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Thursday, October 30, 2008

NYT: Inquiry Targeted 2,000 Foreign Muslims in 2004

An operation in 2004 meant to disrupt potential terrorist plots before and after that year’s presidential election focused on more than 2,000 immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, but most were found to have done nothing wrong, according to newly disclosed government data....

[D]ocuments show that more than 2,500 foreigners in the United States were sought as “priority leads” in the fall of 2004 because of suspicions that they could present threats to national security in the months before the presidential election and the inauguration. Some of those foreigners were detained and ultimately deported because they had overstayed their visas, but many were in this country legally, and the vast majority were not charged....

“This was profiling,” said Michael Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School who helped lead the research effort. He added that the findings raised questions about both the effectiveness and the propriety of the program.

“The resources devoted to this were enormous,” he said, “but the results clearly were not.” [Link]

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Hate Crimes Committed Against 2 NJ Sikhs

A man and a young boy were attacked because of their religion Monday night.

A 67-year-old New Jersey man, a Sikh, was beaten and bloodied, while a 10-year-old boy was also attacked.

"It shouldn't happen to anyone," Ajit Singh Chima said.

Battered and brave is 67-year-old Chima, talking about how his usual morning exercise on Carteret St. Monday suddenly turned into a violent exercise in hate.

"I said, 'what do you want?' And he hit me," Chima said. "A blow on the nose knocked me to the ground, [then] he kept punching and punching."

The man who jumped him was in his twenties, had a medium complexion and may be the same suspect in another bias attack on a young boy three weeks earlier.

10 year old Gagandeep Singh was walking home from school. His main injury is something he does not want anyone to see – to his hair, which Sikh boys and men consider a gift from god and keep long.

"He came out of nowhere," Singh said. "He just came up behind me, threw me on the floor, held me with his feet and cut my hair with the knife or scissor. Then I jumped a few fences and ran away because I was so scared."

Singh could not see the face of the suspect, who wore a mask. Because both victims are Sikh and because there was no theft, police believe the motive is hatred, based on the victims' religious beliefs.

"The Sikh community in Carteret is very tight-knit, numbering at about a thousand people. The question members have for the attacker or attackers is why.

"Why did you cut my hair?" Singh asks. "What do you want from Punjabis?"

Gagandeep's sister Jasvir Kaur summed the problem up.

"We respect other religions, and we want them to respect us too." [Link]

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sikh: ‘I am good people’

Dave Singh wants to get a message out to people in the Goodman area: Don’t fear the turban.

Singh, a native of India who recently purchased the Goodman Mini-Mart, is a member of the Sikh religion, which, according to Wikipedia, is the fifth largest religion in the world.

Singh, who came to Goodman from Pennsylvania, wears a blue turban in keeping with his faith.

“I want to tell people that I am good people and I want to do business here,” he said. “I like the countryside. Where I’m from in Pennsylvania, it is a lot like here, a lot of countryside.”

Singh and his family, including his wife, their three children and his elderly father, have been in the United States for 20 years. His father worked for the British government during World War II, while a brother has followed the father’s footsteps and also worked for the British.

“All of my family are now citizens of the U.S.,” he stated.

He proudly talks of his three children, saying all three are employed: A daughter works for a bank, another works for a gas company, while his son works with him in the business in Goodman.

“We want to do something good in the community,” he said. “We hope to do very good.”

Singh first worked for a convenience store in Pennsylvania for six years before starting his own in 1998. Several weeks ago, he heard the Goodman store was for sale, purchasing it just over a month ago.

“I kept all three of the employees, as they’re very good people,” Singh said. “They helped me clean the store and they take good care of the customers.”

“I enjoy working with them — they’re good people,” said Kimberly Mensink, a clerk at the store. “I hope they succeed here. Dave has a lot of good ideas for the store.”

The mini-mart offers gasoline and typical convenience store grocery items such as soda, snacks, beer, and coffee.

Sometimes, customers ask for items the store doesn’t carry. When they do, Singh writes down each request, placing those items in his next order to suppliers.

“We try to make everyone happy,” Singh said. [Link]

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Op-ed: FBI takes step back on civil rights

There are times when the U.S. government allows politics to interfere with policy and ends up shooting itself in the foot. Guidelines set to take effect Dec. 1 for the FBI may be a perfect example.

Issued by Attorney General Michael Mukasey's Department of Justice, the new guidelines for FBI agents will be a dangerous step back into J. Edgar Hoover's era of disregard for civil rights and civil liberties.

The guidelines permit agents to use criteria such as national origin, travel history, race or ethnic background as part of opening an investigation. Ironically, the attorney general's original guidelines in this area were established to curb such profiling, after information surfaced about the unwarranted investigation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These new guidelines represent a danger to the Arab- and Muslim-American community in particular, but to all Americans as well. In the era in which we live, it has almost become cliché -- sadly -- to point out that an attack on one American's civil liberties is an attack on all Americans and the American ideal.

But, to all Americans, the danger of this new policy is less romantic than that. The reality is that little or no scientific evidence supports the idea that racial profiling actually works. This alone should make every American concerned about the massive inefficiencies in the use of resources by the FBI in national security, an area in which we cannot afford to misappropriate one cent.

Furthermore, the guidelines will put a strain on a relationship that, contrary to racial profiling, has been proved to lead to the arrests of terror suspects. For years, leaders of the Arab- and Muslim-American community have been working with the FBI, and other law enforcement throughout the country, to break down barriers and create trust.

For these leaders, convincing community members that federal law enforcement is trustworthy after a long history of less-than-pleasant encounters is not an easy task. From Operation Boulder, a spying operation targeting Arab Americans initiated by President Richard Nixon in 1972, to the post-9/11 response, law-abiding Arab and Muslim Americans have often been unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials.

Still, community leaders and organizations have made great strides into bridging this gap and have created the type of cooperation that stops terror. This cooperation, for example, led to the FBI's breakup of a terror cell, the Lackawana Six, in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2002, which was greatly aided by a tip from the Arab and Muslim community in the area. Or other various cooperative meetings between FBI agents and Muslim community leaders to combat radicalization at the grassroots level.

Sadly, these new guidelines will put this relationship at risk. The FBI has taken steps to reach out to community members to develop and maintain a relationship precisely because solid human intelligence is invaluable when it comes to stopping crime.

The question that remains is: Does the Department of Justice realize how much more difficult the FBI's job will become if this relationship is in jeopardy, or do they simply not care?

The new guidelines come to light at a curious time, so close to a national election that may pivot on questions of national security and patriotism.

One cannot but wonder how much of this policy-making is being motivated by politics instead of a genuine interest in national security. It's time to focus on the types of methods that put terrorists behind bars, not those geared toward putting politicians in office. [Link]

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Student charged with faking attack

Muslim woman said masked man targeted her over religion

She said she was the victim of a hate crime, but now police say a 19-year-old Elmhurst College student made up her story that a masked man attacked her in a campus restroom because she's a Muslim.

Safia Z. Jilani, a 19-year-old sophomore at the school, was charged Friday with filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison, Elmhurst police said. [Link]

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Friday, October 24, 2008

NJ: Culture, history embraced

Governor Corzine signed an executive order Friday in a ceremony at the Passaic County Technical Institute creating the New Jersey Arab-American Heritage Commission.

The 25-member commission will coordinate events observing the heritage, culture and history of Arab-Americans, as well as work with schools to ensure that curriculum reflects the state’s diverse population....

Before signing the order, Corzine and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, referred to remarks made by Colin Powell on "Meet the Press" Sunday, when he took on false rumors that presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is Muslim and asked, "Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country?" Powell concluded his comments with a reference to the death of a Muslim soldier from New Jersey, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan of Manahawkin, who was killed in Iraq on Aug. 6, 2007.

Pascrell emphasized Paterson’s strong Arab community and the need to counter stereotypes and racial profiling.

"The day of litmus tests over who is a good American and who is not a good American is over," Pascrell said. [Link]

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Army admits 34 soldiers killed in ’84 anti-Sikh riots

Admitting for the first time that soldiers were killed in the anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Army authorities have sought details of such victims and called for speedy compensation for the next of kin.

The Rehabilitation and Welfare Section of Ceremonial and Welfare Directorate, Adjutant General’s branch in the Army Headquarters in Delhi, sent a note to various Commands and Regiments that as many as 34 Army personnel (including one ex-serviceman) were killed in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. And that all efforts be made to report on the progress of their compensation cases with respective state governments in tune with the package announced by the Centre in January 2006....

Said Pratap Singh Phoolka, a retired Army officer who has been leading the campaign and is identifying such cases on his own: “The untimely delay caused by the Army in this regard has caused immense damage. Parents of many such unmarried victims have also died in these 25 long years. Who will get the compensation now?”

He, however, welcomed the Army recognising the killing of its personnel during transit in 1984. Phoolka claimed that only a few have been identified so far and that there could be around 300 soldiers who had lost their lives in the riots.

Phoolka started his campiagn after two of his own men in 63 Cavalry died in transit, Capt I P S Bindra in Meerut and Sepoy Sukminderjit Singh Morena in Madhya Pradesh. The SGPC recently announced a Rs 1-lakh grant to the families of the soldiers killed.[Link]

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soldier fined for turban scuffle

A soldier who pulled off a man's turban during an Edinburgh nightclub scuffle because he "didn't like" people with turbans has been fined £280.

Raty Yavala, 29, had just returned from fighting in Iraq with the First Scots Regiment when he went out in Edinburgh.

Yavala, from Fiji, was in the All Purple Bar in Hanover Street when he began arguing with another clubber.

Yavala pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to a breach of the peace at the club on 30 September 2007.

Yavala, who is based at Dreghorn Barracks near Edinburgh, shouted and swore at the Sikh man before pulling off his turban and calling him a racist name. [Link]

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National Wholesale Liquidators to Pay $255,000 to Abused South Asian Employees

A Hempstead, N.Y.-based chain of retail discount stores, National Wholesale Liquidators, Inc., will pay $255,000 and agree to injunctive relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company subjected employees to a hostile work environment based on their race, national origin and religion and sexually harassed an employee.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC said a National Wholesale Liquidators store manager subjected South Asian workers to taunts about their national origin and religion. The EEOC also charged that the store manager sexually harassed a female employee. The woman, a Sikh, was told by the manager to remove her turban because she “would appear sexier without it.”

“The EEOC hopes this settlement encourages employers to take steps to educate their managers and employees,” said Margaret A. Malloy, the EEOC trial attorney assigned to the case. “Harassing employees based on national origin, sex or religion is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis said, “This case should remind employers to take seriously allegations of harassment, especially where managers in positions of authority are involved in the misconduct.” [Link]

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vandals Target Omaha Mosque

A place of worship for Muslims in Omaha was the target of vandals.

It happened at a mosque near 133rd Street and Q Street.

Somebody threw a rock through the front door and shattered the glass sometime between Monday and Tuesday night.

A worshipper at the mosque, Bilal Khaleeq, believes the attack was a hate crime. “This is where we offer our prayers. We build our community, bring our children to educate so it does have a lot of emotional attachment,” Khaleeq said. [Link]

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SF Gate: Picture of the Day

Sikh devotees walk past the Golden Temple, Sikh's holiest shrine, on the 300th anniversary celebrations of Guru Granth Sahib, or Sikh holy book, in Amrtisar, India.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Muslim women's head scarf a veil of mystery

It's all about the veil.

The hijab is a flowing slip of fabric Muslim women wrap scarf-like around their heads, tucking their hair beneath it so that not even a wisp escapes. They wear them pulled down to cover much of their foreheads, as well.

Long before she arrived on the Fairfield University campus as a freshman, Nargis Alizada, an Afghan refugee, donned a hijab in California when she became a teenager.

A motorcyclist spotted Alizada strolling down a San Diego street with her younger brother and drove off the road, onto the sidewalk, cursed her out as a "[bleep]ing Muslim. You're killing our people," and ripped her hijab off her head before knocking her down. The time was two years after the 9/11 attacks. "I was running as fast as I could," Alizada said. "I was so scared."

The experience left Alizada, her family and friends -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- shaken. Alizada's a petite, small-boned teenager with a waif-like look. It belies the dangers she's faced growing up in a fundamentalist country where it's illegal -- even a capital crime -- to teach a girl, or how her grandparents paid a tutor to educate her in secret in a basement of their home. Or how her dad paid smugglers $20,000 to sneak Alizada, her mom, sister and brother out of Afghanistan into Iran, hunched down under piles of hay and blankets in farm trucks and other vehicles.

"All of my friends figured I would stop wearing my hijab," Alizada said. "They told me that they understood if I didn't want to anymore."

Wearing a hijab is "part of our religion and our Quran's teachings to dress modestly," she said. "But I know many Muslim women who are devout who choose not to wear them." [Link]

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Three men charged with terrorizing Muslim families

Three North Shore men have been charged in federal court with terrorizing two Revere families just because they practice Islam.

Prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office have charged Adam J. Bonito, 21, of Revere, Christopher D. Giaquinto, 22, of Winthrop and a juvenile male with criminal conspiracy to commit a hate crime.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan’s Office, announced Friday that the suspects would be charged with vandalizing and damaging the vehicles of the two Muslim families, who lived in the same Revere duplex, in 2004 and 2005.

A press release about the case did not specify where in the city the victims lived.

Prosecutors allege, “it was the plan and purpose of the conspiracy to vandalize a van, believed to belong to one of the residents, in order to interfere with the victim’s housing rights because of race,” DiIorio-Sterling said. “The intended victim was an Arab Muslim person of Middle Eastern origin who lived at the duplex in Revere.” [Link]

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elmhurst offers safety escorts for Muslim students

A suburban Chicago college has stepped up safety measures after an alleged attack on a female Muslim student which officials deemed a hate crime.

Elmhurst College officials on Friday contacted Muslim students to offer safety escorts and Elmhurst police increased patrols on the nearly 3,000-student campus.

Police say the alleged attack occurred Thursday evening in a science building bathroom by a man wearing a ski mask. Authorities say they found anti-Muslim graffiti there.

Officials placed the school on lock down for an hour and ordered students to stay indoors.

Elmhurst College spokesman Charley Henderson says the student found racial slurs and a swastika earlier this month in her locker. The matter was turned over to Elmhurst police.[Link]

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Muslim student attacked at Elmhurst College

A Muslim student was attacked at Elmhurst College in what school officials described as a hate crime had found anti-Islamic slurs and a swastika scrawled in her locker a week earlier, police and students said Friday.

The 19-year-old sophomore told police a masked, male attacker struck her in the head with a handgun about 8:30 p.m. Thursday after she entered a restroom in the school's Schaible Science Center. She suffered a concussion.

Threatening graffiti - "Kill the Muslims" - was written on a mirror in the restroom, students and police said.

Earlier Thursday, the victim had spoken at a demonstration called to denounce the anti-Islamic slurs and swastika she had discovered Oct. 2 in her locker, school officials and students said. Among the slurs was the phrase "Die Muslims."

Both cases are being investigated as hate crimes, Elmhurst College spokesman Charley Henderson said.

"They have some common threads," Henderson said.

The victim - who wears an Islamic head scarf - and two other Muslim students had been verbally harassed and taunted Sept. 18 during a campus protest calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, friends said.

The Thursday night attack triggered an hourlong lockdown at the college while police searched the campus - and prompted hundreds of students to rally again Friday to protest the incident and call for unity. [Link]

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Sikh taxi driver's turban ripped off in drunken attack

A drunken lorry driver who ripped off a Sikh taxi driver's turban and then tried to steal a motorist's car keys has been jailed for a year.

William Carr, 36, was aggressive and argumentative as the taxi he was being driven home in pulled into Watford Gap services on the M1 on November 11 last year.

Rebecca Wade, prosecuting, said: "They got out and the defendant started being aggressive towards the taxi driver, being abusive and swearing."

He grabbed hold of Ajit Singh Dhillon's car keys, £120 in cash and a mobile phone, before ripping off his turban and then trying to headbutt him several times.

The taxi driver managed to keep out of his way and called the police as Carr turned his attention to a passing motorist, who had stopped at the motorway service station.

Northampton Crown Court heard last week how Carr approached motorist Vimal Palmer and launched an unprovoked attack, while trying to steal his car keys.

After being arrested, Carr told officers he was so drunk he had no recollection of the incident.

Judge Richard Bray said: "He was drunk and assaulted a taxi driver; a nasty assault of an Asian taxi driver and his turban was taken off his head and thrown away.

"It's a grave insult and an aggravating feature."

Carr, of Fallowfields, in Crick, pleaded guilty to affray, theft of cash and a mobile phone and the attempted robbery of Vimal Palmer's car keys.

Jailing him for a year, Judge Bray said: "The taxi driver was assaulted in a humiliating manner and must have been very upset by your behaviour.

"There has to be a prison sentence.

"Attacks on taxi drivers at night have become all too prevalent," he added.

Claire Howell, defending, said Carr had been shocked by his behaviour after watching the CCTV footage from Watford Gap and wanted to compensate Mr Singh Dhillon.

She said: "This defendant was very, very drunk and was appalled by what he was said to have done. He is deeply ashamed of his behaviour that night." [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 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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