30 December 2008

A PLEA FROM SOME GAZANS


A Post from IHRO (International Human Rights Organisation) today. (Note: I did change one word in this story because I wanted to remove what may have been a religious/ethnic slur. In my effort to keep my comments even handed, I changed the word to "Israelis" in paragraph one. If that annoys you, I'll be happy to personally tell you what I changed. The format has also been altered in my copy/paste. Otherwise, this is unedited.)



As most of you know that the Muslims of Gaza are being slaughtred. Universities and even Masjids are being bombed. From they air the Muslims are being bombed by the [Israelis] and from the back they are being shot at by the Egyption soldiers

"Palestinian medical sources say at least 345 Gazans have been killed and another 1,450 wounded in three consecutive days of Israeli bombardment in the heavily-populated territory." - [Al-Jazeera]

"The situation here is very difficult. They are shooting at us from everywhere, at all targets - military or not." - [Amin Asfour, Gaza City, doctor]

"Unfortunately the situation is very bad in Gaza city - the Israeli occupation is striking more and more organisations, more houses and the mosque, and my university was hit last night. - [Majed Badra, 23, Gaza City]



IS THE WORLD BLIND?.............WHERE ARE THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEOPLE NOW???
IF THIS AN'T TERRORISM THEN WHAT IS IT???
WHY DON'T PEOPLE SPEAK OUT??????
INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE BEING KILLED – CHILDREN, WOMEN, THE OLD, INNOCENT MEN……….WHY????
WHERE ARE THOSE OF THIS WORLD WHO HAVE PLEDGED TO PROTECT? ARE WE HUMAN OR ARE WE ANIMALS? WHAT ARE WE THINKING? WHERE IS OUR COMPASSION? ISRAEL HAS DENIED, FOR VERY LONG TIME, EVEN BASIC HUMAN NEEDS TO THE PEOPLE OF GAZA BY BLOCKADES...NOTHING COULD GO IN NOR COME OUT!! AND WHEN GAZA RETALIATES AGAINST THIS OUTRIGHT CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, THEN THIS ATROCITY IS ALLOWD TO GO ON!!


YA ALLAH!! HAVE MERCY!! YA ALLAH!! HELP!!!


FATIMA DONY



crossposted from sometimes - 2

29 December 2008

AVAAZ Petition Against The Attack of Gaza

This picture from Reuters seems to sum it all up:
By now, we have all heard of Israel's latest attack on the people of Gaza. I do not pretend that the Hamas government is blameless in these attacks. I do say that Israel's response is all out of proportion to the danger Hamas poses to Israel. For those who are into arithmetic, I note that as of this writing, at least 312 Gazans have been killed in this latest offensive. But no matter.

What matters is that again - still - the civilian population of Gaza is suffering. A few pictures from BBC will serve to illustrate what is going on.

















AVAAZ, an NGO that I support, has put together a petition calling for an end to the bombardment of the people of Gaza. Please read their letter below and go sign the petition. The children of Gaza continue to die while we do nothing.

From AVAAZ:



Dear friends,

As we watch the Gaza bloodshed with horror, appalled at how the crisis is spiralling further out of control, one thing is clear -- this violence will only lead to further civilian suffering and an escalation of the conflict.

There must be another way. Over 300 are dead and hundreds more injured -- rockets are striking Ashdod deep inside Israel for the very first time, and the sides are mobilising for invasion. A global response has begun, but it'll take more than words -- the immediate violence won't end, nor will wider peace be secured, without firm action from the international community.

Today, we're launching an emergency campaign which will be delivered to the UN Security Council and key world powers, urging them to act to ensure an immediate ceasefire, address the growing humanitarian crisis, and take steps to build real and lasting peace.1 Follow this link now to sign the emergency petition and send it to everyone you know:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/gaza_time_for_peace/97.php?cl_tf_sign=1

After eight or more years of ineffective US and global diplomacy -- and now Gaza's bloodiest day in recent memory -- we must issue a global outcry demanding that world leaders do more than make statements if they're to bring peace to this region. The UN, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA should now act together to ensure a ceasefire – which includes an end to rocket attacks into Israel and opening the checkpoints for fuel, food, medicine and other humanitarian aid deliveries.

With a new US President taking office in less than a month, a real opportunity exists to breathe new life into peace efforts. These latest hostilities require not only an immediate ceasefire but a commitment from Obama and other world leaders that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the very top of their agendas. As the whole world is impacted by this ongoing conflict - we should demand nothing less.

In 2006 we mobilised for a ceasefire in Lebanon. For years we've worked to encourage a just and lasting peace, taking out billboards and ads across Israel and Palestine. Now as we head into 2009, we need to come together again to demand a peaceful and lasting resolution, instead of a further escalation of violence. Follow this link to put your name forward for peace:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/gaza_time_for_peace/97.php?cl_tf_sign=1

All sides to the conflict will continue to act as they have in the past if they believe that the world will stand by and allow them to do so. 2009 is a year that things can be different. As we face this crisis, and the possibilities of a new year, it's time for us to demand a ceasefire and work together to finally put an end to this cycle of violence.

With hope and determination,

Brett, Ricken, Alice, Ben, Pascal, Paul, Graziela, Paula, Luis, Iain and the whole Avaaz team


ABOUT AVAAZ
Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva. Call us at: +1 888 922 8229 or +55 21 2509 0368

Click
here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

Don't forget to check out our
Facebook and Myspace and Bebo page

26 December 2008

Jasbir Singh Testifies to CBI - Part One

I am too exhausted to write today; I did want to put this out to you, though.

More tomorrow, I hope.

Another riots witness names Tytler, Sajjan before CBI
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 26
After two days of grilling of Giani Surinder Singh, one of the two
eyewitnesses of the anti-Sikh riots being questioned by the CBI in
the USA, the two-member panel of the investigating agency questioned
the second eyewitness Jasbir Singh at Gaddar Memorial House in San
Francisco for more than four hours today.

The CBI recorded his statement with regard to the alleged role of
Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the riots. The questioning would
continue tomorrow, revealed Jasbir Singh while talking to The Tribune
on the phone this morning.

He said he had told the CBI officials that 26 of his family members
and relatives were killed in the riots and he saved his life by
hiding himself at the river-bed of Yamuna on November 1 and 2 and in
a High School building near the inter-state bus terminal on November
3 during the riots.

"I have told the CBI that the investigating agency should not term it
as riots because no person from other communities was killed,
therefore, it should be better to term the incident as genocide", he said.

"I have told the CBI very clearly that both Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan
Kumar were directly involved in the large-scale killings of the Sikh
families in Delhi", he said, adding that he had told the CBI
officials that he recognised both leaders.

The CBI has called him again for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, many Sikh organisations gathered outside the Gaddar
Memorial House and demanded justice for the victims of riots. They
also demanded the arrest of all those who were involved in the riots.
They raised slogans against the CBI alleging that they were asking
unnecessary questions to the witnesses.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, New York-based attorney and legal adviser to
the Sikhs For Justice, who accompanied Jasbir from New York to San
Francisco to record his statement, said they believed in the Indian
Constitution and laws but there was a need to formulate a "hate
crime" law in India, providing special prosecutorial procedures and
harsh punishments for crimes targeting religious minorities.

Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, president of the All-India Sikh Students
Federation, announced that his organisation would file a writ
petitions in all respective state high courts where Sikhs were massacred.

24 December 2008

The Grilling of Giani Surinder Singh

The is a follow-up to yesterday's post about CBI taking statements from these witnesses to Jagdish Tytler's murderous actions during the 1984 antiSikh pogrom in Delhi. It seems that maybe the CBI is more interested in sisrespecting these Sikh brothers and their testimony than in hearing the truth. What a surprise!


CBI grills key witnesses in US
Questioning biased, allege Sikh bodies
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 24
Sikh organisations of New York protested outside the office of the Consulate-General of India in Manhattan, alleging that CBI officials had put “unwanted” questions to Giani Surinder Singh, a key-witness in the anti-Sikh riots case, on the second day of the questioning today. They alleged that the investigating agency was trying to protect the Congress leaders involved in the riots of 1984.

A two-member team of the CBI is in the US to record the statements of Giani Surinder Singh and Jasbir Singh, key witnesses in the case.

Giani Surinder Singh had given a statement before the CBI yesterday that senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler was directly responsible for the massacre of three Sikhs in Gurdwara Pulbhangash at Azad Nagar in Delhi on November 1, 1984, during the riots.

Talking to this correspondent on the phone from New York today, Surinder Singh had alleged that the questions asked by the CBI team gave him a feeling that the investigating team was trying to portray him as the killer.

“I have already stated that Tytler led the mob to kill Sikhs, but the CBI team has asked me whether I know or remember the names of people in the mob and what kind of clothes or shoes they were wearing,” he said.

He said: “The CBI team should have rather asked him how, when and where had he seen Jagdish Tytler instigating the mobs? How did the killings of the Sikhs took place?”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based attorney and legal adviser of Sikh organisation “Sikhs for Justice”, who accompanied Giani Surinder Singh to the Consulate-General’s office, in an e-mail sent to The Tribune, said Giani Surinder Singh had earlier also recorded his statement in the Chandigarh office of the CBI early this year. As such the question of any pressure from any Sikh organisation did not arise.

The team had not yet recorded the statement of Jasbir Singh and would probably question him tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, president of the All-India Sikh Students Federation, alleged that the way CBI team had questioned Giani Surinder Singh on the second day, it appeared that the agency was working under the pressure of Congress-led UPA government.

23 December 2008

A VILLAGE IN PUNJAB CHERISHES THE GIRLCHILD

I know I have been castigating my readers about the evil of female foeticide and the damage it does both physically and spiritually to the Sikh community. Here is an article I have come across about a village that seems to have solved this problem.

From ExpressIndia.com


Ludhiana village values its girl child

*Bijlipur(Ludhiana), October 2 * Even as Punjab has the dubious
distinction of having one of the lowest sex ratios in the country, a village
in Ludhiana district has proved to be a remarkable exception. The average
sex ratio in Bijlipur over the last six years has been recorded at
1800:1000, as opposed to Punjab's overall sex ratio of 874 females per 1000
males according to the last census.

In the period between April 2002- March 2008, the village has seen the birth
of 32 girls and 17 boys. In addition, the village currently has 32 girls
between the ages of 3-6 years. "This is a noteworthy achievement. A special
report is being sent to the higher authorities," said multi purpose health
officer, Jasbir Singh. Surinder Kaur, the local Anganwadi worker revealed
that not a single case of female foeticide had been reported from this
village and attributes it to the high emphasis laid on education. "The
village has only one school. But the people are concerned about the
education of the child. The girls cycle down to the school in the nearby
town of Samrala".

Sarpanch Charanjit Singh informed The Indian Express that 70 per cent of the ,
village's population has passed high school. Citing his personal example he
said, "I have four sisters. All of them have a post graduate degree and are
happily settled." Former panchayat member, Jasbir Kaur encapsulates it
effectively when she says, "It is better to have five girls rather than a
drug addict son. Spoilt sons inevitably take the household to doom".

22 December 2008

Witness Statements Against Tytler.

This is the first time I've posted two posts about the same subject in one day. If you wish to check out today's first post about testimony against Tytler, go here. Evidentally one of brothers Giani Surinder Singh has given his damning testimony against the murderer Jagdish Tytler and how he incited the murder of us back in 1984. The other, Jasbir Singh is scheduled to testify later. Here is the latest story from


Newstrack India:

'84 Sikh riot: CBI records witness statements in US
New Delhi, Tue, 23 Dec 2008 NI Wire


A CBI team recorded witness Giani Surinder Singh’s statement in New York, USA regarding Jagdish Tytler’s role in organising massacre of Sikhs in November 1984. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York based attorney and legal advisor “SIKHS FOR JUSTICE” stated in a statement.

The CBI team recorded the statement of Giani Surinder Singh U/S 164 giving details of Jagdish Tytler’s role in leading and inciting mob to kill Sikhs during attack on Guruduwara Pulbhangash.

In this attack three Sikhs: Badal Singh, Thakur Singh an employee of DGPC and a former Delhi Police Inspector and Amarjit Singh were killed. The recording of witness Giani Surinder Singh U/S 164 will continue on December 23, 2008.

Attorney Pannun further stated that the CBI team will also record statement of witness Jasbir Singh regarding Jagdish Tytler’s role in organising massacre of Sikhs in November 1984. Despite initial reluctance by the CBI, it is through the constant efforts of Sikhs for Justice and All India Sikh Student Federation that the CBI finally agreed to record the statement of the witnesses in the United States.

On September 29, 2007, CBI filed a closure report regarding Jagdish Tytler’s role in massacre of Sikhs, stating witness Jasbir Singh cannot be traced and other witness Surinder Singh have refused to record statements.

AISSF and Sikhs For Justice, a US based human rights group produced US based witness Jasbir Singh before media within hours of closure report filed by CBI. Jasbir Singh who is presently living in US gave interviews to the media and showed his continuous willingness to record statement regarding Jagdish Tytler’s role in organising massacre of Sikhs in November 1984.

On December 18, 2007 Sanjiv Jain, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi Court ordered CBI to re-investigate the role of Jagdish Tytler in killing of Sikhs and record the statements of Giani Surinder Singh and Jasbir Singh.

As per attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, starting January 1, 2009 “Sikhs for Justice” in association with All India Sikh Students Federation President Karnail Singh Peermohammad would organise a “Justice Awareness Campaign” in order to reach out to witnesses and victims in 14 states where Sikhs were massacred in November 1984.

Sikhs For Justice, a New York based human rights group is fighting the legal battle in association with All India Sikh Students Organisation, President Karnail Singh Peermohammad to get justice to the victims of November 1984.

TEXAS SHERIFF MEETS WITH SANGAT

This is an update about the Texas Sikh American family that was terrorised by the police after the burglary of their home. Evidentally, there is a new sheriff in town who promises this sort of occurance is a thing of the past. One can only hope.

From SALDEF:

Harris County Sheriff-Elect and Judge Meet with Houston-Area Sikhs

Houston, Texas: December 22, 2008 – On Sunday, December 14 2008 at the request of SALDEF Regional Director and long-time friend, Bobby Singh, Harris County Texas Sheriff-elect Adrian Garcia met with the Sikh American community at the Sikh Center of Houston, in the aftermath of a recent incident where a Sikh family was allegedly harassed by Harris County officers after calling in a burglary.

The meeting allowed the Sikh American community to voice their concerns directly to the Sheriff-elect and was also an opportunity for the community to hear from local officials at a time when concerns and fear of the local police are high. At the meeting, Sheriff-elect Garcia remarked that the behavior of the Sheriff Deputies in this incident would not be tolerated under his administration, which takes effect on January 2, 2009.

At the meeting, the Sheriff-elect was presented with framed copies of SALDEF’s Sikh Americans and the Kirpan, and Common Sikh American Head Covering posters by the congregation, to be displayed in his office as a reminder of the diversity within his community.

During his comments to the over 200 Sikhs, in attendance Sheriff-elect Garcia committed to instituting “high quality diversity training” for all of his officers – the third largest police force in the United States.

“These meetings are part of SALDEF’s continued efforts to provide long-term and meaningful engagement with government officials in cities across the nation,” said SALDEF Regional Director Bobby Singh. “Both the community and government, must take concrete steps to understand one another, and make sure that incidents like this do not happen again. These meetings are just the beginning of a long-term partnership that SALDEF and the Sikh American community will have with the local officials to ensure open communication and to prevent misunderstandings in the future.”

Through SALDEF’s Law Enforcement Partnership Program, SALDEF previously provided law enforcement training to the City of Houston police department. In the new year, SALDEF plans to work with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to provide a year-long training program to educate the entire force about Sikhs and Sikh Americans.

BACKGROUND
Earlier this month, in the course of investigating the burglary of a Sikh American home, Harris County police officials made suggestive remarks to the family about Muslims, terrorism and the Mumbai terrorist attacks. When one the officers noticed a family member wearing a kirpan, they pointed a taser gun at her head, and handcuffed multiple family members, including a sixty-year-old grandmother. The only reason for this action was the Sikh family practicing their faith freely in their home.

To read media reports about this incident, click below:
Sikh family accuses deputies of abuse, taunts –
Houston Chronicle 12/5/08
Sheriff-elect reaches out to Harris County Sikhs – Houston Chronicle 12/14/08
Garcia, Sikhs to meet – Houston Chronicle 12/12/08
Interview with Tagore Family – Sach Productions 11/27/08

Is There Still Hope To Put Tytler On Trial?

I haven't heard any news about this for quite a long time. This came across from a Goggle Alert this morning. I do not know if this is true or not, of course. The blue italisized line leaves it open to question. I'll report back if and when I hear more.


From Zeenews.com India Edition

CBI team visits US to question anti-sikh riot witness

New Delhi, Dec 22: A two-member CBI team has left for US to question Jasbir Singh, a key witness in 1984 anti-Sikh riots who alleged that former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler played an active role in instigating the crowd.


Singh, who is reportedly based in California, has filed several affidavits against Tytler, a Congress leader, before various Commissions, saying he was willing to testify before the court and narrate everything provided his and his family's safety was guaranteed.

CBI's move to visit US marked U-turn from its earlier position demanding presence of Singh in India. The team besides recording the Singh's statement is likely to question other 1984 riot witnesses based in the US.

When contacted, CBI spokesperson pleaded ignorance about the development.

CBI, which had on September 29, 2007 filed an affidavit in a court here seeking closure of case against Tytler taking the plea that Singh was untraceable, was directed by a court here to submit the address of Singh, declared as a crucial witness.

The agency had earlier this year issued notices to Singh under section 160 of the CrPC, which empowers the probe agency to seek presence of a witness.

Singh through his lawyers pleaded before Delhi high Court to quash the notice for his presence issued by the probe agency expressing apprehension that there is a danger to his life in case he visits India for recording of his testimon not reside in India.

20 December 2008

END THE GENOCIDE IN PUNJAB NOW!!

We can stop it. In fact we are the only ones who can stop it - since we are the perpetrators. What we are doing to our preborn girl-children is as outrageous, as atrocious as what outsiders are doing to the children of Gaza. I have spent most of my day responding to people who are outraged at the pictures I posted of those dead children in Gaza. I wish I had such graphic pictures of our own murdered children to post. I do not. However, I promise I will find them and post them if this nonsense doesn't stop!

Aren't you yet getting tired of my harping on this subject? I am tired of it. I assure you, I think about it much more often than I write about it. One day, horrible, graphic pictures of dead and bloody children in Gaza. Now today, our own little girls. Again.

And it is us. You and I, the educated Sikhs, the ones who use computers and the Internet. We cannot blame this on illiterate, uneducated villagers who "don't know any better" and who "cannot afford a daughter." No, friends, my sisters and brothers, this is us! While I would not classify myself as affluent in North America, in Punjab, I would be considered both affluent and educated. Let me add that this is not only in Punjab. There are growing gender imbalances among us in Canada, as well. I cannot even begin to express my shame.

Here is my latest up dated picture of Anupreet Kaur, who recently turned 3. She looks deep in thought in this picture. I wonder what she's looking about. What do little, three year old girls think in these odd moments? Who could possibly resist such innocence and purity, such charm? I guess it is us. (I promise, I will continue to show you these delightful pictures if you stop this slaughter.)

There is only one way short of killing me to shut me up.
STOP THE MURDER OF OUR PREBORN GIRLS!!
END THE FOURTH GHALUGHARA TODAY!!!

Here is the story, published in many locations around the Web. How can the world take the much publicised social conscience of us Sikhs seriously, while we continue this slaughter of our own innocent children?





Gender imbalance highest among India's affluent: Harvard study



New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) A baby girl is still unwanted in many Indian homes. What's more, the sex ratio imbalance is highest among the rich and the educated, says a study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the US.

In India, where families have traditionally preferred son, the male-female ratio increases with the level of education. The odds of having a boy compared to a girl is 25 percent higher in houses where the head of the family has completed schooling.


'We found that households where the head of the house has completed schooling had an increased ratio of having a male child compared to houses with heads receiving no formal education,' S.V. Subramanian, lead author of the study released last month, told IANS.


The male-female ratio also increases with income, the study found. Higher income groups are 14 percent more likely to prefer a boy to a girl while in the poorer sections the preference may be just four percent more.


'Urban areas also reported higher sex imbalance as the odds of having a boy are 11 percent higher in cities compared to seven percent in rural areas,' Subramanian said.


The researchers used a nationally representative, population-based sample of household survey data provided by the Indian National Sample Survey Organisation (INSSO) for five recent years: 2004/05, 1999/2000, 1993/94, 1987/88 and 1983. The INSSO survey covered the whole of the India except for a few inaccessible and difficult pockets.


It also reveals that the introduction of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994 (PNDT) to check misuse of technology in this field has failed to correct the imbalance in the sex ratio.


'The sex ratio clearly signifies that the PNDT Act failed to check sex imbalance as the odds of having a boy increased to 10 percent in the period following the implementation of the Act. The odds of having a boy were seven percent in the pre-PNDT period,' Subramanian said.


There are notable variations among states. Punjab continues to be the state where the odds of having a boy increased to 37 percent compared to a girl. Karnataka has the lowest percentage with the odds of having a boy one percent higher than a girl.


According to Subramanian, a positive association between socio-economic status and sex imbalance is paradoxical given that the affluent class has been consistently associated with improved health and other well-being outcomes.


'The combined effect of persistent and intense son preference, along with increasing affordability and accessibility to technologies for sex determination, however, makes the concentration of male infants among the rich somewhat counter-intuitive,' the study found.


A higher incidence of giving dowry to the bride in marriage and prevailing inheritance practices favouring sons, both more common among high-income groups, are key motivations for an intense preference for sons among them.


'Meanwhile, a son preference norm could simply be dormant among low income groups, as they do not possess sufficient resources to practise discrimination,' the study said.


'For instance, low-income households, with reduced access to technologies available for foetal sex detection, may be less able to participate in the activities of foetal sex detection followed by selective abortion.'

Posted by Indian Daily News at 3:40

16 December 2008

Back To Reality - Torture and Shoes

Now that we've all had our fun laughing at shoes being thrown at George W. Bush, each of us vicariously enjoying throwing those shoes at him, let us turn our attention to the gentleman who actually did the deed for us! Our hero is not only under arrest, but evidentally has been tortured.

Read on, from al Jazeera Magazine...


"Iraqi reporter al-Zaidi's arm, ribs broken"
16/12/2008 03:10:00 PM GMT


Security agents have broken the arm and ribs of al-Zaidi, a reporter who hurled his shoes at President Bush on Sunday.


Security agents have broken the arm and ribs of al-Zaidi, a reporter who hurled his shoes at Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

"He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm," the reporter's brother Durgham told AFP on Tuesday.

"He is being held by forces under the command of Muaffaq al-Rubaie," he added.

According to Durgham, his brother was being held by Iraqi forces in the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in central Baghdad.




His employer, al-Baghdadiya television, also reported that al-Zeidi had been "seriously injured" and called on the government to allow lawyers and Red Crescent representative to visit him.

On Monday, thousands of Iraqis staged a demonstration in Sadr City in Baghdad calling for the release of the journalist. Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated on Tuesday across the country demanding the release of al-Zaidi.

The 29-year-old Muntadhar al-Zaidi, a correspondent for al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, threw his shoes at the US President George W. Bush during a press conference on Sunday, shouting "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!"

Bush inked an interim security agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during his farewell visit to Baghdad in a bid to extend the presence of US troops in the war-ravaged country.


© aljazeera.com

15 December 2008

UPDATE - THE GAME! At Last! A Good Use For Shoes

POST 400 In case anyone is counting...

Here is one of the online games chucking shoes at the still-for-about-a-month Prez:




I intensely dislike wearing shoes, uncomfortable beasts at best. Here, however, is a good use for them.

I post this just in case there is even one among my readers who hasn't seen it. I heard on TV this morning that Iraqis are divided 50/50 about this incident. Fifty percent believe the "attacker" was correct to throw the shoes; the other 50% believe he was wrong to embarass the Iraqi Prime Minister.

(After that last post, I'm sure we all need something like this.)

14 December 2008

IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY, STOP THIS!!

I CALL ON ISRAEL! I CALL ON EGYPT! I CALL ON ALL THE COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD TO PUT AN END TO THIS ATROCITY!

Frankly, I no longer care who is to blame. We are all responsible!

I have no time to write a good post today, so just look at the pictures. Then write your governmental representatives of your country to put an end to this murder of innocent children! If enough of us insist and don't quit insisting, they will listen. Do it now, this minute! How many will die horribly while you hesitate?

I have come under considerable fire for harping on this horror that is Gaza. No matter. I will continue harping until it is resolved or I am dead!



DEAD CHILDREN OF GAZA 1

DEAD CHILDREN OF GAZA 2

DEAD CHILDREN OF GAZA 3

DEAD CHILDREN OF GAZA 4

DEAD CHILDREN OF GAZA 5

13 December 2008

The Meanings of SAD

I can think of at least three meanings of SAD off the top of my head. First, there's Seasonal Affective Disorder, which your author fights with some success each winter. There's the Punjabi political party , Shiromani Akali Dal. The bridge between these two is the simple English word "sad," meaning unhappy, sorrowful. Read on...

How to dishonour your turban, a short lesson in one picture.

Ever wonder where Bollywood got the image of us Sikhs as a bunch of buffoons?

A leader puts a crown on the head of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal during a rally at Jaito, Faridkot district, on Saturday. Tribune photo: Kulbir Beera

From: The Tribune OnLine Edition

12 December 2008

MUMBAI - AND DELHI

I have not written about the terrorist attack on Mumbai for a very good - to me - reason. Fire has been coming out of my mouth and smoke from my ear, from absolutely furious anger. One aspect of this whole affair, as an aspect vital to us Sikhs, seems to have been completely overlooked - or purposely ignored.

I have not trusted myself to say anything reasonable or lucid. So I have been silent.

Now someone else has written what I would like to say. In fact two people have. First, the Sikhtoon, then a link to the blogpost.




I am a regular reader of Sidhusaaheb's blog, I, Me, Myself. He has a incisive political sense (sometimes at odds with my ideas, though), a great sense of humour, and he's a Sikh. What more could anyone ask for?

To read his post, please go to my post about Mumbai on sometimes - 2. It's worth the click, I promise.

The Real Terrorists In Texas


(See the previous post for more information, as well.)

05 December 2008

PETITION UPDATE - Police Brutality on Sikhs - New Blog


Here is a link to The Langar Hall post about how to take action on this disgusting matter.
From that post:


Sign A Sikh Coalition Petition here: Harris County Sheriff-Elect Adrian Garcia is visiting the Sikh Center of Houston on Sunday, December 14, 2008. He will be the new Sheriff for Harris County next year. This petition will be directly handed over to him, so please help us gain as many signatures as possible.

I have signed it. Sisters and Brothers, please do this today. As I write, it is 11 December and this will be given to the new sheriff this Sunday.

.*****************************
I just got an email from the blogmaster at this site. They have put in a link to report instances of brutality. So if you or someone you know has experienced police brutality because you're a Sikh, please go there and report it! I am also to list it in the links in our right hand column. Great work guys!

A new blog, Police Brutality on Sikhs, has surfaced. It describes itself as:




This site is used to document all cases of police brutality towards the Sikhs--anywhere in the world. Take a moment to view each case and TAKE ACTION. If you are ever subjected to racial profiling and violence from the police please take photos, videos, cell phones and document it!! We should not have to live in fear from people we have given authority to protect us.


So far, it has only one story, that of a Sikh family brutally mistreated by the sheriffs in Harris County (Houston), Texas. Here is the story from the blog:






It was Wednesday night November 26th 2008, a day before Thanksgiving when we called the police to report a burglary that took place at our house. Only to be harassed by the very police we called in. This has got to stop! We can't take it anymore.

The misbehavior by Harris County police officers towards my family when only hours before our own home was burglarized in Houston is appalling. The officers' behavior sent a loud message to Sikhs and Muslims that we are second class citizens.


At the beginning of the Thanksgiving weekend, we came home to find a window broken and master bedroom ransacked. When we called 911 to report the crime, Harris County Sheriff's police officers were dispatched to investigate. But instead of pursuing the thieves, the police officers began grilling us. Officers ordered my sister Ms. Kawaljeet Kaur to hand over her kirpan -- a religious article mandated by the Sikh faith -- which she wore over her shoulder. Ms. Kaur offered to leave the room if her kirpan made the officers uncomfortable, but to no avail.

Instead, she, along with me, my mother and cousin, were handcuffed and led into the street. Officers verbally abused us as they searched. An officer applied pressure to my sister's back as she sat on the ground. One officer asked us whether we had "heard about the bombings in Bombay" while another told them that he "knew about Muslims". Why were these comments made by the police??

Hours later, we were released without being arrested or charged.

"How can the police stop us from practicing our religion in our own home?" asked Ms. Kaur. "We called the police to help us. Instead, they humiliated and harassed us. They handcuffed my 60-year-old mother in front of my 8-year-old niece. They think they can get away with it because we look different."

"What happened at the Tagore home was shameful," said Amardeep Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition. "Through a combination of violence, racial prejudice and intimidation, the Harris County police turned innocent victims into perpetrators."

We ask the Harris County to terminate four police officers involved in the incident and issue a formal apology to us while ensuring proper training is provided to all police personnel
.




I think this blog is a great idea. Brutality toward us does occur in many locales and it would be good to have a central place to report. I do not see any way to contact anyone to post here, however. I have left a comment, asking the blogmaster to contact me. As soon as I get a contact, I'll add this blog to our links. I'll let you know if anything comes of this. (Done. See above.)

Hurray For Humour

If you have been reading this blog for any time at all, you've probably gotten some idea of what I'm like. I hope you've learned that I




  1. am passionate about informing the world about the Sikh history of 1984
  2. love Sikhi and associated topics
  3. care deeply about the injustices and pain of people around the world
  4. will speak up about anything I think needs speaking about
  5. have a sense of humour.

This post is about the last. First, the current Sikhtoon:


This refers to the following three stories, among many more:




  1. US Airways Pilot Refuses To Fly With Three Turbanws Sikhs Onboard
  2. Project Aims To Protect Sikh Cab Drivers
  3. New York Sikh Angered By Terror Suspicions Over Turban

I like humour. I like to laugh. I enjoy Sikhtoons. Did you know that they have a contest.?All you have to do is put the best caption in the bubble and win. This is the third contest. I entered the first two and did not win. I can blame this only on the fact that the winning captions were better than my submissions. However, hope springs eternal...

If you would like to try your hand at this, here's the cartoon:



Enter the winning caption and get published on Sikhtoons.com

(and the winner gets a framed 8" X 10" version of the winning cartoon autographed with a personal message from creator of Sikhtoons.com)

SUBMISSION RULES

Its Quite Simple!
Come up with an economic rescue plan or message from President-Elect Obama's imaginary Sikh economic advisor!
Keep it short, funny, sarcastic or ironic whichever suits your style.
The winning entry will be selected by the creator of Sikhtoons.com and published on the site after the submission deadline.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION - DEC 12th, 2008
Go here to enter!

Interested in the original painting, The Scream by Ed. Here's The Scream!


And here is part of what Mr. Munsch says about it:
I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly
the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the
fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the
city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed
an infinite scream passing through nature.




BTW, I just noticed that we are coming up on the 400th post in this blog. And we'll go on and on and on...

23 November 2008

The Fighter Still Remains - BRENDEN FOSTER 1997-2008

<

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33ASQhDvfGs



The body of Brenden Foster has died. No longer is this bright, shining soul encased in a shell wracked with leukemia. No longer is he lying in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of his body and oxygen being pumped into his lungs.





I woke up yesterday morning to the news that he is no longer among us. He breathed his last while being held gently in his mother's loving arms. You may notice that I am avoiding saying that he is dead. This is on purpose. I am not in denial; I am not pretending that he is still among us. Sadly, he is gone.

So, for those who may not know, who is Brenden Foster. He is a boy of 11. Until a couple years ago, he was a little boy like many others, running around playing, just being a kid. Then he was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then he was been fighting and fighting, a true, small warrior, an inspiration to us. Is superimposing his face on a supernova a bit over-the-top? I think not.



It is always poignant when a child dies, whether little Zinna Linnick, kidnapped, raped, murdered or Ryan White, who died of AIDS some years ago after a very public battle or Sandeep Singh who achieved shaheedi in Delhi in 1984. Those have names. Equally touching is the death of the nameless child killed by American or Taliban bombs in Afghanistan or the little girl, unwanted, murdered preborn in Punjab (or British Columbia!) or the much-loved child that dies of starvation in his mother's arms or a lonely child crawling slowly toward food and shelter anywhere on earth.



What moves me most about Brenden Foster is the picture I saw of him on CNN. Tears streaming down his chubby cheeks, he was asked, "What makes you sad." He took a breath and responded gently, "When someone gives up." Brenden never gave up. His last wish was to feed homeless people.



He saw a story on TV about homeless people living in tents in Nickelsville, which I have already written about. Unlike me, however, Brenden did more than write and feel bad about it. He inspired others to get together sandwiches to feed these people. Not just peanut butter and jelly, he told workers, but ham and cheese as well, since some people are allergic to peanuts.



Last week, there was a huge local food drive to get people to donate food to the hungry. Brenden was awake and conscious and was able to see his last wish of feeding the homeless realised. Truck after truck was filled with food donated by people inspired by this extraordinary eleven year old child.

And this seemed to have caught on. I have heard about food drives around the country in his honour. This is wonderful. But I know Brenden would say that this is not enough. Feeding people once is good, but it's just not enough.

Here in Seattle recently, a very large, inclusive Food Bank had to shut down for lack of funding. This place not only fed the hungry but also aided immigrants, helped people find jobs and ran a free food bank. In addition, they sold refurbished computers with free Internet access at rock-bottom prices. Yes, this very computer that makes it possible for me to talk to you was bought there. I expect to hear about a Brenden Foster Memorial Fund to aid in such circumstances. If I hear, I'll let you know.


Seattle's professional football team, the Seattle Seahawks has offered to pay for his funeral, relieving his mother, Wendy Foster, of at least one worry.




I have found this website that should give the latest Brenden Foster news.

When I die, I suppose my friends and family will insist on having a funeral. There is a song I have requested be sung there, the last verse of Paul Simon's "The Boxer." It is how I want to be remembered.

It is how I will remember Brenden Foster.



In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame,
I am leaving, I am leaving.
But the fighter still remains.


Yes, indeed, the fighter still remains!

20 November 2008

"In Jesus' Name"

I have written in this blog about many Sikh issues. Some are tragic, some funny, some disgusting, some just plain strange. This one is sad, hurtful in yet another way.

Imagine that you, after proudly tying your dastaar, decide to teach your children the value of selfless service, one of the greatest, most beautiful of Sikh - or any other group's - values. So you and your spouse go to your local community's Union Mission, a place that feeds people too poor to feed themselves. Your intention is to make a donation and to also offer your children's service to help out.



This is a lovely picture of a family wishing to contribute to the welfare of the community, the picture of the kind of citizens we Sikhs should all aspire to be.

Now, imagine that the receptionist, instead of welcoming your service tells you that you are in the United States, so take off your turban! Then further imagine the head of the mission refusing your handshake, telling you to go away, we don't want your donation if you're wearing a turban.

Sounds impossibly rude, eh? Well, rude it most certainly is, but unfortunately, not impossible.

This is the notice I got today from SALDEF:




No Turbans Allowed


Sikh American Expelled from North Carolina Food Bank for Practicing his Faith; SALDEF Urges Interfaith Groups to Support Religious Freedom

Washington, DC, November 20, 2008 – Yesterday, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) learned that Mr. Gurnam Singh Khera—a Sikh American—was expelled from a community center in North Carolina because he wore a Dastaar (Sikh turban) in accordance with his faith.

The incident reportedly occurred at the Union Mission facility in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Mr. Khera and his wife went to the facility to make a donation for a Thanksgiving Food Drive and expressed interest in sending their children to the facility during the Thanksgiving holidays to serve food to the needy.

Upon entering the facility, Mr. Khera was told by a receptionist that “this is the United States” and that he needed to remove his Dastaar. When Mr. Khera attempted to explain the religious significance of the Dastaar, the receptionist refused to speak with him. When the Reverend in charge of the facility was summoned, Mr. Khera offered a handshake, but the Reverend reportedly refused to reciprocate and asked Mr. Khera and his wife to leave the facility, saying: “Go donate to some other place; we do not need your donations unless you remove your turban.”

Click here to read
the response from Union Mission to SALDEF’s letter.


The reply from: Ron Weeks [mailto: edirector@umrr.org]

Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:16 PM

RE: SALDEF - Accommendation of Sikh American Donors

We are a Christ-centered ministry that has been serving our communities "in Jesus' Name" from our own private facilities since 1951. We have a long standing policy that is clearly displayed on our lobby door that all males are required to remove their headgear. We feed meals every day and welcome the idea of others doing the same as our communities are certainly in need of more than we are able to do.

Being supported entirely by donations we don't turn them away. Couldn't his donation be used by the local Langar you speak of. I can think of several options; send it by another person, mail or internet...donate to another charity.


Rev. Ronald C. Weeks

Executive Director, Union Mission of Roanoke Rapids, NC, Inc

www.umrr.org


"In Jesus' name"?! I know something of the kind of person Jesus was and I can't believe he would condone such rude, hurtful acts in his name.



This reply is as small-minded and ungracious as I have ever read. And hurtful, as well. I'm afraid my response would be rude and most likely obscene. I do not respond well to this sort of gratuitous nastiness. This is certainly worthy of its own Sikhtoon, I think.


In a way, some might say this is no big deal. No one was assaulted, there are no torn turbans, no bruises, no dead bodies. On ly the pain of being disrespected, the attempt to humiliate us. I say "attempt to humiliate us" because this brother and sister were not humiliated; no one can humiliate me without my consent. Now, back to the SALDEF bulletin.





Every Sikh Gurdwara—place of worship—throughout the world has operated the Guru Ka Langar—free community kitchen—for more than five centuries. At each Guru Ka Langar, volunteers of all faiths serve free meals to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, gender, caste, or social standing. In keeping with this tradition, Sikh Americans throughout the United States have routinely partnered with churches and other places of worship to feed the homeless and provide relief to victims of natural disasters.

“We are profoundly offended that a community center would repudiate a Sikh American because of his religion and refuse his Thanksgiving donation,” said Rajbir Singh Datta, National Director of SALDEF. “Religious discrimination has no place in the United States, and we call upon Union Mission to issue a written apology to Mr. Khera and the entire Sikh American community and work with SALDEF on efforts to celebrate religious diversity in the cause of helping the less fortunate.”

SALDEF urges you to contact the Union Mission of Roanoke Rapids to express your disappointment.



We commend Mr. Gurnam Singh Khera for bringing this matter to our attention. If you or your children experience discrimination, harassment, or violence because of your Sikh faith, please notify SALDEF at legal@saldef.org or via phone at (202) 393-2700.

MEDIA PROTEST FOR ACCESS TO GAZA



My last post talked about the horrors of life in Gaza Strip right now and the expulsion of journalists attempting to report on this gross violation of human rights there. I have received one comment in this blog and a couple of e-mails criticising me for being anti-Israel. I am not anti-Israel. I am anti-atrocity, whoever may be doing it. I am very gratified that I have not received a single complaint that "this is not a Sikh issue." Perhaps we as a people really have made some advancement and have come to realise that all humanitarian issues are Sikh issues. Thank you, readers!

I repeat:
Most of Gaza borders land controlled by Israel. The southern border, however is at Egypt. Egypt is a Muslim, Arab state. Why does Egypt not open its border for humanitarian help to its sisters and brothers dying in Gaza? Let me repeat: WHY DOES EGYPT NOT OPEN ITS BORDER FOR HUMANITARIAN HELP TO ITS SISTERS AND BROTHERS DYING IN GAZA!


SHAME ON ISRAEL! SHAME ON EGYPT! SHAME ON US IF WE ARE SILENT!

Now several large media organisations have filed a protest against Israel, asking for reporters to again be admitted to Gaza.

From the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz:




Top media executives protest Israel's ban on journalists' entry to Gaza

for whatever reason, my link button isn't working. Here is the URL:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1039255.html
By The Associated Press

Leaders of the world's biggest media organizations filed a protest with Israel's prime minister Wednesday criticizing the government's decision to ban journalists from entering the Gaza Strip for the last two weeks.

The protest was the latest in a chorus of international criticism of Israel's Gaza closure, tightened after a five-month truce began unraveling about two weeks ago in a flurry of Israeli airstrikes against militants and Palestinian rocket barrages targeting Israeli towns.

Those signing the letter included Associated Press Chief Executive and President Tom Curley, Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, ABC News President David Westin, BBC News Director Helen Boaden and other top executives from CNN, the Canadian TV network CTV, the German broadcaster ZDF, and the French news service Agence France Presse.

"We are gravely concerned about the prolonged and unprecedented denial of access to the Gaza Strip for the international media," they wrote in the letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"We would welcome an assurance that access to Gaza for international journalists will be restored immediately in the spirit of Israel's long-standing commitment to a free press," reads the letter.

After a recent upsurge in Palestinian rocket fire, Israel closed off Gaza to all but the most vital supplies. The only people allowed in or out are urgent medical cases and a handful of humanitarian workers.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, confirmed that the letter had been received. Journalists were not being singled out, he said, but were affected by a broader decision to close the crossings:

"There is no policy to prevent the media from entering Gaza, and the minute the security situation allows for the normal functioning of the crossings, journalists, like all of the others who have been inconvenienced, will be able to return to using the crossings."

The Israeli government has long banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of fears for their safety, but foreign reporters have been permitted to go in, even during times of heavy fighting. In the past two weeks, coverage in Gaza has been largely left to local Palestinian staffers and a handful of foreign journalists who entered before the closure went into effect, including two AP reporters.

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel's Defense Ministry, said journalists would be allowed in only once Gaza militants stopped shooting and said Gaza was being adequately covered by reporters already there.

While he said journalists were not being targeted, Dror also said Israel was displeased with international media coverage, which he said inflated Palestinian suffering and did not make clear that Israel's measures were in response to Palestinian violence.

Israel pulled all of its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, a withdrawal that was followed by an increase in rocket fire and a takeover by the Islamic militants of Hamas, a group dedicated to Israel's destruction.

"Where Gaza is concerned, our image will always be bad," Dror said. "When journalists go in it works against us, and when they don't go in it works against us."

Dissatisfaction with coverage would not hold up in court as a reason to bar journalists, said Dalia Dorner, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents Israeli journalists as head of the Israeli Press Council. Only concerns that "grievous harm" could befall state security could provide the legal justification for the Defense Ministry's ban, she said.

Israel's Foreign Press Association, which represents international journalists operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories, also has condemned the ban.

Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, said the ban is part of an Israeli policy of isolating Gaza internationally. "This stops outside parties from seeing the crisis taking place in Gaza," Hamad said.

Since violently seizing control of Gaza last year, Hamas sometimes has harassed journalists, in some cases beating reporters, seizing videotapes and raiding news offices.

The Gaza ban is the latest in a line of difficulties foreign journalists have encountered while covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict. International reporters inside Israel generally enjoy broad freedom, but must pass security checks to receive government certification and are subject to a military censor in all matters related to defense.

A number of journalists have been killed or injured by Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and reporters have also been subject to abuse by Palestinian security forces and kidnapped by militants.

The news executives' letter came as international criticism of the closure grew. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called Olmert on Tuesday to express concern about a possible humanitarian crisis in Gaza, home to a largely impoverished population of 1.4 million. A group of 21 aid organizations also charged the closure was harming their Gaza operations. The current European Union president, France, issued an unusually strong protest saying the closure was a "disproportionate response" that would "collectively punish" Gaza's civilians.

Gazans are facing a shortage of basic goods and fuel. Restaurants and bakeries across the strip are closing as cooking gas runs out.

18 November 2008

THE (CENSORED) STARVING OF GAZA

This is the most outrageous story I have read in some time.

The people of Gaza are being denied the most basic necessities of life, such as food, water and medicine. Israel is also trying to impose a total news blackout on these unfortunate human beings. This reminds me of the lock-down of Punjab in 1984.. The largest difference is that the people of Punjab had food and water.

My dear readers, let us not let these murderers succeed. Let us spread this news to everyone you know; if Israel insists upon committing this atrocity, let us not allow them to do it in silence! Let us shine the light of open knowledge upon this vile deed. Please show this article to everyone. This is not a cheap shot to get readers, this is an impassioned plea from a caring, broken heart. Just make sure this story is known! Don't let these people be destroyed without an outcry. Please.


This reminds me of the way Punjab was sealed off around the time of Massacre BlueStar. In its way, this is worse. The people of Gaza, people very much like you and me, have no access to the necessities of life, such as food, water and medicine. Please make sure all your friends know about this. Remember, the people of Gaza are living. breathing, feeling human beings, for the time being.
I just received and answered a very thoughtful comment from a reader who reminded me that Gaza shares a border with another country, Egypt. The Egyptian nation is Muslim and the Egyptians are the Arab blood sisters and brothers of the Palestinian Gazans. WHY THE HELL HASN'T EGYPT OPENED ITS BORDERS TO HELP THESE PEOPLE??!! I can think of two reasons, neither of which is humane, moral or sufficient. The first is that Egypt is economically cozy with Israel since the days of Anwar Sadat. Money has a very loud voice. The other is that, by and large, in my experience, the Palestinians are not the nicest people in the world. They have a history of violence, crime and terrorism, as a group. They are nonetheless, human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Many of those now suffering are women and innocent children, children who are learning to hate and be violent - and to grow strong. ("What does not destroy me makes me stronger.") I am afraid that Israel and Egypt here have created a situation that neither will be able to control for a long, long time, if ever.
There, my anonymous friend, I have now ripped on Egypt. And I mean what I said.

This story is not being covered by the mainstream media, as far as I can ascertain. I got this off an IHRO (International Human Rights Organisation) posting.


On Top of Humanitarian Disaster, A News Blackout
by Cherrie Heywood

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Israel has imposed a virtual news blackout on the Gaza Strip. For the last ten days no foreign journalists have been able to enter the besieged territory to report on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Israel's complete closure of Gaza's borders for the last two weeks.




A baby in Shifa hospital in Gaza struggles against illness and lack of medicines and electricity. (Credit:Cherrie Heywood)Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and head of Israel's Foreign Press Association, said that he personally "knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week."

Gutkin said that "while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented." He added that he has received no "plausible or acceptable" explanation for the ban from the Israeli government.

AP has relied on reports from two of its journalists who were able to enter Gaza days before the closure began and are currently stuck there.

A delegation of European Union parliamentarians was also prevented from entering Gaza to assess the situation on the ground and to hold talks with Hamas leaders. They subsequently broke the naval siege of Gaza by entering the coast's territorial waters from Cyprus by boat, defying the Israeli navy.

During talks held with Hamas, the EU parliamentarians were able to get a historic commitment from the Islamic organisation to recognise Israel's right to exist within the internationally recognised 1967 borders. Hamas further offered a long-term ceasefire in return for Israel legitimising Palestinian rights.

Israel also prevented 20 European Union consul-generals from entering Gaza on Thursday. On Sunday Israeli border police prevented 15 trucks loaded with medication from entering the Gaza Strip.

EU commissioner for external relations and European neighbourhood policy, Bentita Ferrero-Waldner, has expressed strong reservations. "I am profoundly concerned about the consequences for the Gazan population of the complete closure of all Gaza crossings for deliveries of fuel and basic humanitarian assistance," Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement Friday.

Karen AbuZayd, head of the UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) which cares for Palestinian refugees, added that it was unusual for Israel not to let basic food and medicines in. "This has alarmed us more than usual because it's never been quite so long and so bad, and there has never been so much negative response on what we need," she said.

Israel closed the borders following a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian resistance fighters at Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

The tit-for-tat violence began on Nov. 4 when the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched a cross-border raid into Gaza, breaking a shaky five-month ceasefire with Hamas. The purpose was ostensibly to destroy a tunnel built by Palestinians allegedly to smuggle captured Israeli soldiers.

More than 20 Palestinians were killed in Israeli raids. Two Israelis were lightly injured in the subsequent rocket attacks.

The timing of Israel's breach of the ceasefire is curious in that hundreds of these smuggling tunnels have existed ever since Hamas took over the strip in June last year. They have been used to smuggle everyday necessities as well as arms because the territory is hermetically sealed by Israel.

John Ging, director of UNRWA in Gaza, who has lived there for the past three years, questioned the alleged security reasoning behind the closure. Since the ceasefire went into place this summer, Ging said, fewer supplies have passed through the crossing than in the beginning of 2006, when the western Negev in Israel suffered incessant rocket fire from Gaza.

At that time the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is supported by Israel and the international community, was ruling Gaza in a unity government with Hamas.

"Last week we were unable to feed 60,000 of Gaza's neediest refugees due to our warehouses running out of food. UNRWA supplies half of Gaza's population of 1.5 million people with emergency rations, and 20,000 people are fed per day when there are adequate supplies," Ging told IPS.

Seventy percent of Gaza experienced electricity blackouts after Israel prevented deliveries of diesel fuel, forcing Gaza's main power plant to close down.

"The Israelis were only allowing 2.2 to 2.5 million litres of fuel in per week prior to the closure, which was the minimum required to operate the power plant. The plant has a capacity for 20 million litres and this would last two months under normal circumstances and tide over emergency periods. But this has all run out," Ging said.

Kan'an Ubeid, deputy chief of the Palestinian Energy Authority, said at a press conference in Gaza that in addition to the shutdown of the diesel-fuelled power plant, the electric network bringing in power from Israel collapsed due to increased pressure on the system.

Gazans also ran out of cooking gas while Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) was forced to pump tonnes of untreated sewage into the ocean due to fuel shortages and the lack of spare parts for equipment in need of repairs and new parts.

Much of this will flow back into Gaza's underground water table, and the threat of contaminated drinking water spreading diseases has increased.

Meanwhile, the emergency and ambulance services director-general, Mu'awiyya Hassanein, says Gaza's health ministry is short of more than 300 types of necessary medication.

Sammy Hassan, a spokesman from Gaza city's main Shifa hospital said only urgent surgery was being carried out. "We have delayed all non-urgent surgery as our small generator has stopped working, as we can't import a vital spare part.

"We are down to 30,000 litres of fuel left to run the larger generator which is used when electricity is cut. Under the current circumstances with no electricity we require 10,000 litres per day," Hassan told IPS.

Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East programme, said that Israel's latest tightening of the blockade had "made an already dire humanitarian situation markedly worse. This is nothing short of collective punishment on Gaza's civilian population, and it must stop immediately."

Following international pressure and protests from the EU, Israel allowed 30 trucks of humanitarian aid to enter the strip Monday. "It will last a matter of days," said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. "But then what?"

Oxfam's spokesman in Jerusalem Michael Bailey, who coordinates a number of humanitarian projects in Gaza, said this response was entirely inadequate.

"Thirty trucks of aid after a closure of 10 days is insufficient. What we need is a complete revision of the embargo on Gaza. Dialogue with the relevant political leaders is the only way forward," Bailey told IPS.

"Both Israel and Gaza's other neighbours need to put the human rights and essential needs of Gazans above all considerations if there is to be a way out of this quagmire."

© 2008 Inter Press Service

14 November 2008

"There Is None Without Her"

I just added a Sikhtoon to the previous post. Before that, I put the new Sikhtoon lamenting discrimination against turbandharis (I love the versatility of the English language!). I am procrastinating. I do not want to write this post.

First, I need to admit an error. While I don't mean to make a mistake, I don't mind being corrected. A few days ago, I posted a story about the stoning of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. Unfortunately, that story is true and accurate. I have discovered, however, that the picture is of some other girl being stoned. I don't think that changes anything, but I strive for accuracy.

Here is another picture that I roached from a site reporting the same story. Is that her? Or some other victim? Does it matter?


Still another site reporting on that stoning contained this picture. I can't be sure that this was taken at the stoning, but, again, it doesn't matter. To the average person - Sikhs are never average, of course - those guys with hatred in their eyes and turbans on their heads look a lot like us. Who aside from us know the difference between a Sikh turban and a Muslim turban? Point made?


Then today, I just heard about taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan, driving by on motorcycles and using squirtguns spraying the faces of schoolgirls and their teachers with battery acid. The girl in the picture is named Atifa Bibi. It makes it more real, I think, to have a name.


What is all this hatred and disrespect of women? Where does it come from? Do the some Muslims, taking the story of Eve literally, blame women for all the evil of the world? (Please go to the end of this post where I have posted a response.  It was in comments, and I moved it here, so it would not be missed.) Or are they secretly ashamed of their natural, God-given attraction to the opposite sex? Or is it simply that women are smaller and, on the whole, less aggressive than men, and hence easier targets than men?

We Sikhs pray, using Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji's words in praise and appreciation of womankind:


"We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman" (Guru Nanak Dev pg. 473)


Our beloved founder understood and loved woman at a time when we were, without question, considered and treated as subhuman. I am so happy and proud to be a Sikh. I am so happy and proud to belong to a religion and a people who have outgrown misogyny, who know that the sexes are of equal value, partners in life, a people where all are treated as individuals of infinite value, where women and men are equal, boys and girls equally loved and welcomed into this life.


Well, we do, don't we?


The promised comment:


Hi, I just want to clarify a few things.

Firstly, Muslims do not believe that Eve was responsible for the sin which brought her and Adam to earth.

In fact, reading through the Quran, we will get the impression that it was Adam who was more responsible.

We don't believe that Eve was the temptress of Adam.

Secondly, the Quran instructed both men and women to be modest.

In fact the Quran mentioned men first. Muslim men are instructed to lower their gaze and guard their private parts.

Therefore any assumption that Islam places the responsibility on women not to arouse male sexual feelings is incorrect.

Thirdly, Islam does not say to hurt or injure anyone who does not conform to its mode of modesty, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, male or female.

What happened in Afghanistan is a reflection of that society's continuing failure to understand Islam correctly.

Indeed, if the Afghans are good Muslims, they wouldn't be killing each other after sending the Russians packing.

Fourthly, the stoning of the woman needed clarification.

a ) For someone to be accused of adultery, there must be four adult witnesses who saw the sexual act without any doubt.

This means that they actually seen the male sexual organ entering the female sexual organ i.e sexual intercourse.

If they had merely seen the man on top of the woman but did not see penetration, then the charges of adultery cannot be levelled.

b ) Both man and woman are recognised as equal under the law. What applies to the man applies to the woman.

The question is - where is the man being stoned to death ?

There are many things which are wrong in these instances - and only by knowing what Islam actually says in these matters, can one sees the wide schism between Islam and the community which claims to practice it.

Not all Muslims practice Islam in the like manner not all Sikhs practice Sikhism.


10 November 2008

A Beard Is A Beard Is A Beard

I love beards. I love facial hair of all sorts on men. It's a Sikh thing, of course. It's also a masculinity thing. To me there is nothing more attractively masculine than a nice, full beard. I have been told that I must have something wrong with me, that there is something wrong with my love of hyper-masculinity. This is not to be confused with machismo, which is aggressive and tends toward violence. I don't think so. Beards are attractive!

This brother has a truly extraordinary beard - and it's still growing.

From The Province:



Devout Sikh with two-metre beard aims for world record

Contest tomorrow at Akal Academy, where 42-year-old teaches

Matthew Ramsey
The Province


Monday, November 10, 2008

A Surrey teacher's fantastic facial hair may soon earn him a world record for the longest beard.

Measuring about two metres in length, Sarwan Singh's face coat would trip him up if he didn't keep it under wraps or throw it over his shoulder, says Dr. Pargat Bhurji, also a bearded Sikh and an organizer of an event tomorrow night in Surrey to try to find a record-setting man veil.

The record is now held by Shamsher Singh of India with a beard last measured at 1.83 metres.

But, says Bhurji, "[Singh's] beard is still growing" and, at age 42, he has lots of time left.

Friend Avtar Gill says Singh will be tough to beat, but it was also a challenge to convince the devout Akal Academy teacher and father of two to put his beard forward for the hirsute honour.

Singh wraps his beard and conceals it from view at the Sikh school, said Gill, concerned that he would be seen as improperly flaunting what Sikhs believe is part of the human body and therefore sacred.

"[The beard] is gifted by God. It's not his own creation," said Gill.

Singh himself told The Province yesterday that he considers the beard "more important to me than any other body part" and would sooner lose his head than shave it off.

Bhurji described Singh as a "very humble and pious man" who is respected worldwide as one of the very few learned Sikhs permitted to sing in the Golden Temple.

Between 150 and 200 people are expected to show up for the beard-off and the event is open to all who wish to put their Grizzly Adams jaw shrubs up for consideration.

"There may be someone else with a longer beard [than Singh's], but we don't know," Bhurji said.

Anyone who wants to show off their full beards, goatees, chin strips, soul patches, chin curtains or mutton chops can do so starting at 5 p.m. at the Akal Academy, 204-12639 80th Ave. in Surrey.

The importance of hair to the Sikh religion will also be discussed.

The world record for the longest beard ever belongs to Hans Langseth of Norway, who died with Rapunzel-esque jaw rope measuring about 5.4 metres.

The longest beard on a woman was a 36-centimetre shoulder tickler belonging to circus "bearded lady" Janice Deveree, who set the record in 1884.

mramsey@theprovince.com

© The Vancouver Province 2008

04 November 2008

Good-bye, Dear Brother

Good-bye, dear brother. Remain in chardi kala. *sob*


I am trying to find a link to some fund for Laibar Singh's continuing medical care. When I find it, it will be prominently posted, probably in the header picture ewhere it currently says "SAVE LAIBAR SINGH. He is gone from our presence now, and his disability and needs continue.


From the Surrey Leader:


Kevin MacDonald video


Abbotsford News
Laibar Singh heads home to India

By Rochelle Baker - Abbotsford News

Published: November 04, 2008 9:10 AM
Updated: November 04, 2008 4:58 PM
Wrapped in a zebra print blanket and tears streaming down his face, Laibar Singh sat in his wheelchair at the Sikh temple in Abbotsford waiting for the taxi to transport him to the airport for his removal from Canada.

The paralyzed refugee claimant, who had sought asylum at the Abbotsford's Sahib Kalgidhar Darbar Gurdwara, relinquished his fight to stay in the country, and presented himself to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) before boarding a plane bound for India early Tuesday morning.

Before his trip to the Vancouver International Airport, emotional supporters encircled Singh to pat his shoulder, console him or tuck last-minute donations into his hand.

"As you can see, everybody is really down. It's really sad," said the temple general secretary Surdev Singh Jatana.

"He's very emotional. He's not happy, but he wasn't left with much of a choice. The government isn't going to do anything for him."

A few weeks ago, the 49-year-old widower decided to voluntarily return to the Punjab, saying he missed his four children and has tired of his struggle with Canadian authorities.

"He really appreciates all the Canadians and people who helped him in his struggle," said Jatana on Singh's behalf.

"But he feels let down by the government. He says 'Thanks for nothing.' "

Singh's lawyers made repeated applications for him to stay in the country on compassionate grounds, which were denied by immigration officials who said he did not have strong enough ties to Canada and could receive adequate treatment in India.

Singh originally came to Canada in 2003 on a forged passport and made a refugee claim, saying he faced persecution at the hands of Punjab state police.

His refugee claim was denied that same year and he fled from Ontario to B.C., where, working in Surrey as a painter in August 2006, he suffered a brain aneurysm that left him paralyzed.

Singh first sought sanctuary at the Abbotsford temple, or gurdwara, on Blueridge Drive in July 2007 after the CBSA issued a deportation order.

He spent five months there before seeking sanctuary in a Surrey temple after more than 1,000 supporters at the airport prevented his deportation in December 2007.

Singh returned to the Abbotsford temple in March after a stay in Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh temple.

The Sikh community has raised $38,000 to help Singh cover costs once he returns to his village.

However, Jatana is not convinced the sum will be enough to guarantee him adequate medical care.

"It's not really enough. He needs help for the rest of his life. You have to be able to afford quality care in India and not everybody can pay."

Temple president Swarn Singh Gill said the 40 or so supporters accompanying Singh to the airport would not block his departure as they had in the past.

Gill said he was making a trip to Punjab in the coming weeks and he hoped to check in on Singh when in India.