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Friday, February 29, 2008

Ireland: Muslim headscarf rows hit Christian schools

Conflicts are developing in Irish schools over the wearing of the hijab, or headscarf, by Muslim pupils, it was disclosed yesterday.

The issue is a major challenge in faith-based schools where the headscarf is definitely not part of the standard school uniform.

The president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) Aine O'Neill said that in some Christian faith-based schools, perhaps as much as a third of the students were not of the majority faith.

She was aware of some of her colleagues who were experiencing conflicts over religion in Christian schools where non-Christian students were enrolled.

"Unfortunately bullying has become part of the issue in some schools. Those of us who work with children know that a child who is different in some way to the majority is a target for bullies," she told an NAPD symposium on diversity in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Education sources said last night that her comments are the first public statement about conflicts over the hajib, the use of which has caused tensions in schools in the UK and France."

Ms O'Neill said the "new Irish" came from many and varied cultures. While language differences were obvious, less obvious were the multiple, diverse and contrasting social and religious customs the newcomers brought with them.

She noted that in Ireland there is no official policy on facilitating the integration of children from culturally diverse backgrounds. [Link]

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Australia: Turban ban stirs landmark case

ORMISTON College is at the centre of what could become a landmark case over whether a school has the right to deny a student admission because his turban does not fit in with the uniform requirements.

A Sikh family, who cannot be identified due to a suppression order, has lodged a complaint with Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commission alleging the private school refused to admit their 12-year-old son unless he removed his turban and cut his hair.

The complaint, which was submitted last February, claims the boy was discriminated against because the school placed conditions on his enrolment that he could not comply with because of his religion.

Ormiston College headmaster Brett Webster has defended the school’s stance, telling The Redland Times the family was not discriminated against because of their religion.

“We always have and will continue to enrol people from different religious and cultural backgrounds; that’s not the question,” he said.

“The question is should the school, should every organisation, have to change their policies, have to change their rules, every time someone comes along with a different set of beliefs?”

“People can choose to make it a religious issue, for us it’s certainly not, it’s a uniform issue, it’s a school policy issue.”

The family’s lawyer, Caxton Legal Centre director Scott McDougall, disagreed.

“It’s quite clearly an issue of religion if the strict application of the rule means they can’t follow their religious beliefs,” he said.

The two parties were unable to resolve the issue at a meeting and Mr McDougall said he expected the case to be heard by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal before September.

The family has now moved from the Redlands so the boy could attend a different private school.

Ormiston College, an independent and non-denominational school, has previously allowed a Sikh student to wear a turban as part of his uniform.

The boy attended the senior school during the late 1990s when previous headmaster David Hosking was in charge.

Mr Webster was unsure whether the uniform rules had been tightened since the other boy graduated or whether an exception had been made for him, but said as headmaster he had a duty to uphold the rules that were in place when he joined the school in 2006.

“I think it’s a matter of being fair and being consistent – treating people well but recognising the fact that rules exist for a reason,” he said. [Link]

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bangle row pupil changes school

A Sikh teenager excluded from lessons for wearing a religious bangle has been given a temporary place at another school.

Sarika Singh, 14, has not attended Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales since being told she could not wear the bracelet, known as a Kara.

Her case is to be heard at the High Court in London later this year, but no date has been set for a hearing.

Sarika has now enrolled at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School, which is allowing her to wear the bracelet, and will stay there until the legal process is complete.

Jagtar Singh, of the Sikh Federation UK, said: "Sarika's mother understands the preliminary hearing is unlikely to be held until April or May.

"It's too long a wait for Sarika, so she has started at another school."

Human rights group Liberty, which is supporting Sarika's High Court battle, claims the school has breached race relations and human rights laws by not allowing Sarika to wear the Kara.

Sarika, the only Sikh at her school, was excluded from Aberdare Girls' School in November, after being taught in isolation for two months.

The school bans girls from wearing jewellery [sic] other than wristwatches and plain ear studs. [Link]

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A head scarf is not just a scarf

The dispute in Turkey reminds us of the importance of allowing 'others' emotional depth.

Just as a flag is not merely a swatch of material – stars, stripes, sickles – a scarf is no longer a piece of silk. Turkey is set to repeal its longstanding scarf ban in university settings – setting off a firestorm of controversy about class conflict, human rights, and the rise of Islam in a country fearful of religious influence.

Secular Turks, outraged that religious Muslim women may soon sport their head scarves in even elite urban schools, have resorted to demeaning their fellow citizens. As Turkish political philosophy professor, Atilla Yayla, told The New York Times, the secular Turks "don't encounter them [the religious Turks] as human beings.... They want them to evaporate, to disappear as fast as possible."

The developing story in Turkey of its heated head scarf dispute is an important reminder to us all. Conflict, especially internecine, grows dangerous when dehumanization begins.

It is one thing to disagree about the appropriateness of religious symbols in public places, to debate and be divided on the necessity of separation of church and state – or in this case, mosque and school – but it is another thing entirely to deny the humanity of a group of people.

We see the beginning of this process emerging in Turkey; dehumanization is so often incubated in callous language, in angry labeling, in base and unfair generalizations. We see the end of this process in the tragic examples of Rwanda, Bosnia, the Middle East, and even in the fates of America's hate-crime victims Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, among many others....

We will not, ultimately, be protected by laws or bombs. We will only be protected by the continued fight against dehumanization in all its myriad forms, and the renewed effort to focus on developing emotional awareness and empathy in our children and in ourselves. A flag is not just a flag. A scarf is not just a scarf. And a human heart, well it is most certainly not just an organ. It is our fiercest weapon against annihilation, and our most inspired ally toward creating a more peaceful world. [Link]

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Australia: Security workers file complaint over turban edict

SECURITY workers at Brisbane International Airport have filed a complaint with the Federal Government over an order to remove passengers' headgear.
Employees of ISS Security, which is contracted by the Brisbane Airport Corporation, have told The Courier-Mail they were furious at the order demanding all passengers take off their headgear, including religious turbans, scull caps and veils, for the metal detectors.

"The order was given after a senior BAC manager did a walk-through wearing a hard hat," a worker said. "He was asked to go back and put the hard hat through (on the X-ray machine) and he decided that was too much hassle, and everyone should have to remove their headwear as a matter of routine.

"From that one incident, supervisors were instructed to make all workers have passengers remove their headgear and we were told if we didn't do that we would be stood down," she said. "There was no terrorism threat. It was just one BAC manager who didn't like the standard procedure."

She said staff demanded the order be given to them in writing but were refused.

"We knew we'd be the ones in strife if it ended up in the anti-discrimination tribunal, to which it seemed destined to go."

Staff estimated 13 people of the Sikh religion had to remove their turbans and a Muslim woman forced to remove her veil before the edict was lifted on Monday. [Link]

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Australia: Parents association slams school for turban ban

Queensland's Council of Parents and Citizens Association says it should not matter if a student wears religious dress to school or not.

The state's Anti-Discrimination Commission is investigating whether Ormiston College discriminated against a 12-year-old Brisbane student by not letting him wear his turban.

P&C state president Margaret Black says education is a much broader issue than the uniform worn.

"We believe that every child has a right to an education that children have the right for an equal opportunity in all areas regardless of their race, their gender," she said.

"We would be very surprised if a student was not allowed into a school just because of their religious dress." [Link]

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Obama photo in turban, robe causes stir

A photograph circulating on the Internet of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama dressed in traditional local garments during a visit to Kenya in 2006 is causing a dustup in the presidential campaign over what constitutes a smear.
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The Associated Press photograph portrays Obama wearing a white turban and a wraparound white robe presented to him by elders in Wajir, in northeastern Kenya. Obama's estranged late father was Kenyan and Obama visited the country in 2006, attracting thousands of well-wishers.

The gossip and news Web site The Drudge Report posted the photograph Monday and said it was being circulated by "Clinton staffers" and quoted an e-mail from an unidentified campaign aide. Drudge did not include proof of the e-mail in the report.

"I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it, the campaign didn't sanction it and don't know anything about it," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a teleconference with reporters. "None of us have seen the e-mail in question. If anybody has independent reporting that they've done on it I would welcome it."

Obama, in an interview with WOAI radio in San Antonio, Texas, said voters are "saddened when they see these kind of politics." [Link]

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Girl charged over Sikh incident

A teenage girl has been charged in connection with an alleged racial assault on a Sikh man on a bus in Edinburgh.

A 15-year-old was arrested following the incident on a number 26 LRT bus travelling to Corstorphine at about 2230 GMT on Saturday, 2 February.

The 22-year-old victim, who wears a turban, had boarded the bus at Haymarket with a friend.

Police said a report had been submitted to the procurator fiscal.[Link]

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Lawyer likes Sikh biker's chances

A Mississauga lawyer thinks a Brampton man charged with illegally wearing a turban rather than a helmet while riding his motorcycle thinks the defendant will ride off into the sunset a free man.

"I think (defendant Baljinder Badesha) will win," said Satwinder Gosal, a partner in the city centre law firm RZCD.

"There has to be a basic commitment to observe the common law," said Gosal, who several years ago helped Malton resident Pardeep Nagra, a follower of the Sikh faith, successfully fight a ruling that banned him from boxing because of his beard.

"There is enough historical religious precedence to say his belief is genuine," said the Mississauga lawyer.

Helmet laws are designed to protect those who ride motorcycles and save millions of dollars in public health care spending, a crown attorney told the hearing of the controversial case yesterday in Brampton.

Although Gosal acknowledges the issue of safety, the only person at risk of being harmed is Badesha, he points out.

Case law supports Badesha's case, he said. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1990 that Baltej Singh Dhillon, an RCMP officer, could wear a turban on the job.

More recent cases have led to exemptions for Sikhs who ride motorcycles in B.C., Manitoba, England and India. To rule against Badesha would be like asking those jurisdictions, "why did you codify the law?" the graduate of Queen's University suggested.

Badesha, 39, has said he understands the risks of riding without a helmet and is willing to accept them for his religious beliefs.

Justice James Blacklock reserved making a decision until March 6. [Link]

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U.S. defends race record before U.N. watchdog

The United States, in the dock at a U.N. forum accused of racial discrimination, said on Thursday it was combating hate crimes such as displays of hangman's nooses as well as police brutality against minorities.

A U.S. delegation defended Washington's record at the start of a two-day debate at the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The committee's 18 independent experts grilled U.S. officials on issues including racial profiling in the wake of the September 11 attacks, police brutality against minorities, and the high proportion of African-Americans on death row....

Some 47 states have laws against hate crimes, which they actively enforce, according to the U.S. delegation on Thursday.

U.S. officials had investigated more than 800 racially-motivated incidents against people perceived to be Arab, Muslim, Sikh or South Asian since the September 11 attacks.

Despite a drop in the number and seriousness of such crimes, identifying and prosecuting them remained a priority. [Link]

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SALDEF Forces Vermont Prisons to Change Policy on Religious Freedom

Last year, SALDEF was contacted by Satnam Singh, a Sikh American currently incarcerated within the Vermont Department of Corrections, regarding a potential policy change that would have restricted Mr. Singh's right to maintain his turban.

On January 10, 2008, in response to SALDEF's inquiry, Robert Hofmann, Commissioner of the Vermont DOC formally accepted changes in policy to respect a prisoner religious rights. Among others, changes included recognizing the Khanda as a religious symbol, allowing prisoners to maintain their turbans in all areas of the institution, and an implementation of a redress process. [SALDEF Press Release]

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sikh attacked

A Sikh man was verbally abused by two racist thugs and had his turban torn off while up to 40 onlookers stood by and did nothing.
The attack on Rattandeep Singh Ahluwalia in Oxford city centre comes a day after 19-year-old student Tom Grant was stabbed to death on a train after going to somone's aid.
Mr Ahluwalia was waiting at a bus stop outside HSBC bank in Queen Street at midnight on Sunday when a man started swearing and shouting racist insults at him.
The stranger grabbed hold of the 26-year-old's turban a traditional head-dress worn as a sign of devotion to God and threw it on the pavement.
As Mr Ahluwalia struggled to defend himself, another man waved his fists in his face and also shouted racist abuse.
The former student, who was heading home to Whitson Place, Cowley, after a day of praying in London, was shocked none of the people around him tried to help.
He said: "I was really scared. No-one showed any sympathy. There were at least 30 to 40 people and no-one did anything.
"He could have stabbed me."
He was not seriously injured but has been left traumatised and shaken by the attack.
He added: "A turban is part of a Sikh's religion, our costume. What that man did was the biggest sign of disrespect and the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me in my life."
'I always thought this was the best city I have ever been to in my life'
Rattandeep Singh Ahluwalia
Mr Ahluwalia, who moved to the city to study for a Masters at Oxford Brookes University, has also criticised the police for not understanding the significance of what happened to him.
He said when the officers arrived, he was standing against the wall petrified to be seen in public with his hair exposed, but was forced to run over the road to meet them.
Mr Ahluwalia said: "I always thought this was the best city I have ever been to in my life. Now I will not go out late at night on my own."
This is the first time Mr Ahluwalia has been physically attacked.
Oxford police spokesman Kate Smith said officers attended the racially-aggravated common assault on Sunday at 12.12am but no arrests hade been made.
She added: "We take all racist incidents extremely seriously and a thorough investigation is under way."
The attack has been condemned by members of the Sikh community, including Gurdip Singh Saini, vice-chairman of the Asian Cultural Centre in East Oxford. He said: "It is very shocking. These sorts of incidents are increasing day by day in the UK and it is getting worse. It is all the more wrong that no-one came to his rescue."
Anyone with information should call Pc Chris Miles via 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
http://www.oxfordmail.net/mostpopular.var.776820.mostviewed.sikh_attacked.php
also posted on http://ethnicconfusionbritain.blogware.com/blog

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Ontario's helmet law discriminates against devout Sikhs, court told

Forcing a devout, motorcycle-riding Sikh to choose between his turban and a helmet is denying him the right to religious freedom, human rights lawyers argued Friday as Baljinder Badesha's fight against a $110 fine took on the character of a constitutional challenge.

Obliged to wear turbans outside the home, devout Sikhs who want to ride motorcycles are effectively forbidden from a "normal social activity available to all other Ontarians," Owen Rees, a lawyer with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told the court.

"What the state is saying to Mr. Badesha is you have to choose between your religious beliefs or (abstain) in order to ride the motorbike," Rees said.

The helmet requirement under the province's Highway Traffic Act "discriminates" against Badesha because it violates his constitutional rights, Rees added.

Similar challenges have seen exemptions made for Sikh motorcyclists in British Columbia and Manitoba. The United Kingdom, Hong Kong and India also allow devout Sikhs to forego the helmet.

"My religion says we cannot put anything over our turban," Badesha said outside court. "I like to ride the motorcycles, so that's why we fight the case." [Link]

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brampton Sikh challenges motorcycle helmet law

A Brampton man is the first to challenge Ontario's motorcycle helmet law saying it unfairly excludes him from a pastime he loves because of his religion.

Baljinder Badesha, 39, is fighting a $110 ticket he was issued by Peel police in the fall of 2005 for riding his 1994 Yamaha motorcycle on Queen Street near Hwy. 10.

Badesha is a devout Sikh and wears a turban at all times outside of his home. He believes it is a tenant of his religion and cannot take it off to put a helmet on.

"We want an exemption for our religion," Badesha said outside the court. "We can't put a helmet on it (turban)."

He has the Ontario Human Rights Commission on his side, and the commission presented arguments in support of Badesha in a Brampton courtroom yesterday and will continue today. The province is expected to respond to the commission's arguments today or at a later date, and a decision on whether or not to acquit Badesha will come some time later from Mr. Justice James Blacklock. [Link]

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hate crime reported in San Marcos, Texas

"Arab die Muslim die" was spray-painted in a house in the 600 block of LaRue Drive, police said.

Burglary of a habitation and a hate crime were reported at 11:20 p.m. Monday by the victim, 63-year-old Moonis Ali, Police Chief Howard Williams said.

Police are still investigating the incident, he said. [Link]

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Islamophobia on the rise in the Netherlands

A European human rights watchdog says Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslim minorities facing increasing violence and discrimination. A report released on Tuesday by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) not only says that Islamophobia has increased, but it also decries the tone of the debate about ethnic minorities in general within Dutch politics and media.

The report is not totally negative. The ECRI concedes that progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in its previous report in December 2000. The Netherlands has become party to several international instruments that are relevant to combating racism and racial discrimination. Work is underway for the establishment of a network of professional local anti-discrimination bureaus throughout the country.

Efforts have been intensified to record and counter discrimination within the criminal justice system. Independent research to monitor racism and racial discrimination nationwide has been commissioned and will be carried out regularly. Attention has also been given to the disadvantaged position of members of ethnic minorities on the labour market, and measures have been taken to tackle racial discrimination in access to places of entertainment. [Link]

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CCR To Argue Appeal in Post-9/11 Immigrant Detention Case Challenging Racial Profiling of Muslim, Arab, South Asian Men

On Thursday, February 14, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) will argue its case challenging the post-9/11 detention of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Filed in April 2002, Turkmen v. Ashcroft charges that on the pretext of minor immigration violations and no evidence of any links to terrorism, the Immigration and Naturalization Service unlawfully held the plaintiffs in detention under abusive conditions for the months that the FBI took to clear them of links to terrorism, long after their immigration cases were completed.

In Thursday’s cross-appeal, CCR attorneys will be arguing that the detention itself was illegal and violated the men’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, the due process clause and the equal protection clause. The government will be arguing that the high-level officials named as defendants should not be held accountable. The part of the case against low-level officers for abuse and conditions of confinement is proceeding independent of the outcome of this appeal. [Link]

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Mosque fire could bring hate crime charges for 3

Three Columbia men could face federal hate crime charges after police say they painted swastikas and phrases such as "white power" on a mosque then set it on fire.

Investigators believe the fire at the Islamic Center of Columbia started around 5 a.m. Saturday.

Later that night authorities arrested Jonathan Stone, 19, Michael Golden, 23. and Eric Baker, 32, according to Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Authorities did not say how they tracked down the suspects.

"It affects every American and every Muslim when they see a swastika painted on the side of a mosque destroyed by arson," Cavanaugh said Sunday.

The men are being held in the Maury County Jail and face possible federal charges for attacking a house of worship and other federal crimes, he said. [Link]

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Turkey’s Parliament Lifts Scarf Ban

Parliament took a major step on Saturday toward lifting a ban against women’s head scarves at universities, setting the stage for a final showdown with Turkey’s secular elite over where Islam fits in the building of an open society.

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure supported by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change the Constitution in a way they say will guarantee all citizens the right to go to college regardless of how they dress.

The authorities imposed the ban in the late 1990s, arguing that the growing number of covered women in colleges threatened secularism, one of the founding principles of modern Turkey.

Secular opposition lawmakers voted against the change, with about a fifth of all ballots cast. Crowds of secular Turks backed them on the streets of the capital, Ankara, chanting that secularism — and women’s right to resist being forced to wear head scarves by an increasingly conservative society — was under threat. [Link]

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South Africa: Mom claims schools discriminated against Sikh son

The provincial Department of Education will investigate allegations by an Indian national that her son was turned away by two Durban schools because of his religion.

Beena Singh, a Sikh, said she applied for her son, Harkrit, to be admitted to Glenwood High School and Durban High School last month.

She said both schools rejected her application on the grounds that her son had long hair and wore a turban, which is mandatory in the Sikh religion.

She subsequently succeeded in getting him admitted to Durban’s Crawford College.

“He has been emotionally scarred by this, but he is very happy at his new school. He is a good cricketer and has been accepted by his peers on the cricket field,” she said.

Ntokozo Maphisa, a provincial Education Department spokesman, said: “This is a serious matter and will be investigated, despite it not being reported to us.

“An official will be sent to the schools to investigate.”

The principals of the schools denied that there had been discrimination against the boy.

Durban High School principal David Magner said: “It is totally incorrect to say that he was denied access because he is a Sikh or that he refused to cut his hair or take off his turban. We never even met the boy.

“The school has a proud record of religious tolerance, and boys of a variety of religions and cultures are happily accommodated.”

He said the school had received a large number of applications and had a substantial waiting list. Preference was given to pupils who lived in the area.

Glenwood High School principal Trevor Kershaw said: “There was never an application filled in as far as we are aware, and therefore the application was never considered on an official level. To intimate that the application was rejected is not true at all.”

Both principals said they viewed the allegations in a serious light. [Link]

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Spain: Conservatives Eye Headscarf Ban

Spain's opposition conservatives said Friday they would bar Islamic headscarves from public schools if they win next month's general election _ another divisive proposal in a campaign suddenly focused on immigration.
The center-right Popular Party said it is against symbols that denote discrimination against women.

"We feel that what makes sense is to establish in the framework of the law that use of symbols which might amount to discrimination or a demonstration of submission of women must be avoided. Therefore, as a principle, veils should not be used in classrooms," the party's campaign coordinator Juan Costa told a news conference.

The campaign for the March 9 election had been largely dominated by worries over Spain's once-buoyant but now-cooling economy. The governing Socialists have a small but firm lead over the conservatives.

But this week the Popular Party unexpectedly shifted the spotlight to immigration. It said Wednesday that if victorious it would require immigrants to sign a legally binding document obliging them to learn Spanish and observe Spanish social customs _ among other requirements _ in exchange for receiving the same rights as Spanish citizens.

Human rights groups criticized this as harsh and even unconstitutional. [Link]

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Lawsuit seeks search clarity

Organizations want feds to explain policy on seizing electronic devices at border

Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since 1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained at Customs and her cell phone was taken from her purse.

After her phone was returned, Mango noticed records of calls had been erased.

Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, Md., said she had her company laptop seized by a federal agent as she was flying out of Washington, D.C., to head home to London in December 2006.

The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras, cell phones or MP3 players.

In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, planned to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including what rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices.

The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, almost all of which involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background, many of whom said they are concerned they were singled out because of racial or religious profiling. [Link]

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Hate crime may be behind dairy store fire in Blaine

An expletive directed to an "Arab" had been spray-painted on the building.

Police have determined that arsonists were behind a fire that destroyed a longtime convenience store in Blaine last month. Now they are looking into whether the fire at the Blaine Dairy should be classified as a hate crime.

"We have evidence that indicates that it's possible that is the case," Capt. Kerry Fenner of the Blaine police said Friday.

On Jan. 27, three men carrying a paper bag and glass bottles entered the store at 385 109th Av. NE. around 8:30 p.m. The suspects then lit the bottles and threw them inside the store. An expletive directed to an "Arab" was found spray-painted on the west wall of the building, a police report said.

The store's owner, who police believe is Muslim or of Arab descent, suffered minor burns and had cuts on his arms, police said.

The fire severely damaged the store, which has been "a fixture in the community for quite a long time," Fenner said. It's likely the store, which has sold dairy products and household items since the 1960s, is a total loss and might have to be torn down.

No arrests have been made.[Link]

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Police Analyst Alleges Anti-Muslim Bias

A Muslim analyst for the New York City Police Department Intelligence Division can push forward with his lawsuit against a former CIA official who is accused of denigrating Islam in e-mails sent around the police department.

A federal judge, Barbara Jones of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, declined to dismiss the employment discrimination lawsuit yesterday.

The plaintiff, whom court papers do not identify by name, works for the city's Department of Corrections after the police department took him off counterterrorism work, the plaintiff's attorney, Ilann Maazel, said.

The former CIA official, Bruce Tefft, worked for a consulting firm that assisted the police department's Intelligence Division. Mr. Tefft would send news clippings from around the world to various members of the department. The suit claims that Mr. Tefft would add his own comments to them. Some comments advocated burning the Koran or questioned whether a "good Muslim" could also be a "good American," according to the suit. [Link]

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Anti-Muslim prejudice makes no one safer

Forum says US tactics in war on terrorism tar innocent people

Islamophobia looks like this: Maher Arar, a Syrian-born software engineer living in Canada, tried to catch a connecting flight home to Ottawa in 2002, but was detained in New York City.

U.S. authorities, given false information, thought he was an extremist with al-Qaida links.

Arar was questioned, then deported to Syria, where he was interrogated and tortured for 10 months. Afterward, he was exonerated and returned home.

He sued Canadian authorities and the U.S. government.

David Cole, one of his attorneys, told a Cincinnati audience Sunday about "Islamophobia" - the fear, distrust and hatred of Muslims. Cole and several other panelists said it's a growing byproduct of the war on terror and the erosion of American civil liberties. [Link]

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'Terrorist' e-mail leads to suspension

A local security manager was suspended from work after he replied to a Muslim job applicant's e-mail with the word "terrorist."

Ali Matallah, 32, said the experience has ruined his desire to look for employment as a security guard.

"I feel like if I look in another place, it might happen again," said Matallah, a native of Morocco living in Tampa.

Matallah earned his security guard certification two months ago and began looking for a job online through Craigslist. He responded to an ad posted by St. Moritz Security Services Inc., a Pittsburgh company that has an office in Tampa.

"I believe I would be a perfect fit for this position, as I have experience working for a few hotels," Matallah wrote in a e-mail dated Jan. 11. "I have an outgoing, customer-oriented personality and am always ready to help."

He highlighted his fluency in English, French and Arabic and attached a resume.

Less than 20 minutes later, St. Moritz regional operations manager Robert J. Massimino responded.

"Terrorist," is all his e-mail said. It wasn't addressed to anyone. It wasn't signed. [Link]

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Turkey Moves to Lift Ban on Headscarves at Universities

Turkey's Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development party has won the first of two votes in parliament to change the country's constitution to lift a ban on the wearing of religious headscarves at universities. The move is proving deeply controversial with opponents of the reform who argue it threatens the secular foundation of Turkey. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

In the first two rounds of voting, the parliament voted 401 to 110 and 404-99 in favor of constitutional amendments to end the 28-year ban on headscarves in universities. The amendment has to be confirmed in a second vote Saturday.

In an often heated debate, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said the reform will end an injustice. He said in a democracy everybody is equal before the law and the lifting of the ban is being done to end discrimination. He says the change is being made in the name of freedom.

The main opposition People's Party condemned the vote.

RPP parliament member Nur Serter says wearing a religious headscarf sends the wrong message. She points to the experience of neighboring Iran.

"Headscarf has always been used [in Iran] as the main symbol of the political Islamic movement," she said. "For example, headscarf has been the symbol of the Iranian Islamic revolution, so Turkey is very sensitive."

While its population is overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkey is a strictly secular state. Lifting the ban on headscarves at universities has raised concerns that the ruling party is trying to undermine secularism. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied this. [Link]

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Girl leads teen gang's race attack against Sikh man on bus

TEENAGE girl led a racist attack by a group of youths against a Sikh man on a bus in Edinburgh.
The 22-year-old man was verbally abused on the Number 26 Lothian bus to Corstorphine at around 10.30pm on Saturday.The man, who was wearing a turban, boarded the bus at Haymarket with a friend. Shortly after, a group of teenagers got on near the Murrayfield Ice Rink and racially abused the victim, partly due to his traditional clothing.The female main suspect got off the bus at the top of Drum Brae Drive, near to the Fox Covert housing estate.She is described as white, 16 to 20, 5ft 8ins, slim, with blonde hair, which was tied up in a ponytail. She was wearing a white jacket and grey jeans.A police spokesman said: "The victim was left extremely upset as a result of this incident, which shows a lack of respect for the victim's faith. "We want anyone who witnessed the incident, or who knows the identity of any of the youths involved, to get in touch."

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/edinburgh/Girl-leads-teen-gang39s-race.3748056.jp

also reported on http://ethnicconfusionbritain.blogware.com/blog

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High court backs school's ban on jewellery pending battle over Sikh bangle

A 14-year-old Sikh girl cannot wear a religious wrist bangle to school pending a full legal battle over her cultural and religious rights, the High Court ruled today.
Sarika Watkins-Singh was excluded after she refused to remove the Kara bangle and is now due to fight in the courts to establish a permanent right to continue wearing it in class.
Backed by her mother, Sanita, 38, she says it is an important symbol of her culture and Sikh faith.
She wants to return to Aberdare Girls School in south Wales and continue her education pending the hearing.
The school governors say the bangle cannot be worn because of its "no jewellery" policy.
Today her lawyers came to London's High Court, suggesting that she should be allowed to wear it on her right wrist under a long-sleeved jumper until there was a final ruling in her application for judicial review, which could take several months.
Helen Mountfield, appearing for Sarika, argued that she was unfairly being made to choose between her education and her faith.
But Mr Justice Harrison accepted the argument of the school governors that, to allow Sarika to be made an exception to school uniform policy even for a short period would cause disruption among the 600 girls at the school.
Jonathan Auburn, for the school, said there would be the risk of pupils "turning up at the school displaying jewellery saying that it was allowed".
The judge ruled: "Whilst I accept there will be detriment to the claimant if she is not able to wear the Kara in the interim, it does not seem to me that is anything like as significant as the detriment to the school if she were allowed to wear it."
The Punjabi Welsh girl from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, said the small, plain steel bangle was "a constant reminder to do good".
Ms Mountfield had told the judge that Sarika was allowed to wear it for about two years before a PE teacher asked her to take it off in April last year.
"She is 14, now approaching the age at which she is required to choose her GCSE subjects.
"She cares about her education and is a child with aspirations to have a professional career.
"She will suffer harm if she cannot attend school in a way that is consistent with her culture and religion, and is forced to choose between something which is central to her ethnic and religious identity and her education."
Ms Mountfield added that Sarika could not hide the Kara in a bag, which the school was suggesting as a compromise.
The point of the Kara was that it was a symbol of a faith with a history of martyrdom that required its adherents to visibly stand up for what they believed, she told the judge.
Recently the school head, Jane Rosser, said that wearing the Kara was against regulations because it was a piece of jewellery.
Sarika's family contend it was not jewellery as it was worn for religious reasons and not for decoration.
The only two forms of jewellery that girls are allowed to wear in school are a wrist watch and one pair of plain metal stud earrings.
In the forthcoming High Court hearing, Sarika's lawyers will argue that the school's stance violates race relations laws, the 2006 Equality Act and the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Her mother says she has the support of several local politicians and the Sikh Federation UK.
The teenager would remove the bangle for gym classes, or wood and metalwork, for safety reasons.
The mother said recently: "We feel very strongly that Sarika has a right to manifest her religion. She is not asking for anything big and flashy, she is not making a big fuss, she just wants a reminder of her religion."
Her daughter's interest in the Sikh faith intensified after the family visited India, including the Golden Temple in Amritsar, two years ago.
"I don't believe in putting pressure on children to follow a certain religion, but Sarika decided for herself that she wanted to be a practising Sikh," Mrs Singh, a mother-of-two, added.
Sarika said: "I am a Sikh and it is very important for me to wear the Kara because it is a symbol of my faith and a constant reminder that I should only do good work, and never do anything bad, with my hands.
"It is a comfort to me and a confidence booster when I am doing my exams. The reason I am fighting for my right to wear the Kara is because I want to stand up for the right of all the other Sikh pupils across the country to wear their Karas in school."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=512500&in_page_id=1770&ito=newsnow
also reported on http://ethnicconfusionbritain.blogware.com/blog ,www.ethnicconfusionbritain.co.uk

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Woman accused of trying to rip off turban

Charged with bias intimidation and harassment

A woman was arrested early Wednesday and charged with trying to rip the turban off a Sikh man's head in a Washington Street bar.

"I went to the bar to place an order, and I realized that someone was trying to get my turban off my head," said 38-year-old Hansdip Singh Bindra, of Union City.

Bindra was reportedly at Madison Bar and Grill with a co-worker just after midnight.

"You're out for an evening with colleagues and this is the last thing you'd expect," he said.

Clutching the turban, which was nearly off, Bindra said he asked the woman if there was a problem.

Thirty-seven year-old Carrie Covello allegedly told Bindra to take off the turban because she "didn't like it."

Bindra says he alerted the bouncer, who called police. Covello was subsequently arrested.

At the precinct, police say Covello admitted touching the turban, but told cops she was only joking and didn't mean anything by it

Covello was charged with bias intimidation and harassment, which can lead to penalties ranging from probation to up to 18 months prison. [Link]

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Sikh man racially abused on bus

An investigation has been launched after a Sikh man was racially abused by a gang on a bus in Edinburgh.

The incident took place on a number 26 LRT bus travelling to Corstorphine, at about 2230 GMT on Saturday.

The 22-year-old victim, who wears a turban, boarded the bus at Haymarket with a friend.

Shortly after, a group of youths, who are all in their teens, racially abused the victim, partly due to his traditional clothing.

They then got off the bus at various stops along Corstorphine Road and Drum Brae South.

The main abuser, who is female, got off the bus at the top of the hill of Drum Brae Drive near to the Fox Covert housing estate.

She is white, 16 to 20 years old, 5ft 8ins, of slim build, with blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. She was wearing a white jacket and grey jeans.

A police spokesman said: "The victim was left extremely upset as a result of this incident, which shows a lack of respect for the victim's faith.

"There is no place in society for religious or racial intolerance.

"We want anyone who witnessed the incident, or who knows the identity of any of the youths involved, to get in touch." [Link]

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