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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Country's first Sikh museum opened in Derby

THE first museum in the UK to be dedicated to Sikh history has opened in Derby.
Hundreds of people gathered yesterday for the official opening of the National Sikh Heritage Centre and Holocaust Museum in Pear Tree.
The £25,000-plus project is the first in the world to showcase Sikh history from the perspective of British Sikhs.
It also looks at the Sikh holocaust, in which more than a million people lost their lives because of their faith.
The idea for a national museum came from the Sikh Community Youth Service in the 1980s.

It considered venues from all over the country but chose a former factory in Derby, owned by the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara temple, because of the enthusiasm which had been shown by the city's Sikh community.
Gurmel Singh, one of the volunteers who helped to set up the museum, said he expected people from all over the world to visit the centre.
He said: "The people in Derby expressed such an appetite for this centre. All the funds have been donated by the community and they have put in a lot of time and effort to make it happen.
"We want Sikh young people to get a sense of their connection with Britain as Sikhs and the British have been interacting since the 1700s.
"I think this will become a major tourist destination for people all over the world."
The museum, which is opposite the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara temple, off Prince's Street, features a collection of cannons, hand-held weapons and coins from the Sikh empire in 18th-century India and also memorabilia from the time of the British Raj.
There are soon to be interactive displays and a full educational section with a specialist library of more than 300 books.
There is also a collection of material addressing the history of Sikh persecution.
During the 18th century, Sikhs were outlawed by the Indian government and endured barbaric persecution for about 50 years.
In the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination in India by two of her Sikh guards in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered.
Mr Singh said: "The world is quite rightly aware of the Jewish holocaust but also the Sikhs have had an experience and it's almost an untold story."
The opening was attended by the Mayor of Derby, Councillor Barbara Jackson, and the MP for Derby South, Margaret Beckett.
Mrs Beckett, who released 300 balloons at the event and was wearing Sikh dress, said: "I think this is a tremendous thing that we now have in Derby. It's very important for the young people of the Sikh community to know about their origins and for others to learn about it.
"There's a tremendous tradition of working together


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sikh man barred from wearing turban in court

A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge says a Sikh man facing trial over the murder of his daughter's former boyfriend will have to appear before jurors without his turban.

Judge Charlotte Orcutt says that the long fabric pious men use to wrap their hair could hide a weapon or be used as a noose. [Link]

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Airport search destroys info on local imam's laptop

ImamMohammad Ali Elahi, of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, is an American citizen. He has lived in America for 18 years.

As a Muslim and an Imam, Elahi wears robes and the traditional amamah headwear of a Shi'a leader, which has made him a prime candidate for searches at airports.

On Oct. 22, after getting off a return flight from his native Iran at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Elahi was picked for a search. After a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer searched his luggage, they decided to search Elahi's laptop.

"This is not the first time I've been searched. I am accustomed to it," Elahi said. "I told the officer I had nothing to hide, and they took it away."

When CBP officers brought his computer back 20 minutes later, it was broken.

"I lost eight years of my work, since I did not have any backup of the information. They did not even apologize," Elahi said. [Link]

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Racism seen in British politics

If Barack Obama were British, racism would keep him from becoming prime minister, said the head of Britain's Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

That racism is not among the British electorate, but among the leaders of the political "machine," said Trevor Phillips, adding he believes the public would embrace a black leader.

"I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him (Obama) would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold on power within the Labor Party," Phillips told The Daily Telegraph in a story published Saturday.

Despite Obama's success in U.S. politics, Phillips said he believes the United States remains more divided on racial issues than the United Kingdom.

"Here it's more about class. It is about culture, a different way of life and speaking," Phillips said, noting the U.K.'s Muslim community suffers greater discrimination.

"If you asked British voters whether you could have a Muslim prime minister their mouths would drop open, but not with a black one," Phillips said. [Link]

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Valley's immigrants, minorities greet Obama's election with a torrent of joy, wondrous disbelief

Sukhdev Singh Bainiwal, a 42-year-old software engineer from the Evergreen area of San Jose, knows what it's like to feel less American than others. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was accosted by strangers and told to "go home" because, as a Sikh, he wears a turban.

But Bainiwal senses that America has become a more tolerant place since those scary days. And he was thrilled when his 17-year-old son, an Obama supporter, went to work as a poll worker, wearing his turban.

With Obama's election, Bainiwal said, "more barriers will continue to fall. People will vote for people based on the skills and knowledge that they have and what they stand for — and not because of the way they look." [Link]

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Feds probe those from Muslim nations

2,500 people investigated by immigration officials as part of Operation Front Line

When federal immigration agents paid a visit to his Santa Clara workplace a month before the 2004 presidential election, the Pakistani engineer assumed they came to talk about his pending visa renewal application.

What they wanted to know, however, was what mosque he attended and if he associated with anyone who has "anti-American" views. And what prompted their attention, according to a copy of the investigation, was an incident three years earlier, in which he attracted suspicion for taking "detailed photos" of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Newly released government documents show the engineer was one of roughly 2,500 immigrants investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of Operation Front Line, a 2004 probe that civil rights groups say was biased against Muslims.

An estimated 77 percent of those investigated were from predominantly Muslim countries, and none was charged with terrorism-related crimes, according to a sample of 300 cases released to civil rights groups last month after years of legal battle.

"The most striking thing about all of this is it doesn't work," said Yousef Munayyer, policy analyst at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which sought the information alongside Yale Law School's National Litigation Clinic. "The numbers show that racial profiling didn't lead to any national security-related charges." [Link]

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Sikhs want action on Carteret bias attacks

The Sikh community is seeking a comprehensive response to two violent attacks against their members last month, and the mayor's office convened a meeting Wednesday to begin to address their concerns.

"We'll hopefully get some action to prevent it in the future," said Gurjit Chima, the daughter of the victim of the most recent assault. "This goes so underreported, I think this should be publicized. You want people to know what's going on."

Her father, Ajit Singh Chima, 69, was beaten in the face and kicked before dawn by an unknown attacker last week. Less than three weeks prior, a 10-year-old boy, Gagandeep Singh, was jumped while walking home from school. His turban was removed and his hair was cut off, an offense to Sikhs who grow their hair as a sign of religious devotion.

The two cases are being investigated as bias crimes by the Carteret Police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office, but no arrests have been made. [Link]

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Arson at Columbia mosque stirs compassion

From the rubble of a firebombed mosque, relationships have emerged.

After local men burned the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tenn., to the ground in February, Muslim families had no place to worship. Donations came in to help establish a new center, and the First Presbyterian Church in town allowed them to worship at its church.

"It's just a great example of how we can believe different things and respect, celebrate each other," said Daoud Abudiab, president of the Islamic Center of Columbia. "And that's regardless of those who carry out acts of hate toward other groups."

Two of the three men charged with destroying and vandalizing the mosque pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court in Nashville, as the Islamic Center works to open its doors at 500 Carter St. in Columbia. [Link]

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Casey McNerthney Taxi driver assaulted in possible hate crime

A drunken man was arrested early Wednesday morning after police say he repeatedly punched a taxi driver in the back of the head, complaining that he was an immigrant from a Muslim nation.

Police say the man continued to threaten the diver near 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street until officers were called.

The man was booked for into King County Jail for investigation of malicious mischief.[Link]

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Que. feminist publishes broadside against peers over hijab

In an unusual act of non-solidarity, a veteran Quebec feminist has launched a public attack against her peers on the political left who, she says, undermine women's rights by supporting religious accommodations like the Muslim head scarf.

Singling out the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, Quebec Solidaire and the Federation des Femmes, as well as the Bouchard-Taylor commission, Diane Guilbault airs her criticism in a new French-language chapbook called Democratie et egalite des sexes (Democracy and Sexual Equality).

"It wasn't long ago in Quebec that women were obliged to cover themselves to go to church, and it's something we, as women, react strongly against now that we see it coming back in the form of the hijab," Guilbault said at her book launch th
"For me, even if it's something those women choose to do, it is in no way a feminist act. A feminist act is something that aims for emancipation, both of oneself, as an individual, and as a group. It's not a feminist choice to choose the veil." [Link]

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Racism Isn't Keeping Arab Americans from the Polls

rab Americans are expected to vote in large numbers Tuesday, despite concerns over voter intimidation and weak outreach from the presidential candidates, representatives of major community organizations say.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has set up a voter protection unit staffed by lawyers to help dispel rumors that may have prevented some from going to the polls in the past.

"As always, there will be voter intimidation," predicted Abed Ayoub, one of five attorneys attached to the unit. Enthusiasm for the election is higher than it was in 2004, he contended, pointing to a recent ADC-sponsored event in Michigan that saw at least 500 Arab Americans register in just two days.

At the same time, the ADC has received hundreds of calls over recent months from Arab Americans who mistakenly believed they may have been ineligible to vote.

"One rumor was that if you are in foreclosure, you can't vote," Ayoub said. Another is the misconception that those who couldn't read or write in English -- often a problem for elderly Arab Americans -- would not be allowed to use translators.

But the greatest fear is of an incident like the one at the 1999 municipal election in Hamtramck, Michigan, where dozens of dark-skinned Arab Americans were asked to take a citizenship oath before voting. The move caused many to avoid the polls for fear of embarrassment.

Even in more recent elections, a number of complaints were made to ADC, though never made public, the lawyer said. "This year we want to attack the problem before it happens," Ayoub said.

Votes of the estimated 3.5 million Arab Americans could be pivotal, especially in swing states. And though a September poll by the Arab American Institute showed that Sen. Barack Obama was far more popular -- with a 54 percent to 33 percent lead over Sen. John McCain -- it also found that 20 percent of Arab Americans are not enrolled in any political party. And Arab organizations say both presidential campaigns have largely failed to recognize Arab Americans as an important voting bloc.

"Neither party has done a lot of outreach to the community," said Lelia Al-Qatami, ADC's communications and cultural affairs director. "Ethnic outreach is very common, but we haven't seen any with regards to the Arab community." [Link]

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Two Years of Inspiration

There are all sorts of people who have volunteered for the Obama campaign for passionate reasons of their own. One of the hardest-working subsets of Obama campaign volunteers are Muslim-Americans, who have struggled for acceptance into American culture ever since 9/11. Whisper campaigns designed to paint Obama as a Muslim (and therefore, a terrorist) has been particularly hurtful to them, especially after John McCain commented to a supporter that Obama was not an Arab, but "a good man, a family man," as if an Arab-American could not be either one.

Even worse for the community was an incendiary DVD circulated in thousands of newspapers and paid for by a right-wing political action committee entitled, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." This was deeply distressing because then, even friends, co-workers, and neighbors began to regard Muslims they'd known for years with suspicion.

Needless to say, there is a strong Get Out the Vote effort underway within the Muslim-American community. While they are disappointed that Obama has not been more forceful in their defense, they do believe that his election would help a great deal to tamp down some of the discrimination they have had to face[.] [Link]

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Outrage over Muslim Massacre online game

The Australian Muslim community has accused the Federal Government and police of double standards over their treatment of a free online game in which the aim is to kill as many Muslims as possible.

Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association, wrote to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, expressing outrage over the game, Muslim Massacre, saying it teaches young people to "further hate Muslims" and encourages them to carry out "acts of discrimination, vilification or outright violence against Australian Muslims".

The game, launched as a free download on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, invites players to take control of an American "hero" and "wipe out the Muslim race with an arsenal of the world's most destructive weapons". [Link]

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Muslims Strive for Tolerance -- and Votes

Republicans spread a false rumor that Barack Obama, whose middle name is Hussein and whose paternal grandfather was Muslim, is secretly a Muslim himself; Obama, a church-going Christian, denied it, and many said he did not go far enough in denouncing the racism behind the claim. At a rally, John McCain corrected a supporter, saying Obama is not an Arab but a family man.

"There is a subtext of extreme distrust that filters in the mainstream," Ramey says, "that Muslims are not patriotic. That Muslims are unworthy of trust. The comments generally tend to underscore an element of deep racism and xenophobia in the political establishment. Sometimes, it's spoken openly. Sometimes, it is spoken in code."

"The rhetoric of anti-Muslim sentiment has become more acceptable in public gatherings and in the right-wing media," Hossain says. "It has made Muslims very, very concerned that there is a rekindling of the post 9/11 paranoia," when many Muslims were detained for questioning simply for being Muslim and many more feared being attacked in the streets.

So Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who laughs when he tells you he has just bought a farm in rural Virginia "where the real Americans live," organizes. The 48-year-old dictates news releases. He distributes get-out-the-vote literature. He gives speeches at mosques. He calls taxi drivers, promising monetary help for those who take time Tuesday to get people to the polls.

* * *

"Many of the Muslims who came to this country came from countries where voting was a dangerous and dirty thing to do," Hossain says. "We have to convince them that voting is not only safe and clean, but it is a civic responsibility."

In the center parking lot, he hands Obama volunteer David Kirshbaum, 53, a stack of yellow cards printed with a mild endorsement of the candidate by the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee: "Muslim Americans were upset that Senator Obama, when called a Muslim by fear and hate mongering bigots, failed to make a principled stand . . . by not asking what's wrong in being a Muslim anyway while he asserted his own faith. However . . . now that has become a target of racial slurs and pejorative epithets, it is incumbent on us to make the same principled stand we had asked of him. We must challenge the politics of bigotry and divisiveness."

It took Colin Powell, a Republican, to break the tension.

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" Powell said last month on "Meet the Press." "The answer's 'no.' Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America." [Link]

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Compromise lets Sikh testify and keep kirpan

A judge has decided a Sikh man can testify at a trial later this month by video conference for religious reasons after he was refused entry to court for wearing his kirpan.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bryan Mahoney made the ruling after hearing an application from Crown prosecutor Beverly Bauer on Friday.

Bauer said defence lawyer Patrick Flynn agreed to what is essentially a compromise.[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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IRS Kirpan Case Heads to Federal Court
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