Archive for Hate Crimes

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

As a brown-skinned Sikh with a turban on my head and a long beard on my chin, I deal with my fair share of racist and xenophobic harassment regularly, including in my home of New York City, the most diverse city on the planet. It usually takes the form of someone yelling or perhaps mumbling at me: Osama bin Laden/terrorist/al Qaeda/he’s going to blow up the /go back to your country/etc. Less often, someone might threaten me, get in my face, or in one case, pull off my turban on the subway.

My experience is not terribly unique for a turban-wearing Sikh in the United States. Especially since 9/11, we Sikhs have become all too familiar with racial epithets, bullying and violence. Just last month, a gurdwara in Michigan was vandalized with hostile anti-Muslim graffiti. Last year, in what we can assume was a hate attack, two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed while taking an evening walk in a quiet neighborhood in Elk Grove, Calif.

Many talk about the prevalence of anti-Sikh attacks as a case of “mistaken identity.” Sikhs mistaken for Muslims. Indeed, we are by and large attacked because of anti-Muslim bigotry. The Michigan gurdwara was targeted for that reason, and most of us who experience racist harassment as Sikhs in the U.S. experience it through the vilification of Muslims and/or Arabs.

Ironically, many Sikhs themselves vilify Muslims or at least distance themselves from the Muslim community at every possible opportunity. I remember in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, the first thing out of the mouths of many Sikhs when talking to the press, to politicians or even to their neighbors was, “We are not Muslims.” While this is of course a fact, the implication of the statement if it stops there is: You’re attacking the wrong community. Don’t come after us, go after the Muslims! Sikhs believe in equality and freedom and love our country and our government. But Muslims? We don’t like them either.

The roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Sikh community run deep in South Asia, from the days of the tyranny of Mughal emperors such as Aurangzeb in the 17th century to the bloodshed in 1947 when our homeland of Punjab was sliced into two separate nation-states. Despite these historical realities, Sikhism has always been clear that neither Muslims as a people nor Islam as a religion were ever the enemy. Tyranny was the enemy. Oppression was the enemy. Sectarianism was the enemy. In fact, the Guru Granth Sahib, our scriptures that are the center of Sikh philosophy and devotion, contains the writings of Muslim (Sufi) saints alongside those of our own Sikh Gurus. Nevertheless, historical memory breeds misguided hostility and mistrust of Muslims, especially in the contemporary global context of ever-increasing, mainstream Islamophobia.

What is it going to take for Sikhs and Muslims to join together in solidarity against the common enemies of racist harassment and violence, racial and religious profiling, and Islamophobic bigotry? Perhaps the recently exposed NYPD spying program (along with the “education” officers have received about Islam) will serve as a wake up call to my community (and other communities for that matter) about how bad things have really gotten. While we Sikhs confront bigotry on a daily basis from our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, employers and strangers on the street, our Muslim American counterparts are systematically targeted by our own government. (I should note that, of course, Sikhs too are profiled by law enforcement in less repressive, though still troubling, ways, especially at airport security).

Sikhism was born hundreds of years ago in part to stand up for the most oppressed and fight for the freedom and liberation of all people. If this isn’t reason enough for us to make the cause of rooting out Islamophobia from the NYPD and other law enforcement and government agencies our own, we only have to return to the bleak reality we Sikhs in the U.S. still face right now in 2012. A time when gurdwaras are still vandalized with anti-Muslim statements, Sikh kids are still being bullied and tormented at school every day, and I am called Osama bin Laden while walking down a Manhattan street for the 258th time (no I’m not counting).

“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I hope the NYPD’s blatant assault on the civil rights of our Muslim sisters and brothers propels us Sikhs as well as all people of conscience to action. Perhaps “We are not Muslims” will become “We are all Muslims,” as we come together to eradicate Islamophobic bigotry in all its forms.

The Ku Klux Klan: One of America’s Oldest Terrorist Organizations Boasts Booming Membership

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2012 by loonwatch

This February 25, 2011 video image shows the image of an African American man behind a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) robe on exibit as part of the 'American I AM: The African Imprint' at the National Geographic in Washington, DC.

This February 25, 2011 video image shows the image of an African American man behind a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) robe on exibit as part of the ‘American I AM: The African Imprint’ at the National Geographic in Washington, DC.

One of America’s oldest terrorist organization’s, the KKK is boasting about their increasing numbers. Whenever there is mention about such groups the Islamophobes and their supporters like to claim that they are insignificant and extinct.

Facts prove otherwise:

Increase Of Ku Klux Klan Membership In Colorado Tracks National Rise Of Hate Crimes

The KKK says their membership is “booming” in Colorado, with 12 white supremacist groups active in the state, according to a report by The Durango Herald.

Herald staff writer Chase Olivarius-McAllister reported earlier this week that Cole Thornton, Imperial Grand Wizard of Colorado’s United Northern and Southern Knights Ku Klux Klan group, claims that membership has grown steadily in the past few years.

“I’m really pleased with the kind of people we’re getting in – college-educated, professionals, teachers – even a couple congressmen. People would be amazed to know who I’ve talked with at midnight in isolated areas – it’s almost comical,” Thornton said to the Durango Herald.

A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Montgomery, found that the number of “radical right groups” in America — including hate groups, “Patriot” groups and nativist groups — increased in 2010 for the second year in a row.

In Durango, Colorado, racially motivated hate crimes rose from just three crimes between the years of 2006 and 2009, to four in 2010, and 19 in 2011, according to the Herald’s report. According to FBI data, hate crimes fell 30 percent between 2009 and 2010 in the state of Colorado.

Thornton attributed the KKK’s growing membership in Colorado in part to “whites’ low birthrate” in the country.

“We’re losing them to white homosexual relationships – they don’t reproduce – and interracial marriage – and to abortions on demand. Plus, immigration’s astronomical with Hispanics,” Thornton said in an interview with the Durango Herald.

According to U.S. Census data, Colorado’s Latino population grew by more than 40 percent between 2000 and 2010. And Denver, the state’s largest city, is now more than 30 percent Latino.

As the Latino population surged nationally in recent years, so did anti-Latino hate crimes.

The preliminary findings by the National Institute of Justice suggests that anti-Latino hate crimes rose disproportionally to other hate crimes between 2004 and 2008. Data collected by the FBI also indicates a steady rise in anti-Latino hate crimes across the country from 2003 to 2007.

Sikh Temple Vandalized–but were Muslims the Intended Target?

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by loonwatch
Images of the vandalism at the Sterling Heights Sikh temple Images of the vandalism at the Sterling Heights Sikh temple

Sikh Temple Vandalized–but were Muslims the Intended Target?

By 

Vandals targeted a Sikh house of worship in suburban Detroit this week. But there are signs they intended to target Muslims.

According to the Sikh Society of Michigan, the Sikh temple (known as a Gurdwara) in Sterling Heights has been under construction for several years, without any incidents or controversy.

That changed when someone vandalized the building sometime on Sunday night.

The vandals spray painted “don’t builed” [sic] on an outside wall. They also left images of a cross, a gun, and a misspelled version of the name “Mohammed.”

Muslims revere Mohammed as a prophet, but it has nothing to do with the Sikh religion. The word leads many to believe to believe the vandals thought they were targeting Muslims.

Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), calls the vandalism a hate crime.

“We joined the Sikh community in calling for local and federal law enforcement to use their full resources to investigate this recent hate crime,” Walid said.

The US Justice Department in Detroit says the incident is on their radar. They’ve met with members of the Sikh community about it.

But a DOJ spokeswoman says it’s yet how they’ll be involved in the investigation, or any potential prosecution. Anyone with information about the incident should contact Sterling Heights Police.

Walid also suggests the incident could stem from politicians’ “fanning the flames” of xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in an election year.

“We hope that they will be a little more responsible,” Walid said. “They should understand that their statements and ads may push people over the edge, and they do have consequences.”

The US Sikh community has fallen victim to anti-Muslim sentiment before. A Sikh man was murdered in Arizona soon after the September 11th attacks. The killer thought he was Arab or Muslim.

On the Outlandish Claim That “There is No Islamophobia”

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by loonwatch

The FBI released hate crime statistics for the year of 2010, which showed that anti-Semitic crimes topped the list of religiously motivated hate crimes.  Islamophobes have latched on to this fact to claim that “there is no Islamophobia.”  For example, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch asked: ”What do you have to say about the fact that FBI statistics show that there is no ‘Islamophobia’?”

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji published a response to this argument, pointing out that it’s a non-sequitur: it does not follow that “there is no Islamophobia” just because there were more anti-Semitic hate crimes reported than anti-Muslim ones.  This would be like arguing that “there is no anti-Semitism” because there were more anti-black hate crimes reported than anti-Semitic ones.

In fact, Musaji points out that there was a 50% increase in the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes.  Any reasonable person would think this trend to be concerning and ask: what is causing this steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes?

There is another issue here: it’s a well-known fact that ethnic minorities are less likely to report hate crimes.  One of the common reasons cited for this is that such minority groups tend to distrust police and authorities–which is certainly the case for Arabs and Muslims, who have every reason to feel this way.

Islamophobia penetrates law enforcement and government on all levels, starting from the police: the Washington Monthly had a very eyeopening article on the subject: How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam.

The FBI, the governmental institution responsible for monitoring hate crimes, is itself brimming with Islamophobia (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Many Muslims in America don’t trust the FBI, and wouldn’t report hate crimes to them, for fear of being accused of something themselves.

This is exactly what happened to a female Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport who reported to authorities that a man was sexually harassing her; not only was the man not investigated, but the female Muslim student herself ended up being investigated by the FBI after the accused molester called her a terrorist.  That’s how vulnerable Muslims are in this country: accuse them of being a terrorist and the FBI will come knocking at their door.

The chain of anti-Muslim bigotry goes even higher to the Department of Homeland Security.  The House Committee on Homeland Security is led by the fervently anti-Muslim Congressman Peter King.  It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are subjected to such hearings.  If King had suggested holding anti-Jewish hearings, the comparisons to Nazi Germany would be quickly invoked (rightfully so) and the Congressman’s career would come to a swift end (again, rightfully so).  Yet, when this bigotry is leveled against Muslims, the reaction is far more mild.

This brings me to my second (and main) point: it is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other faith, who are the number one victims of institutionalized bigotry in America.  This is something more pernicious than lone-wolf hate crimes, because the effects of it are more far-reaching.

It is Muslims, not people of any other religious faith, that were (and continue to be) detained by the hundreds–without trial or charge–and holed away in the hell-hole known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  This, even though it was known by the government that “the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were innocent.”  Most Americans fail to realize the gravity of this injustice, and continue to believe–like mindless sheep–that the Gitmo prisoners are “the worst of the worst” and are evil Magneto-style villains.  People of the future will be horrified that any sane person would think that this is necessary:

Who but the sickest and most deranged person could think this is OK?

Can you imagine the outcry had it been a Jewish person who had been imprisoned like so by our government?  Even the idea is considered ludicrous.

Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg.  Thousands of Muslims have been imprisoned in Bagram (“the Other Guantanamo”) and there are probably tens of thousands Muslims that have been detained by the United States, without trial or charge, around the world.  They are subjected to typical American forms of torture:  solitary confinement (considered by human rights experts to be one of the worst forms of torture) and sexual harassment (including sodomy, rape, and having their testicles electrocuted).  Mentally deranged guards routinely used dogs to torture the inmates.

Yes, it is Muslims who are the victims of these horrific crimes.

These abuses are carried out because the institution that is supposed to protect American citizens (including American Muslims)–the U.S. Armed Forces–has instead been, in the words of the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg, ”waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Quite predictably, the U.S. Armed Forces as an institution is rife with Islamophobia.

It is Muslim civilians who are being incinerated by our bombs, missiles, and drones.  Over the course of the last two decades, the United States has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of over a million Muslims.  America is dropping bombs on multiple Muslim countries (the list just keeps getting longer and longer); Americans feel comfortable dropping bombs on countries they can’t even locate on a map.  These are Islamophobic wars that kill way more people than hate crimes do.

It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are the victims of civil liberty assaults and Endless War.  Glenn Greenwald writes:

[W]ho are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals).  And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War…

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults… (ones largely confined to Muslims) to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities.

It is Muslims who are the victims of such governmental abuses:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

It is absolutely crass to argue that there is more anti-Semitism in America than Islamophobia. There would be nothing less acceptable in our country than anti-Jewish Congressional hearings.  One could simply not imagine imprisoning hundreds of Jews–without trial or charge–in Guantanamo Bay.  If the United States caused the death of over a million Jews, people would be calling this the next Holocaust.  Such things are simply unthinkable, except when Muslims are the intended victims.

Certainly, lone-wolf hate crimes are worrisome, and Jews are one of the most targeted groups in this regard.  This is a serious concern that needs to be addressed–as does the fact that there has been such a steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.  But, we shouldn’t ignore institutionalized bigotry in America, which is even more worrisome.  Muslims are the most vulnerable minority in this regard: they are the absolute lowest on the totem pole and get the dubious distinction of being the number one victims in this regard.

Lastly, it is very morbid the way the anti-Muslim cyber-world is pitting the Jewish community against the Muslim one.  This is not a competition or game.  Hate crimes are not points or goals.  Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths (or no faith at all) should unite together to fight bigotry and intolerance.  After all, Jews are well aware of the tactics that were once primarily used against them but are now used against Muslims: it may be a different minority, but it’s the same message.

*  *  *  *  *

I encourage everyone to read Sheila Musaji’s take on the subject.  It was her article that prompted me to weigh in on this issue.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by loonwatch

A good piece from Kari Ansari.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Dear President Barack Obama,

Along with many American Muslims, my family and I listened to your speech today on the Middle East and North Africa. While I appreciate your encouraging statements to the people of the Muslim world — particularly to those who are currently fighting for dignity and civil rights in their own lands — I also couldn’t help feeling that many Americans are not setting the example of which you spoke when it comes to our own Muslim citizens.

Currently, 20 states have introduced anti-Muslim legislation, with more pending. Some of our country’s lawmakers and politicians have made very bigoted inflammatory comments about Muslims and Islam. Very recently, Tennessee, under extreme pressure, rewrote a bill that would have made it a crime punishable by 15 years in prison for Muslims to worship together in groups of two or more. Organized groups are staging hate rallies against Muslims building houses of worship around the country. Local municipalities are playing the zoning game by zoning Islamic schools and mosques out of the community. Mosque playgrounds are being torched. Muslim family homesproperty, and mosques are being vandalized. Children are being bullied and harassed because they are Muslim. Shockingly, last week the Editor of the Gainesville Times in Florida published a letter that called for the expulsion of all Muslims from America. Recently, several Muslim clerics, and also a young Muslim woman were pulled off airplanes for no other reason other than they were dressed in recognizable Muslim attire. This is all being seen through the modern technology’s “window into the wider world” that you mentioned in your speech, but like all windows, you can also look from the world outside and see what’s happening inside.

What does it say to the world when our President speaks about rights for people in the Muslim world that “include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion” when our own people are being hindered from building mosques, and schools, and our right to worship freely is even being threatened?

Mr. President, Muslims in America know that you do not stand with this kind of bigotry and hatred. During your announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden you said,

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.

We appreciated this statement, however, judging by the uptick in anti-Muslim incidents since the death of bin Laden, the words weren’t enough to resonate with those in America who feel threatened by their Muslim neighbors.

Mr. President, Muslims need your leadership, your strong voice, and your support in this regard. You are a friend to the world’s Muslims, especially those fighting for their freedom, but Muslims need your friendship here on our own soil. Anti-Islam bigotry is getting worse in America — not better.

In our home, we love and respect you as our President; will you show us the same love and respect as a patriotic American family by speaking out strongly against this growing trend of anti-Muslim bigotry?

Follow Kari Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KariAnsari

CNN Special: “Unwelcome: The Muslim Next Door”

Posted in Loon Media with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by loonwatch

Soledad O’Brien had a very interesting special that aired on Sunday, March 27th dealing with the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in America, specifically the case of the Murfreesboro Mosque and Community Center.

We have covered this story extensively, Eric Allen Bell a close follower of the issue and of LoonWatch has sent us video and tips regarding what has been going on and the morbid ignorance of the Islamophobes in that area.

Soledad did a decent job and all in all the Islamophobes and Muslim-haters come out looking quite malicious if not profoundly ignorant.

We have uploaded the videos to Youtube, please subscribe to our YouTube page LoonwatchTV

Arab and Muslim Hate Crimes Examined

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by loonwatch

I didn’t know that hate crimes against Arabs were classified as “other ethnicity.”

Arab and Muslim Hate Crimes Examined

(USF News)

TAMPA. Fla. (Feb. 1, 2011) – In the weeks and months following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, hate crimes against Arab and Muslim-Americans spiked. However, hate crimes against other groups decreased during this time, says a newly published article authored by researchers at the University of South Florida and the State University of New York at Albany.

“Hate Crimes against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America,” appearing in the February issue of Social Problems, reveals that, concurrent to the dramatic rise in hate crimes against Arab and Muslim-Americans in the wake of 9/11, the incidence of hate crimes against blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos fell.

The team of sociologists, led by USF Associate Professor James Cavendish and doctoral student Ilir Disha and associate professor Ryan King from SUNY-Albany conclude that “9/11 created a climate in which many Americans felt united against a ‘new enemy’ and in which acts of hatred against Arabs and Muslims became ‘normalized’ behaviors.”

The researchers made ample use of hate-crime statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) program, and to an important but lesser degree from U.S. Census demographic variables, Arab and Muslim advocacy groups’ measures, and county indicators of political affiliation obtained from Polidata.

The study also reveals that in the aftermath of 9/11 Arab and Muslim-Americans were at greatest risk of victimization in U.S. counties where their proportion of the population was very small while the proportion of the population that was white was very large. The authors argue that this is a case where “the small minority group is visible, has little protection, and is thus highly vulnerable.”

According to Cavendish, a couple of different theories might explain why Arab and Muslim Americans have higher rates of victimization in counties where their population proportions are small and whites’ population proportions are large. One theory, which the authors present in their article, argues that when a minority group represents an extremely small percentage of the population, the majority group may feel like it can commit acts of violence without fear of the minority group mobilizing or retaliating against it.  The minority group, it is believed, is simply too small to pose a threat to those members of the majority who are inclined to commit acts of violence.

The authors criticize the lack of an “Arab” category in the nation’s hate-crime reporting mechanisms, which, they argue, is a major obstacle in studying hate crimes against Arab Americans in the wake of 9/11. While Muslims are covered by the racial, ethnic and religious categories established by the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, hate crimes against Arabs are likely to be assigned to the “other ethnicity” category.

The full report, Historical Events and Spaces of Hate: Hate Crimes against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America, is available athttp://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1525/sp.2011.58.1.21.pdf?acceptTC=true.

Media contact: Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.