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Monday, September 29, 2008

Police: No evidence of hate crime at local mosque

A 10-year-old girl sprayed in the face with a chemical Friday, Sept. 26, while at a local Islamic mosque was not the victim of a hate crime, police Chief Richard Biehl said.

The girl was watching children whose parents and relatives had gathered at the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, 26 Josie St., to celebrate Ramadan when she noticed two men standing outside a basement window about 9:40 p.m., according to police.

One of the men then sprayed something through the open window and into the girl's face from a white can with a red top, according to a police report. The girl said she immediately felt burning on her face and felt "sick to her stomach," the report stated.

Other children and a woman in the room felt affects from the chemical and the mosque was evacuated.

"The men didn't say anything to her (before she was sprayed)," Biehl said. "There was nothing left at the scene or anything that makes us believe this is a biased crime."

HAZMAT crews called to the scene started testing for chemicals less than 20 minutes after a member of the mosque called 911, team coordinator Denny Bristow said.

"Whatever chemical was released it dissipated too quickly for us to determine what it was," Bristow said. "We can test for about 130 to 140 chemicals, including pepper spray, and all our tests came back negative."

Bristow said there were no chemicals found on the 10-year-old girl.

A few of the 300 people celebrating the last 10 days of Ramadan with dinner and a prayer session were treated for eye irritation at the scene. [Link]

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France: “Sikhs can’t be above rule ”

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday made it clear that Sikhs could not hope to be above the rules in France.

He was replying to a question on the controversy over Sikh students being prohibited from wearing turban to educational institutions.

Mr. Sarkozy was unambiguous and firm: “The Sikhs were most welcome; but we have rules, rules of secularism” which were applicable to all “on the territory of France.”

In this insistence on uniform application of rules, “there was no discrimination.” [Link]

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Prosecution boss must undergo training after race case

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service in West Yorkshire is to undergo “training” in the wake of an employment tribunal that saw a Muslim solicitor awarded a record £600,000 payout for racial discrimination.

Chief Prosecutor Neil Franklin is among a number of senior managers involved in the case who will be given “further guidance and training.”

Halima Aziz was suspended from work by the CPS after joking at Bradford Magistrates’ Court that she was a friend of Osama bin Laden. Earlier this month, an employment tribunal found that there was “not a shred of evidence” to support the treatment of Miss Aziz by the CPS.

The lawyer was working at Bradford Magistrates in October 2001 – a month after 9/11 – when she was accused of blaming the terror attacks in the US on “Jews”. Miss Aziz denied making that comment, saying that she joked, as she was going through a security check at the court, that she was being treated like a friend of Bin Laden.

She was suspended from duty while a complaint from the court was investigated and she was cleared of all allegations in 2002.

The Employment Tribunal found that senior officials at the CPS were guilty of racial discrimination for the way they handled her case and that a previous inquiry run by chief executive Peter Lewis was a “whitewash”. And it identified Mr Franklin as one of the “principal discriminators”.

The CPS said it accepted the recommendations in the judgement and has now revealed that it will provide further guidance and training for the managers involved.

But the CPS does not accept certain elements of the judgement and is seeking a review and appeal on those.

The CPS said the specific elements it was appealing against were the references to the CPS withholding material from the Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. [Link]

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Probe continues into chemicals at mosque

Officials from the Dayton fire department and HAZMAT have not determined what type of chemical was released during a Friday night service at the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton center, 26 Josie St., according to Dayton Fire Lt. John Strukamp.

The Society held the service to recognize and celebrate Ramadan, but the service was disrupted by a suspected chemical irritant that forced members out of the church and into the streets. [Link]

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FBI investigating burning of mosque sign

The FBI is investigating the burning of a mosque's sign in Joplin as a potential hate crime.

The sign for the Islamic Society of Joplin was set aflame early Thursday morning. Fire investigators say there's no doubt the fire was deliberately set.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Department initially investigated the arson but the FBI has taken over.

Navid Zaidi, the society's treasurer, says the mosque hasn't had much trouble since in opened in February 2007 other than the occasional shouted comments from passing drivers.

But he says he believes the burning was a hate crime.

Zaidi says the mosque put up the sign two months ago to better fit in the community. It reads "Islamic Society of Joplin" in both English and Arabic. [Link]

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Sikh boy denies threatening classmates

A 13-year-old Sikh boy in Canada pleaded innocent to charges he threatened two classmates with a ceremonial dagger.

Appearing in Montreal Youth Court this week, the unidentified teenager said he didn't use a ceremonial kirpan to threaten two classmates in an alleged incident Sept. 11 and has asked the court to grant him a speedy trial, The Gazette said Friday.

Montreal police have accused the teen of responding to an argument with two classmates by threatening them with the religious dagger.

One of the boy's defense lawyers has accused the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board of targeting the Cavelier de LaSalle secondary school student because of his religion.

"I'm a great admirer of Quebec, but on this issue there's dissonance. Quebec is so obsessed with kirpans. There's something unhealthy about it," lawyer Julius Grey, whose client's trial begins on Oct. 29, told the Globe & Mail. [Link]

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SALDEF Expresses Alarm About New Investigative Powers of FBI

New Attorney General Guidelines May Legitimize Racial and Ethnic Profiling

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)... is deeply concerned by new FBI guidelines that could lower the threshold for federal law enforcement officers to conduct investigations of individuals on the mere suspicion of questionable activity or meeting the FBI’s assessment of what it considers to be a threat.

Last week, SALDEF, along with other civil rights groups, met with Justice Department officials and reviewed draft language of the revised Attorney General (AG) Guidelines governing the investigative powers of the FBI in matters of national security. The new guidelines, which are slated to be approved on October 1, 2008, represent a major shift in public policy.

These new guidelines would allow the FBI to recruit informants, conduct pretext interviews without identifying the agency the investigator works for, and allow for physical surveillance of persons, including U.S. citizens, in the United States without evidence of criminal activity. Additionally, they would replace existing guidelines for five types of guidelines: general criminal, national security, foreign intelligence, civil disorders and demonstrations.

Currently these intrusive investigative measures are already in place to investigate criminal conduct which is based on physical evidence. The new AG guidelines will lower the standard for utilizing intrusive investigative techniques by not requiring evidence of criminal conduct, but simply the mere accusation of impropriety. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Friday, September 26, 2008

3 charged with committing hate crime

Two Greater Boston men and a juvenile were charged yesterday with committing a hate crime against two Muslim families in Revere, according to a statement from US attorney Michael J. Sullivan.

Adam J. Bonito, 21, of Revere and Christopher D. Giaquinto, 22, of Winthrop were charged with carrying out a criminal conspiracy that interfered with the fair housing rights of two Muslim families living in a duplex in Revere, according to Sullivan.

Bonito and Giaquinto repeatedly damaged and vandalized vehicles parked in front of the duplex shared by the families in 2004 and 2005, Sullivan said.

The intended victim was a Muslim of Middle Eastern descent who lived at the duplex.

A person at each of the homes of Bonito and Giaquinto said the men declined comment last night.

Bonito and Giaquinto, along with others, allegedly vandalized a Nissan van parked outside the house on Sept. 19, 2004, breaking a windshield and several windows and damaging the body of the van, Sullivan alleges.

During January and March 2005, Bonito and another person vandalized a Dodge van parked in front of the house that they believed belonged to the same victim, the US attorney said.

Another male, whose name was not released because he is under 18, has been charged in juvenile delinquency proceedings for his "bias motivated acts of vandalism," Sullivan said. [Link]

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Divided We Fall

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 20-year-old college student Valarie Kaur went on an epic journey across America to document the hate violence against minorities that had so increased since the attacks.

Her film, "Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath" is the result, and it will play at the Virginia Holocaust Museum this Sunday at 2 p.m.

The film examines the idea of "who counts as an American." Since September 11, a violent backlash on America's own soil has taken place, effecting Sikh, Arab, South Asian, Latino and other brown-skinned Americans.

The first person murdered in reaction to the September 11 attacks was Balbir Singh Sodhi, in Mesa, Arizona on September 15th. The federal government reported 1700 percent increase in 'anti-Muslim' hate crimes, from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001.

These statistics, as the film's website points out, do not include more subtle forms of discrimination, or that which went unreported.

Kaur worked with a crew who was also mostly in their twenties, all of whom worked without pay to make the film a reality. The initial stages of production were completed entirely due to grassroots donations. Eastman Kodak donated nearly half of the film stock.

After the film, there will be open discussion between the filmmakers and the audience. The film has been on tour across America, being shown in colleges, churches and various other venues since September 11, 2008. The tour will span 50 cities. [Link]


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Report Finds Violent Hate Crime on the Rise

Incidents of violent hate crime targeting a number of minority groups are increasing or occurring at historically high levels in many of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member-states, as governments fail to combat such crimes, a new report finds....

Despite ample evidence of acts of violence targeting Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims across Europe and North America, only five of the 56 OSCE governments publicly report on such incidents. [Link]

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canada: Islamophobia alive on campus

Within a week of this new school year, fellow Muslim friends and I had already experienced a couple instances of Islamophobia. Both were derogatory slurs yelled from a moving vehicle, ensuring anonymity and suggesting cowardice....

Many of my Muslim friends can relay stories of name-calling and crude looks—and from fellow members of the Queen’s community too. Yet there is a Muslim ethos of making excuses, so these stories rarely make it out of friend circles. And although most of the cases of Islamophobia on campus have been petty, it’s important these things are acknowledged and discussed, especially if it’s going to persist.

It is thus important that opinions about a religion or religious peoples are addressed head-on so sound discussion can take place. University is not a place for censorship, but rather a place for expression and the healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. As members of this community, we are not required to agree with the customs and beliefs of others; critical thinking is, in fact, encouraged. However, mutual respect is mandatory in order for everyone to have a positive learning experience in an environment that they feel safe in. Yelling something offensive and driving away is too easy an escape. It’s time to own up to prejudices.

And the onus falls upon us, the students. We can pretend discrimination doesn’t exist, especially at an institution of higher learning. Surely everyone knows better than to associate anyone who wears a headscarf with the Taliban. Islamophobia, just like all other types of discrimination, is a thing of the past, at least for the more civilized amongst us. Unfortunate as it is though, these are real views that a minority of people on campus do indeed hold....

And although such incidents are more trivial in nature, the fact remains that there are people who feel it’s necessary to express stronger views. This past weekend, a [Muslim student organization] sign was defaced with comments that called for the death of Muslims. I can only hope incidents like this help to open our collective eyes to the larger problem. [Link]

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Ireland: I want my daughters to have the legal right to wear hijab to school

The issue of the hijab clearly defines how modern Ireland treats its minorities. Irish Muslims deserve the right to dress how they wish and be as Irish as everyone else when doing so.

Continued official prevarication and the ill-informed criticism that has met this call is an indication that sensible social policy needs to be enacted. It seems strange that some people are so clearly offended by others' religious needs.

Modern Ireland can do better for all its citizens.

Some schools allow the hijab while others do not -- and this disparity in practice has necessitated the intervention of the Equality Authority.

Integration Minister Conor Lenihan naively states that there "are no examples of schools where it has been an issue. But there are plenty examples of where it has been accommodated," a statement that is both illogical and untrue.

There are cases of Muslim girls suffering discrimination based upon their religious dress across the country. Indeed, emboldened by Government inaction, a number of schools have explicitly banned the hijab since the new term this year and the Irish Hijab Campaign is following up on further reports....

The failure of the Government to uphold the constitutional rights of Muslims to practice their religion by legislating for the hijab -- in whatever way it manifests itself -- and mainstreaming it in Irish society, is simply a green light for the continuance of 'divergent practices' and discrimination....

The measure of a truly progressive society is how it treats its minorities. In this respect the issue of the hijab will remain.

However, let us not forget about other concerns such as burial space, prayer space, religious accommodation in the workplace, proper inclusion in the political process, the lack of Muslim schools, mosques, etc.

All of these point to inequality and must be addressed if Muslims are ever going to feel that they 'belong'.

I believe we can all build a better Ireland based on equal respect; an Ireland where we can all play a positive role. [Link]

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Muslim Leader Says Plant Should Investigate, Not Educate

A Somali Muslim leader said the state commission that handles discrimination complaints needs to investigate concerns at a Grand Island meatpacking plant, not educate the community.

Somali Muslim advocate Mohamed Rage said the state Equal Opportunity Commission needs to investigate and take action against the JBS Swift and Company plant.

Muslim workers at the plant have pushed for accommodations with break times to allow prayer at sunset. The issue has sparked proaests [sic], walkouts and mass firings.[Link]

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Neb. group to reach out to Grand Island, Neb.

A state commission responsible for investigating discrimination claims says it plans to reach out to a community caught up in a prayer dispute.

Muslim workers at Grand Island's JBS Swift & Co. plant have been asking for accommodations with break times to allow prayer at sunset. The issue has sparked protests by Muslim workers and counterprotests by non-Muslim workers upset about preferential treatment. It also has led to mass firings.

The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission says it has a responsibility to educate all Nebraska residents. It expects to be doing outreach in Grand Island over the next few weeks. [Link]

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Monday, September 22, 2008

TX Employers Accommodate Muslim Religious Needs

North Texas has half a million Muslims among its population, many of them working in engineering and information technology jobs. According to a recent report in the Dallas Morning News, their employers are starting to recognize and accommodate those employees' religious requirement of praying five times a day facing Mecca.

In Dallas, Texas Instruments has made a prayer room available, American Airlines is allowing use of a multipurpose room for Muslim prayer, and Nortel offers several quiet rooms for the purpose. In Plano, Electronic Data Systems also has a prayer room available. Until now, according to the paper, employees in these workplaces would use tactics such as ducking down into their cubicles to pray, or finding an empty stairway.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the nation's employment discrimination laws, recently released a comprehensive guide for employers on avoiding religious bias in the workplace. On the question of allowing devout Muslims a place for their daily religious observance, the guide states that if an employee needs to use a quiet area for prayer during break time, the employer should accommodate the request unless it would pose an undue hardship. If the employer allows employees to use the facilities at issue for nonreligious activities not related to work, it may be difficult for the employer to demonstrate that allowing the facilities to be used in the same manner for religious activities is not a reasonable accommodation or poses an undue hardship. [Link]

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Soldier's mission of unity comes to deadly end

Mohsin Naqvi joined the Army to help bridge the divide between America and the Muslim world, and he died for that cause, family and friends said Friday.

Naqvi, a Pakistan native who was married in Albany's al-Fatima Islamic Center three months ago, was among four U.S. Army soldiers killed Wednesday when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in eastern Afghanistan, according to family and friends.

He is survived by his 20-year-old wife, Raazia, and his sister, Tasneem Ali, both of Mechanicville; his brother, Hassan Naqvi, a University at Albany student; and his parents, who live in Newburgh.

"He was like an American ambassador, a bridge, a link," said Aziz Ahsan, a close family friend and attorney in Fishkill.

A service is expected to be held for Naqvi early next week at the al-Fatima mosque, with burial to follow in the center's cemetery. Specifics for the funeral could not be obtained late Friday afternoon, as Naqvi's body had not yet returned to the United States.

The second lieutenant had joined the Army Reserve near Newburgh days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because he felt his background made him uniquely qualified to try and reconcile differences between America and the Muslim world, family and friends said.

Naqvi fought discrimination from military leaders while participating in basic training and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. One time, officers asked him the origin of his last name and if he was fighting on the right side, his brother recalled Friday. [Link]

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Friday, September 19, 2008

New film based on post-9/11 paranoid racism

The shocking story of an American Sikh man murdered by xenophobic patriots after the World Trade Centre attacks is hitting close to home tonight, at the homegrown film’s Vancouver premiere.

Raj Paul Dillon, the Surrey-based journalist and filmmaker who produced and directed Sweet Amerika, said while it’s inspired by true events, the plot itself follows a fictional man who is tortured because he is Sikh.

He added that although the film is set in post-9/11 United States, the story of intolerance and immigrant life is applicable here.

“Canadians can get the same message as Americans (and) immigrants and mainstream Westerners, that racial profiling happens,” he said.

“But how do we have a dialogue and a debate and … get over the ignorance that create this violence and hate?”

He said that for the South Asian audience, the film provides acknowledgment that these things do happen and shows how they can unite and combat systemic discrimination. [Link]

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Sweet Amerika keys on 9/11-linked racism in NY

"Who are the real Americans?"

It's a question asked in the tag line of the movie Sweet Amerika, filmed by Surrey's R. (Raj) Paul Dhillon and opening in theatres today (Friday).

The English-language drama focuses on a Sikh shop opener (played by Bollywood veteran Gulshan Glover), whose life in New York is rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A gang of thugs seeks revenge by taking the peace-loving Bobby (Glover) hostage and threatening horrible things, like hanging him in front of his grocery store and setting the corpse ablaze. [Link]

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dallas County changes policy to settle turban case

Dallas County has revised its security-screening procedures to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Sikh man who was ordered out of a courtroom for refusing to remove his turban, a civil rights group said yesterday.

The new policy announced by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas calls for security personnel at all county buildings to allow people wearing religious head coverings or other religious garments to walk through a metal detector without removing the item. If the detector beeps, security personnel will use a hand-held detector or conduct a private search.

The policy was developed by the county based on models provided by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The new led to the dismissal last week of a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Amardeep Singh.

According to the suit filed last year, Singh was ordered out of a Justice of the Peace courtroom under threat of arrest in June 2006. Singh had gone to defend himself from a traffic ticket when he was told by court personnel and Judge Albert Bernard Cercone to remove his "hat." When Singh tried to explain that wearing a turban is a required religious practice for members of the Sikh faith, the judge and court officials refused to hear his explanation.

Sikhs compare the turban to yarmulkes worn by many Orthodox Jews and hijabs worn by many Muslim women and say removing it is humiliating. There are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to their legal defense group.

"The Constitution protects the right of Mr. Singh and every citizen to access their government without compromising their religious beliefs," said Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Texas. "By applying this new policy, the county and Judge Cercone will help ensure that right is respected in Dallas County."

Last year, officials in Lawrenceville, Ga. revised their policy after a Sikh man was kept from entering the court because of his turban, according to documents in the lawsuit.

A federal guideline also revised last year allows air passengers to keep on headwear such as turbans at screening checkpoints. It gives airport screeners the option to pat down headwear at the metal detector if a passenger does not want to remove it for personal reasons. [Link]

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Sikhs and Arab Still Suffer Since 9/11

Four days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Balbir Sodhi decided to plant flowers outside his convenience store in Mesa, Arizona. Frank Roque, an aircraft mechanic, drove up to the store and shot Sodhi five times from his pickup truck. Roque committed the first lethal hate crime in a wave of hate crimes against Sikhs in the United States that exploded after 9/11, but it is a wave that has continued for the past seven years, from Arizona to Queens.

The morning before he was killed, Sodhi had traveled to Costco and donated all the money he had on him - $75 to a charity for 9/11 victims. But when Roque was arrested, he yelled, “I am a patriot.” His words would haunt the Sikh-American community long afterwards. Less than a year later, Sodhi’s brother was shot and killed when he was driving a cab.

Queens residents honored the seven-year anniversary of 9/11 last Thursday by offering solidarity to Sikh and Arab-American communities, whose members faced significant turmoil and violence since the terrorist attacks. Director Valarie Kaur and community organizations in Jackson Heights gave a screening of a film, “Divided We Fall,” at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, the documentary chronicled Kaur’s attempts to document the violence against and resilience of South Asians and Arab-Americans after 9/11. A discussion on building community in the face of violence and racism followed.

“Jackson Heights is a living testament to what is possible in America,” Kaur said, looking into her multiethnic audience. “I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be today.”

Kaur originally decided to try and record the violence affecting her community when she first heard about Frank Roque and Balbir Sodhi on television. She was only 20 years old, but she traveled the United States for years in a Honda Civic with her brothers, asking questions, taking notes and telling stories.

To date, there have been more than 1,000 hate crimes against the Sikh community in the United States. Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion, and about half a million Sikhs live in the United States. The religion began in the Punjab region of South Asia, in what is now India and Pakistan. To demonstrate their commitment to spiritual sisterhood and brotherhood, Sikhs do not cut their hair and generally wear it in a turban. After the terrorist attacks, many Sikhs were misperceived to be Muslim and faced similar persecution through hate crimes, vandalism of religious institutions and verbal harassment.

Hate crimes and misperceptions are no joke in Queens, where South Asian and Arab-American communities suffered immensely after 9/11. Last June, hundreds of Sikhs marched through Richmond Hill to protest harassment and violence against Sikh children in city schools. That month, two children had their hair forcibly cut, and another child was assaulted when a student punched him with a key and tried to remove his turban. The Sikh Coalition said that of the 400 Sikh children they surveyed, more than 60 percent said they faced violence or harassment at school. [Link]


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NPR: Being Young And Arab In Post-Sept. 11 America

In his new book, How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, Moustafa Bayoumi delves into the rich, complicated lives of seven men and women who are completely different in every way but two: They're all from Brooklyn, and they're all Arab. Their stories are American stories, with kaleidoscopic views.

We meet Sami, a Christian who signed up for the Marines. He was on a bus headed to basic training when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. After two deployments to Iraq, his sense of identity developed from amorphous into impassioned.

Syrian-born Rasha comes from a secularized Muslim family. As part of the xenophobic response to Sept. 11, she and her family were rounded up in a raid and imprisoned for months alongside criminals.

Yasmin was a devout 15-year-old Muslim and a popular kid at her high school. When she couldn't attend a school dance due to her religious beliefs, she was pressured to resign from the student council. (Yasmin is now in law school.)

The author, himself, is young, Arab and Brooklynese. He began writing the book at a moment when hate crimes spiked 1,700 percent against Arabs and Muslims, and when a USA Today/Gallup poll found that 39 percent of Americans believed all Muslims — including U.S. citizens — should carry special IDs. [Link]

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Muslims have 'victim mentality'

British Muslims are guilty of a "victim mentality" and should take greater responsibility for their lives, a Muslim Labour MP has argued.

Sadiq Khan also said more British Muslims must tackle sexism, learn English and condemn forced marriages.

The representative for Tooting, south London, made his comments in a report for the Fabian Society think tank.

Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation said Mr Khan was out of touch with grassroots Muslims. [Link]

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Documentary chronicles post-9/11 hate crimes

A documentary that chronicles hate violence in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks will be screened tonight at Irvington High School.

"Divided We Fall" is a full-length documentary created by Valarie Kaur, who, as a 20-year-old Stanford student, began traveling the country after 9/11 to document hate crimes against her fellow Sikhs as well as against Muslims and Arabs.

Observant Sikh men, who wear turbans and grow long beards, faced increased prejudice after the attacks from people who assumed they were Muslims.

The 100-minute movie explores the lives of several hate-crime victims in the five years following 9/11 and includes commentaries from scholars, lawyers, and legislators about race, religion, and what it means to be fully accepted as an American.

The film "reminds us that all of our neighbors deserve full membership in our community," said Jack Weinstein, director of Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit that helps teachers educate students about intolerance. [Link]


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Monday, September 15, 2008

France disallows veil to Muslim woman

France's supreme court upheld a decree that refused citizenship to a Muslim woman from Morocco, ruling that she had failed to assimilate French culture. It was ruled that her radical practice of Islam is incompatible with French values.

On June 27, 2008, the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat), the French Supreme Administrative Court, upheld a Prime Minister’s decree refusing citizenship to a Moroccan woman who was married to a French national and had two French children. The Council’s decision was based on the grounds that the woman lacked assimilation to French society because of her radical practice of religion, deemed incompatible with the essential values of the French community, in particular equality of the genders. These findings were supported by elements in the court file that the Moroccan woman was a Salafist Muslim and wore the Burqa. [Link]

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

US workers claim Ramadan observance led to wrongful terminations

Muslim union workers at the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colorado have filed grievances and wrongful termination claims stemming from alleged employment conflicts with their observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Initially there were attempts to work out a deal with Swift that would allow night shift workers to take a meal break before 9 pm to accommodate their fasting from sunrise to sunset. On September 5, when requests for a break at sunset were denied, approximately 220 workers coming mostly from Somalia and other African nations staged a walk-out in protest. All of the protesters were suspended and a large percentage were later fired. According to an official from Swift, the number of workers fired was 101....

In 2007, Swift dealt with a similar issue at a meat-packing plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, where approximately 120 workers abruptly quit after they were denied the opportunity to pray at sunset. Workers at that plant had said they were verbally and physically harassed, which led some to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), raising provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. The dispute in Colorado follows a situation at a Tyson Foods plant in Shelbyville, Tennessee, where last month the company agreed to give workers the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr as a paid day off instead of Labor Day. [Link]

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Will America Tolerate Anti-Muslim Discrimination?

It's been seven years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and many young American Muslims are convinced that much of American society views them with growing hostility. They're right.

A 2007 Zogby poll discovered that 76 percent of young ArabAmericans report experiencing discrimination. A CNN poll from the same year found that 53 percent of Americans believe conflict between Islam and Christianity is "inevitable," up from 45 percent in 2003.

These hardening attitudes affect the job opportunities of American Muslims. One study from 2004 sent out 6,000 fictitious resumes — all similarly qualified but with different, ethnically identifiable names — to employers across California. If your name was Heidi Mackenzie, you had the best chance of being called back. And the worst name to have? Abdul-Aziz Mansour.

It's not surprising, then, that earnings of Arab and Muslim men have declined relative to the general population since 2001.

And profiling continues to be a problem. The Justice Department is seeking to enshrine its practice in national security investigations, allowing the FBI to invade the privacy of Americans and open cases against people without the benefit of evidence or probable cause. Such a policy would disproportionately affect the Arab and Muslim American communities, but we should all be concerned.

The hostility toward young American Muslims is unwarranted.

Do they seethe with resentment and hatred of the United States? Are they dire threats to our national security? A terrorist recruiter's dream? Not at all. After three years of research on this issue, I can tell you that I heard young American Muslims talk about a great many things, but not once did I hear them express support for Osama bin Laden, wish harm on their fellow Americans or plot the takeover of the United States — all accusations leveled with startling frequency at the American Muslim community.

Young Arab Muslim Americans spend their time and energy worrying about landing a good job, finding a mate and getting married, achieving happiness and fulfilling their potential.

Most are critical of American foreign policy (as are many other Americans). Among the more pious, topics in Islam occupy a good deal of conversation, and these discussions often center on how best to refute the stereotypes and misconceptions people have of their faith.

At the same time we also need to record the victories and successes. In many corners of the country, Islam is increasingly understood as an American religion. Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Andre Carson, D-Ind. — both Muslim — have been elected to Congress. There is more genuine interest in the Arab world than ever.

The young people I talk to feel this push-and-pull of acceptance and rejection clearly.

Where does that leave us, seven years after Sept. 11? In some ways, we seem to be teetering on the cusp, ready to tilt toward a society that recognizes the bedrock principle of equality for all or one where discrimination is not just tolerated in the workplace but enforced through the law.

Osama bin Laden is responsible for the terrorist attacks, and for that he should be brought to justice. But we are the ones responsible for deciding what kind of nation we want to live in.

That choice is ours. [Link]

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DOJ Fact Sheet: Protecting the Privacy and Civil Liberties of Americans

As the nation’s primary law enforcement agency, the Justice Department strives to be a model for ensuring that Americans' privacy and civil liberties are forcefully protected in all the Department's counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts. Below are some of the advances made since 9/11:

* Since 9/11, the Department has investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism or arson against Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South Asian Americans or other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.
* Federal charges in these investigations have been brought against 42 defendants, with 35 convictions to date. The Department’s Civil Rights Division has coordinated with state and local prosecutors in more than 150 non-federal criminal cases.
* The Department developed and issued guidance to federal agencies in June 2003 expressly prohibiting racial profiling in federal law enforcement practices.
* The Department appointed its first Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer in February 2006. This officer actively participates in Department policymaking, ensuring regard for privacy and civil liberties at the earliest stages of Departmental proposals.
* The Privacy and Civil Liberties Office also participates in public outreach activities and works closely with the Terrorist Screening Center, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security to address watch list redress issues and other matters.
* The FBI created the Office of Integrity and Compliance in 2007 to ensure FBI compliance with laws, rules, and procedures, not only in national security activities, but in all FBI activities.
* The Department’s National Security Division in 2007 launched a comprehensive oversight initiative and created a new oversight office to ensure that FBI national security investigations comply with the nation’s laws, rules, and regulations, including privacy and civil liberties.
* The Department for the first time has begun conducting regular, comprehensive reviews of national security activities at FBI Headquarters and field offices, completing 15 such reviews in 2007. The Department plans to complete another 17 such reviews by the end of 2008.
* The Department implemented dramatic reforms in 2007 and 2008 to address problems in the FBI’s use of National Security Letters; increased the number of FISA accuracy and minimization reviews; and began conducting reviews of all referrals by the FBI to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board to detect patterns that may require changes in policy, training, or oversight. [Link]

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

US ashamed over killing of Sikhs in hate crime in America: US Embassy

Public Diplomacy Officers from US Embassy Lisa Swenarski said on Wednesday that US is ashamed over the killing of the Sikhs in America post September 11 due to hate crime.
“We feel great shame over the killing of the Sikhs in US post 9/11 due to hate crime,” said Swenarski while talking to media at Amritsar today.

A delegation of American embassy is currently on a visit to Amritsar under “America Day” program initiated by the US Embassy in New Delhi.

“I believe the Sikhs have been killed in hate crime due to US peoples’ ignorance about different cultures and religions,” she said.

Swenarski also gave assurance that the US government is taking various measures to acquaint their security officers with the identity of Sikhs and their five religious symbols. She said that the transport authority had developed a video featuring Sikh employees and the significance of their five religious symbols.

The US embassy employee also said that she knew the first Sikh gentleman who became victim of hate crime in Texas, there was outpour of support from his neighbors.

People including children raised money even by car wash and when his widow arrived in America she was received with much love and affection.

She said Sikhs are most welcome in US. [Link]

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First for NZ: Sikh cop dons turban on duty

An India-born Sikh police officer has become the first in New Zealand to don a turban while on duty, breaking away from the tradition of the force.

Constable Jagmohan Malhi of the Nelson city in central New Zealand fulfilled his late father's dream by wearing a turban on duty, recently adopted by police as part of uniform.

Malhi, who grew up wearing a turban, had shaved off his beard and moustache "because of peer pressure", he said, adding that he also shaved his head three years ago when he graduated from police training college, the local media reported.

When Malhi's father, who wanted him to grow his hair again, died last year, he decided to fulfill his wish and launched his own personal campaign to have the protocols changed. The police hierarchy agreed too. [Link]

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Kirpan used to threaten someone in a schoolyard

Parents of students attending a high school in LaSalle are outraged after a 13-year-old Sikh boy pulled his kirpan on another student this week.

Montreal police say the boy became frustrated with two other students during recess on Thursday, and waved the ceremonial dagger at them in a threatening gesture.

Police have pressed charges.

In March 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Sikh students are allowed to wear kirpans to school for religious reasons. [Link]

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Festival raises awareness about Sikh culture

The entrance sign to the Sikh temple in Fairfield was damaged by bullets so often, members finally decided to let it be.

"We used to change the sign, but haven't done it for more than a year," said Gurpreet Dhugga. "Our mission isn't accomplished yet."

That "mission" is to educate a public that - ever since 9/11 - sees a turban and thinks terrorist.

"We need to educate people about the Punjabi culture," Dhugga said. "There's a lot of ignorance about this."

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent bigotry led Dhugga and a few others to start the Punjabi Heritage Festival. More than 2,000 visitors attended last year's program and Dhugga expects at least that many Saturday for the encore presentation of entertainment, education and enlightening activities at the fairgrounds.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

‘Respect for All’ is message of mayor’s anti-bullying rules

After more than four years of refusing to deal comprehensively with bullying in schools, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced a major new initiative to combat the problem that they have minimized in the past, but now acknowledge impedes “our students’ ability to learn.”

The two officials were surrounded at a hastily called press conference on Wed., Sept. 3, by advocates of the Dignity in All Schools Act (DASA), a 2004 City Council bill that mandated most of what Bloomberg is implementing only now. He vetoed that earlier bill, dismissing it then as “silly” and “illegal,” and the Council did not take him to court after it overrode the veto, but the mayor still refused to implement the law....

[P]ressure from the Sikh Coalition may have been the key to turning it into the chancellor’s regulations announced last week. Amardeep Singh, executive director of the coalition, said a survey of 400 Sikh students in New York City Schools found 65 percent had faced bias-based harassment, such as being called “terrorist or Osama,” and that 20 percent had been “touched or hit.” The coalition demanded the regulations in a June 30 march through Richmond Hill, Queens, compelling Klein finally to promise them action.

“We made substantial progress,” Singh said. “For the necessary sea change to take place, we still have work to do.” The group wants to see public reporting by category of harassment victims, something the mayor said would be done but which Singh said is not explicit in the regulations.

Singh also said he and his group had absolutely no problem with Sikh children being taught to respect gays and lesbians.

“We believe in equality for all,” he said, decrying the idea that “anybody’s dignity would be denigrated.” He noted that two Sikh members of the Canadian Parliament voted for same-sex marriage to the consternation of Sikh leaders in India but not in their home districts. [Link]

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Discrimination follows devastation

The nation came together after 9/11. Unfortunately, it came together to discriminate against its perceived enemies.

"I stand for America all the way," shouted 42-year-old Frank Roque as he pulled up in his pickup truck on Sept. 15, 2001 and shot Balbir Singh Sodhi five times at a suburban gas station in Arizona.

What did Sodhi do to deserve such an end?

He wore a turban and sported a beard.

Sodhi wasn't a Muslim. He wasn't Arab. He was a Sikh from the Punjab region in India and as a Sikh he was following religious law by wearing a turban and keeping a beard.

Sept. 11 hurt this nation deeply. It shook the country's foundations to the core and changed the course of American history. Our foreign policy began to take on a different tone and the attack forced Americans to think about their place in the world community.

But 9/11 changed things for Sikhs like me in a different way.

It was as if overnight we became fundamentally different. And we felt it.

Suddenly stares and dirty looks became commonplace. People began to whisper around us when we walked by. Some taunted us with racial slurs. Others thought it would be better to vandalize our temples or honk at us while driving. Some like Roque took to murder.

I was only in sixth grade at the time, but I was starting to feel the changes in my own home as well.

That day itself we were flooded with phone calls by relatives and family friends advising one another to stay at home and not venture out unless absolutely necessary. If there was anything to be done, any place to go, my mom would go and my Dad and I would stay at home. We put baseball caps in our car so just in case "anything goes wrong" my dad and I could take off our turbans and put the caps on.

Sikh community leaders immediately released press statements condemning the brutal attack on their nation. We began to hold inter-faith conferences where we could explain to the public that we were Sikhs and had nothing to do with the terrorists behind 9/11.

We are not Muslim. We are not Arab. We are not from the Middle East. Our religion is different as is our home country and language.

But even if we were Muslim, it shouldn't matter. People of a certain faith or skin color shouldn't be blamed for an attack carried out by a small number of extremists.[Link]

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NYC Schools Launch Anti-Bully Campaign

As thousands of kids head back to New York City schools this week, the city unveiled a new plan to protect students from bullies and keep parents in the loop.

This week, middle and high school students are heading home with a "Respect for All" brochure, that teaches them what constitutes a bias-attack - which is harassment driven by prejudice.

The city announced new steps to stop the attacks, including a tracking system to monitor all reported bias incidents.

"Up till now, we really had no way of knowing if harassment in our schools was getting better or getting worse," Mayor Bloomberg said.

So starting this year, parents will be able to go on the Department of Education website, look up their child's school, and find out how many bias incidents have been reported.

Attacks in school on Sikh kids were getting so bad in parts of Queens - specifically, students getting their hair cut off, that the community held a protest rally. [Link]

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Canadian Air Force gets its first turbanned officer

Soldier comes from long line of Sikh warriors

As the first member of the Canadian Air Force to wear a turban, 2nd Lieut. Jasbir Singh Tatla figures he's a good role model to issue a call to arms to his fellow Sikhs.

And if you want to honour the Sikh tradition of being warriors, Tatla said, don't get involved in gangs and criminal activity. Instead, sign up with the Canadian Forces, where you can make a real difference and fight -- for your country.

"It's a great honour to be the first member of the Air Force to wear a turban," said Tatla, 35, of Surrey. "It is something that is hard to express in words, but it gives me a chance to set an example for my community....

"My whole family background is army," said Tatla, who is married with two sons, aged three and eight. "So it was a natural thing for me to do." [Link]

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Students gather to watch documentary on post–Sept. 11 hate crimes

Some Sikh, Arab and Muslim Americans became targets of hate crimes in the weeks following Sept. 11 for wearing a turban and a beard, characteristics Americans began to associate with terrorists.

To raise awareness of these crimes, a documentary titled “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath” was shown to about 50 people in the Reitz Union Auditorium on Monday.

Valarie Kaur, the filmmaker, traveled across the U.S. to interview victims of attacks when she was a college student.

“They were described as isolated incidents, but they were not isolated,” Kaur said in the documentary. “They were happening everywhere across America.”

The movie’s message prompted a subsequent discussion about diversity and how people should come to understand and accept other cultures.

“I understand why people want to be left alone,” said Farah Gulaid, a nutrition senior. “But I want to tell you. Just educate people, and let them know who you are.”

Tamara Cohen, UF’s director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, said popular culture complicates the image of an American. People want to claim a monolithic vision of America even though demographics are changing, she said.

Kaur’s reason for making the documentary was simple.

“So other people don’t look at the turban and see fear, hatred, something laughable, something less than human,” she said. “So people don’t look at the turban and see an enemy where I see a brother.” [Link]


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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mosque fire may be 'racially motivated attack'

A fire which destroyed a church building earmarked for a new mosque may be a racially-motivated arson attack.

The former St Matthew's Church, in Boultham Park Road, Lincoln, was severely damaged when the blaze broke out in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Muslim leaders were hoping to turn the grade II-listed premises - vacant since 2000 - into a mosque after being granted planning consent in July.

But it is now feared their plans may have been destroyed by a hate-fuelled attack by arsonists. [Link]

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School sorry for refusing Sikh student

AN exclusive private school has apologised to a Sikh student it refused to enrol because of its strict uniform rules as part of an out of court settlement.

The student's family launched a landmark case last year after Brisbane's Ormiston College told them their 12-year-old son could only attend school if he cut his hair and did not wear his turban.

Uncut hair and turbans are both strict requirements of the Sikh religion.

The family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, lodged a claim with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland against the college and its headmaster Brett Webster.

The family's lawyer Scott McDougall today said his clients were happy with the confidential settlement, which included a public apology.

"The main thing they wanted was broader understanding within the community to the importance of being able to choose an education whilst maintaining your religious beliefs and identity," Mr McDougall told AAP.

"We're hopeful that other schools will take note and it won't be repeated upon the Sikh community."

He said the boy was attending another private school where he was allowed to wear his turban and was doing well.

Mr Webster said the school was pleased the case was now resolved.

"What we have done is we've agreed to look at our policies and that's a commitment we will take seriously," he said.

"And if there's a need to modify our enrolment or uniform policies to remain aligned with the Anti-Discrimination Act then we will do so." [Link]

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Head scarf case may remain veiled

The outcome of a complaint filed by a Tulsa Muslim teenager against Abercrombie & Fitch may never be made public.

The girl ... filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month alleging that the popular clothier's Woodland Hills store refused to hire her because she wears a religiously mandated head scarf....

EEOC attorney Michelle Robertson said her office cannot comment on any charge that is still open because of confidentiality requirements of the Civil Rights Act, and cannot even confirm that the case was filed.

In general, she said, when a complaint is filed, it is assigned to an investigator who gets information from the employer and elsewhere and makes a recommendation to the area director.

In 5 percent of the cases, there is enough evidence to determine that discrimination occurred, she said.

Nearly all of the cases with evidence of discrimination are settled out of court and remain confidential.

Only 1 percent of those 5 percent wind up in court, where they become public, she said. [Link]

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About DNSI

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

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The Blog

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

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Court orders UPS to pay Jersey City man for religi...
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Groups say veil ban unlawful, unfairly targets Mus...
IRS Kirpan Case Heads to Federal Court
SALDEF and Pearson VUE Join Together To Increase D...
Bellerose man injured in hate attack
240,000 dollars awarded to man forced to cover Ara...

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