between faith communities in Scotland,"

The Most Rev Keith O'Brien, Cardinal and Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: "Like almost all Christians, I have the most friendly relationships with members of the other great world faiths, including those of the Muslim faith. Nothing must be allowed to destroy that friendship or the mutual respect we have for each other, even in times of crisis."

The Rt Rev Sheilagh Kesting, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, added: "It is important that as leaders of the different faiths we stand together in the face of such atrocities to condemn utterly any backlash there might be on the Asian community in our country." [Link]

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British Muslims Worry About Backlash

Name-calling, anxiety, fear and anger rippled through Britain on Sunday after three failed bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. Government and religious leaders appealed for calm, but some Muslims braced for a backlash — while some non-Muslims looked for someone to blame.

The attacks sparked scattered incidents of racist abuse on the streets of London, with young white men targeting Muslim taxi drivers and others of South Asian appearance. Glasgow lawmaker Mohammad Sarwar said some Muslims in Scotland had been threatened or targeted with abusive graffiti.

"I have spoken to a number of people from the Muslim community and the Asian community who feel very angry," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

He said Scottish Muslim leaders were meeting in Glasgow to discuss the attacks' impact on their community.

"They're concerned about a backlash and that's why the emergency meeting has been called."

Muslim anger was directed at the terrorists — but also at a society some felt singles Muslims out for scrutiny whenever there is a terrorist attack.

"We are seething with anger about this," said Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain.

"As a community not only are we just as likely to be victims as anyone else, but we are also looked to in order to provide direction and in some respects take responsibility for this," he added.

"We are sick of being defined as a community by terrorism and having to answer for it."

On an official level, government and Islamic groups say they have made great strides since July 7, 2005, when four British Muslims blew themselves up on the London transport system, killing 52 commuters.

In the weeks that followed, several mosques were attacked by arsonists, while others received hate mail. Some women reported having their traditional head scarves pulled off in the street.

Relations between the government and many British Muslims had already been strained by the unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many Muslims also feel they were unfairly targeted for suspicion and have born the brunt of the government's tough new anti-terror measures.

The government has made a point of reaching out to Muslim groups and consulting with umbrella organizations like the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 400 affiliated mosques and organizations.

Gordon Brown, who took over as prime minister from Tony Blair on Wednesday, appointed Shahid Malik, an up-and-coming legislator from northern England, as the country's first-ever Muslim government minister.

On Sunday, Brown stressed the need to isolate extremists from the broader Muslim community.

"We have got to separate those great moderate members of our community from a few extremists who wish to practice violence and inflict maximum loss of life in the interests of a perversion of their religion," he said.

On the streets of London, the city's famous stoicism and tradition of tolerance were still in evidence — but tinged with an undercurrent of unease.

"I haven't had one nasty look or one nasty comment," said Abdul Basit, 26, a bearded Muslim man strolling the streets of Whitechapel, an east London area home to large Muslim and working-class white communities.

"It's all about education. As long as people know who we are and what our religion is about and know that we don't condone, it, then it's all right."

But suspicion remained.

"I haven't talked to anyone about the car bombs, but I definitely think the Muslims around there are still connected with the car bombers," said David Delmas, 23. "Even if not directly, and they aren't friends with them, I think they understand why they did it and where they're coming from, and that is a big problem." [Link]

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Muslim Hate Crime Investigation in Hillsborough County

"It was terrifying... It was humiliating..."

Standing with her husband and 8-month old baby daughter... Sabura Rashad described, what she says happened to her near her home on Saturday afternoon -

"It was very upsetting to me to have someone in my community, yards away from my home,” said Rashad, “to come up and to harass me and to curse at me simply because I'm wearing something different."

Rashad - a practicing muslim - says she was wearing her head scarf or hajab as she cleaned up after a yard sale at the corner of Morris Bridge and Davis Road, when she says her neighbor, Tom Poyma, pulled up and started yelling racial slurs... Then tried to run her over with his SUV.

"I can be run down like a like an animal with my baby, you know, its just... Nobody deserves that."

Poyma tells a quite different tale.

"They're saying you tried to run this woman and her baby over with a truck? No. "

Poyma, who agreed to talk, if we didn't show his face, admits the argument got out of hand... He even admits racial words were exchanged... But he insists it wasn't racially motivated.

"This whole thing grew out... Of an argument that was about the corner where I live being glutted with merchandise." says Poyma. [Link]

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BBC: Reflecting on Glasgow's terror attack

Na'eem Raza, a member of the Scottish Interfaith Council and founder of Scotland's Muslims Consultancy, gives his reaction to the terror attack at Glasgow Airport to the BBC Scotland news website.

ot again... not in Scotland... not in Glasgow... not the airport... please. Not Asians... Oh God, please, not Muslim. Oh God, please not Asians and Muslims from Glasgow... no!

Saturday afternoon was a period of reflection while all around me was in turmoil. I wasn't thinking of the ongoing events, rather the aftermath that might follow.

I was born and have lived all my life here. I love this country; it is my home, my heritage, my culture, our future.

I remember my father used to tell us stories of the difficulties he went through when he first arrived here, being called all sorts of names and the blatant racism that he faced. I could never relate to that period. We have moved on, haven't we?

I wanted to stay at home on Saturday evening; I needed some security, I felt an air of unease, of tension. I could relate to my father's stories now.

Sunday morning, I felt strange leaving the house; I felt everyone was watching me. I arrived at the Central Mosque for the community leaders meeting and press conference.

I was re-assured when I saw some non Asian faces, faces from the other communities. It wasn't just our problem, it was our problem....

The comfort of seeing the other communities on Saturday was short lived. There are deeper issues at hand.

No subject or group of people has come under the microscope in the last few years as Islam and Muslims.

Hardly a day goes by without the words "Islam" and "Muslims" being splashed on front pages or mentioned in our news headlines.

Sadly, according to statistical analysis, animosity towards Muslims in Scotland has increased over the past few years.

The problem may be as old as Islam itself, but one cannot fail to have noticed the increased controversy surrounding the public's perception of Islam and Muslims since September 11th and ongoing world affairs.

The events of 9/11 and 7/7 and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East have had a direct impact on the lives of various faith communities in Scotland particularly the Muslims. Saturday will not have helped.

I recall being invited to a Catholic conference recently; Father Gordian Marshall and I ran a workshop on "dialogue in Scripture".

The workshops were packed out and people left aghast at the similarities between Islam and Christianity, furthermore the reverence Islam affords Jesus and his beloved mother, Mary (Peace be upon them both).

In fact there is a chapter in the Qur'an dedicated to Mary and she is described as the best woman God created.

My wife was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow. A few years ago she decided to wear the hijab (headscarf). Suddenly everyone spoke to her very slowly.

At any meeting and while shopping, people would speak to me but look at her! She speaks with a broad Glaswegian accent! Yet the hijab gave a perception that she could not even speak English! She was uncomfortable on Saturday. Everyone was looking at her... "She's one of them".

We need to educate each other, we need to get to know each other, we need to work together. No more cups of tea and smiley faces, it really is time for action. [Link]

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