23 November 2008

The Fighter Still Remains - BRENDEN FOSTER 1997-2008



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


"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.


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!


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


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.


© 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.

03 November 2008

Good-bye, Brother Laibar Singh!

Such a beautiful, full beard!

I admit this has me in tears. I, who never cry, seem to be spending a lot of time in tears these days.. Am I getting old and emotional or what? I'm posting a few pictures, in random order, that will take us back through this case.

I have been an avid supporter of Brother Laibar's case and, in fact, consider him my brother, no less than the seven outrageous men I grew up with. I am devastated - temporarily - that my contact with him is currently in India and I have no way to personally tell him Good-bye. He has enriched me in ways I will make no attempt to explain.

I am profoundly hurt and disappointed by my country's lack of compassion for this unfortunate brother.

The fact that, as near as we can tell, tomorrow, 4 November, is the twenty-fourth anniversary of the shaheedi of my family doesn't help. I feel a heavy weight on me today.

Hold on here...Chardi kala kicks in and I know that through the sadness and pain I mustn't permit myself to be dragged down into a morass of depression. Sadness, yes, pain, yes, but pull myself up, no, wait, let my ego step aside, so Guru Papa Ji Maharaj can and will pull me back up. I remind myself, oh, yes, that's right, this is all the Hukam of Vaheguru. So I put a smile on my face and love in my heart and wish Brother Laibar peace, joy and good health, as well as the joy of reunion with his children.

Dear Brother, I ask that now and again you think of those of us in Canada and other countries, too, who have loved and supported you. Remember this strange older sister who has loved you and kept you in her prayers - and who will continue this, as long as she lives.

Good-bye, my brother.

For those of you in Vancouver, he is supposed to be at the airport, I read, at 8:00 PM. It would be nice if some showed up to wish him a good flight and a safe and happy life back home. This is not meant, I suppose, as a protest, just a final chance to show our love and support.

Here is the most recent article I have as I write this now:

Surrey North Delta Leader

Failed refugee claimant booked on Tuesday flight

By Black Press - Surrey North Delta Leader

Published: November 03, 2008 3:00 PM
Updated: November 03, 2008 3:22 PM Laibar Singh, the paralyzed refugee claimant who sought shelter in an Abbotsford Sikh temple, was expected to return to India early tomorrow morning (Tuesday).

Singh was to leave the Sahib Kalgidhar Darbar Gurdwara Monday to present himself to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by 8 p.m. at the Vancouver International Airport, said temple president Swarn Singh Gill.

His flight to New Delhi was scheduled to leave at 1 a.m., said Gill. Some supporters from the temple were to accompany Singh to the airport, but no protesters planned to block his departure, said Gill. “There will be no demonstration because he’s the one who wants to go back now,” he said.

More than 1,000 supporters at the airport prevented his deportation in December 2007 after his first five-month stay at the temple.

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

Singh was feeling somewhat despondent, said Gill.

“He was feeling sad yesterday and crying a little bit. Myself, I was sad because he’s been with us a while and he’s like family, but there’s nothing we can do.”

Singh’s lawyer, Peter Edelmann, confirmed his client intended to present himself at the airport for removal, in a statement released yesterday.

CBSA officials talked to Singh’s doctor about whether the paralyzed man was fit to make the trip to India, Edelmann said. Agents from the border services agency attended the Abbotsford gurdwara, despite the clear indication it was a sanctuary zone, to tell Mr. Singh that there was no chance for him to remain in Canada, stated Edelmann.

Singh hoped to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds but the 49-year-old tired of his struggle.

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

The Sikh community has raised a total of $38,000 to help Singh cover costs once he returns to his village in the Punjab, said Gill.

Beyond that, he will be returning to India with a couple of suitcases and two specialized wheelchairs.

Gill talked to Singh’s eldest daughter Sunday night, who had mixed emotions about her dad’s return to India.

“They are worried about his health but they want to see their dad.”

CBSA officials said it would be inappropriate to comment any further on Singh’s case.


Here is an article I like because it tells the story, while preserving his dignity.

From News 1130 - ALL NEWS RADIO:

Laibar Singh going home tonight
Monday, November 03 - 04:40:00 AM

Evan Kelly
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The paralyzed man who sought sanctuary in a Sikh temple in Abbotsford is heading home.

Last month Laibar Singh made the decision to head back to India and sources say he'll be put on a plane tonight.

His story came to light when he became paralyzed due to an infection after he entered Canada illegally. Every attempt to claim refugee status was denied.

Canada Immigration wanted him sent back to India but supporters rallied around him fearing he wouldn't get the proper medical treatment in his home country.

He's been in the temple for over a year and says the main reason for leaving is because he misses his children.

A less dignified article that contains more in formation from the Winnipeg Sun is here.


01 November 2008

Death By Torture Of Innocent Girl, 13



Once in a while, something comes to my attention that seriously threatens my chardi kala. This in one such story. It is brutal. It is ugly. I warn you, I shall not spare your feelings. I shall be as merciless to you, my readers, as these "men" were to this young girl.

Let me start with a picture. Her name is - was - Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. In this picture, she is being buried up to her neck in the ground, to be executed by stoning. Her crime? She was raped!

I know this girl's face will haunt me for a long, long time.

The English story here is from Al Jazeera. I am following it be a Babel Fish translation from Spanish of the same story. The Spanish version contains many more details, more emotionally written. It is worth wading through the bad translation to read its meaning.

Take a long, hard look at the terror on her face.

Amnesty: Rape girl, 13, killed for adultery

Somali fighters stone 'rape victim'

In recent months the Islamic Courts' al-Shebab group appears to have gained strength [EPA]

A Somali girl who said she had been raped has been stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery, a human rights group has said.

Amnesty International said in a press release on Friday that the victim, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, had been 13 years old - not 23 as earlier reports had suggested.

Duhulow was stoned to death on October 27 by dozens of men in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses.

The armed group in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, Amnesty said.

"This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo," David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia campaigner, said in a statement.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13.

The Islamic Courts took control of much of Somalia in 2006, triggering an intervention by neighbouring Ethiopia, which propped up the UN-backed transitional government and ousted the Islamic Courts fighters.

While the group's political leadership largely fled the country, the movement's military and youth wing, the al-Shebab, switched to guerrilla warfare.

In recent months the group appears to have gained strength, taking over the port city of Kismayo, and dismantling pro-government roadblocks.

And now, the translation of the Spanish version:

They violate the girl they judge, it in an Islamic court they stone and it by… adulterous!

(PS). - It is the horror. And those that promote smiling the “Alliance of Civilizations” would have to be asked, in silence, if a society as ours it can be allied with those who they perpetrate - endorsed by his law and its governments crimes like the one of Asha.

The news that it had been stoned until the death, untied a lukewarm wave of world-wide rejection one week ago, but the details that arise now cause the vomit.

Asha Ibrahim Dhuhulow neither was a woman, nor was 24 years old, nor was an adulteress. Its crime was to be born and to suffer in a country dominated by the Islamic fanaticism, the piracy and the violence as it is Somalia.

Asha only was 14 years old. It had not committed adultery. It had been violated by three men of the most powerful clan of the city. Helped by the Islamic court imposed by the integrist militias of The Shabab, the death to pedradas of the minor has served the twigs to erase all sign of the crime.

Ash, like many children of countries like his, was born victim already. It came to the world in the field of refugees of Hagardeer, in the south of Kenya, in 1995, where her family had to take refuge three years before, fleeing from Mogadishu from the attacks against his clan, the one of the Galgale, a minority in Somalia.

She was the last one in being born, thirteenth of six brothers and six brothers.

The young, that went to the school in the field of refugees, suffered epilepsy, reason why the family decided to send it with her grandmother in Mogadishu, where she could receive better medical attention. Kismayo was in its way.

From the past August, the integrist militias of The contral Shebab that coastal city.

Asha, “a very sweet girl, very humble”, remained catched in Kismayo, and sobrevió thanks to the charity of some neighbors and people that knew in its winding way towards the north.

where it could survive these two months thanks to the known ones that had done in the way. The money to arrive at Mogadishu finished, according to said to him to its father by telephone. The night of Saturday, three men approached to him they forced and it to accompany them to the beach, they violated where it.

Under paternal advice, it went to the courts and denounced her rapists. And there the suplicio begins that would end the girl tied and buried until the neck, list to be burst to pedradas.

Amnesty International (AI) reveals that the girl was stoned by a group of 50 men in a stage of the harbor locality, before near 1,000 spectators.

The islamists had taken a truck filled with stones - “greater than an egg and smaller than the fist of an adult man” - to the stage, so that people added themselves in the execution.

No of the facinerosos that participated in the violation and torture of Asha has been accused nor arrested.

Young agony d ela was frightful. After being stoned and when already they took it - supposedly dead a nurse discovered that still he breathed and returned to place it in the hole, buried until pechp, so that he continued the lapidación.

AI mentions a subject, call Sheij Hayakalah, that declares proud that “the tests were presented/displayed on the other hand and she confirmed her fault officially”:

“In addition it said to us that he was happy with his punishment by virtue of the Islamic law”.

Several witnesses mentioned by Amnesty count another thing: that the girl tried to fight against her detectors and had to be taken by the force to the stage.

Once there, the militiamen - partners of the three rapists shot against several people who tried to save the girl and killed a boy who was in the neighborhoods.

A spokesman of The Shabab apologized later by the death of the boy and assured that the one that shot to him would be punished.

“This is not justice, nor was an execution, this girl underwent a horrible death ordered by the armed groups competing that at the moment control Kismayo”, it affirms to butcher the person in charge for Somalia de Amnistía, David Copeman.

“Its murder is even another one of the abuses of the Human rights committed by the combatants in the conflict of Somalia, and again demonstrates the importance of the international action to investigate and to document those abuses, through an international commission of investigation”.

The Winner

This time of year, the first week in November, is always difficult for me. I wrote this little piece as an e-mail to a depressed friend a couple months ago. Today seems a good time to share it with all of you. The story is not original, of course, it has been floating around for a long time. And I should probably warn you that, OK, I bring up the subject of sex in this post. I know that among my generation of Sikhs, sex simply doesn't exist; little Sikhlings magically spring into existence with no action from their startled parents.

I think, however, the younger generation, being highly educated and very realistic, can handle this.

We Sikhs are supposed to always remain in chardi kala. This isn't easy; we are not only plagued by all the problems of every other segment of humanity, we also have a few problems of our own. Sometimes it gets overwhelming. Like other people, sometimes we can start feeling depressed and stop feeling like winners. For when that happens (and I guarantee it will), here is a little story:

A long time ago, your father and mother had sex. Your father distributed millions of sperm into your mother.

On and on they swam, their goal: your mother's egg. As they swam, more and more fell behind, until, reaching the egg, the weaker ones had all dropped out of the race. Only a few very strong ones reached the egg.

Now, the bravest and strongest of all those millions of sperm reached the egg first and penetrated the membrane and fertilised the egg.

That winning sperm and that winning egg...became [enter your name here]

YOU! You are already not only A winner, you are THE WINNER.

You have nothing to prove. Now, go out there and win. (Whatever winning means to you)