A lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims can proceed, the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 13, opening the way for a trial on the constitutionality of spying on New Jersey mosques, schools and businesses. Likening the surveillance program to the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the Third Circuit found that it was based "on the false and stigmatizing premise" that Muslim religious identity 'is a permissible proxy for criminality." Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit in 2012 on behalf of 11 individuals or organizations, including business owners, students and a decorated Iraq war veteran, who said they had been harmed by the surveillance. Plaintiffs alleged that NYPD detectives monitored stores, schools, restaurants and at least 20 mosques in Paterson, Newark, Rutgers University, and other New Jersey locations. The surveillance program, ostensibly suspended last year, was first reported in a Pulitzer-winning Associated Press series. The Third Circuit reversed a February 2014 dismissal of the suit, remanding it to a US District Court in New Jersey.
Crimean Tartars earlier this month launched an ongoing blockade of food deliveries to Crimea from Ukraine in protest of Russia's annexation of the peninsula. Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tatar leader who was banned from the peninsula by Russia after its March 2014 take-over, told the New York Times no trucks would be allowed through border crossings after barricades went up on Sept. 20. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed prime minister of Crimea, said the blockade would have little effect, as only about 5% of the goods consumed in the region come through Ukraine. "The trade blockade of Crimea begun by Ukrainian activists with the support of a number of Kiev politicians will not affect food supplies in the region," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 satellite TV. "Crimea will not notice this."
Up to 28 people were killed in an attack by presumed ethnic Uighurs on a police traffic checkpoint in China's restive Xinjiang region June 23. The attack apparently began when a car sped through a traffic checkpoint in Tahtakoruk district of Kashgar (Chinese: Kashi) city. Assailants armed with knives emerged from the vehicle and rushed the checkpoint, while others quickly arrived by motorcycle. At least one improvised bomb was used in the attack. Two of the dead were said to be by-standers. The slain also included 15 suspects. (RFA, June 23) The attack came as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed "deep concern" over reports that Chinese authorities are again restricting observance of the Ramadan holy month in Xinjiang. The OIC charged that Uighurs "are denied the right to practice the fourth pillar of Islam," fasting during Ramadan. Authorities have reportedly barred civil servants, students and teachers from fasting, and ordered restaurants to remain open. (Arab News, June 27) Perversely, authorities are said to be holding "beer festivals" in Uighur villages to tempt those observing Ramadan to break their fast. (PRI, June 26)
After years of debate and a 2014 referendum, the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudíos—yeah, that's right, "Fort Kill the Jews"—has officially changed back to its original name of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or "Jew's Hill Fort." It's believed that the town, in Burgos province of Castile and León region, was originally a Jewish town. Residents had to convert under threat of death (generally being burned at the stake) or exile under the 1492 Edict of Expulsion, and adopted the new name as a way of proving their loyalty to the Catholic kings. No self-identified Jews live in the town today, but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David. The city's mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez led the initiative, saying that the name was offensive to many. (No, ya think?) (NPR, June 23)
Amnesty International urged Cameroon on June 19 to end the six-month detention of 84 children being held after raids on Koranic schools. AI reports that some of the children were as young as five years old. The children remained detained in a children's center in Maroua even after being charged with no crimes. The government charged the teachers of the Koranic schools of running terrorist training camps for the Nigeria-based group Boko Haram. The raids were part of the Cameroon government's on-going battle against the terrorist group. Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy director for West and Central Africa, stated: "Detaining young children will do nothing to protect Cameroonians living under the threat of Boko Haram." AI has urged Cameroon to immediately release any children under the age of 15 to their parents and ensure a fair trial for any other's associated with the raid.
A Muslim rights organization called June 3 for a thorough investigation into the fatal shooting of a Muslim man in Boston. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request a day after 26-year-old Usaama Rahim was killed by police after having been under surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. CAIR Director Jennifer Wicks also requested that authorities release video footage of the shooting, which shows the incident between Rahim and local police. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the Boston Herald that "military and law enforcement lives were at threat" and that the video shows the police officers "backtracking" as Rahim approached them.
The Dalai Lama has appealed to Burma's Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for the country's persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority amid a worsening refugee crisis according to a May 28 report in The Australian. The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said he is alarmed and saddened by the predicament of thousands still believed to be stranded at sea after weeks of being turned away by nations in the region. "It's not sufficient to say: 'How to help these people?'," he said from his office in the Indian Himalayan hill station of McLeod Ganj, where he has lived in exile since his escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959. "This is not sufficient. There's something wrong with humanity's way of thinking. Ultimately we are lacking concern for others' lives, others' wellbeing." He said there could be no justification for violence against the estimated 1.3 million Rohingya in Burma, who have been denied citizenship and subject to persecution by the state and Buddhist extremists. He appealed to his Burmese co-religionists to "remember the face of the Buddha" when dealing with the minority, sometimes referred to as the world's "least-wanted" population.
Burma's President Thein Sein on May 23 signed into law a bill requiring some mothers to space the births of their children three years apart. The Population Control Health Care bill, passed by parliament last month, allows authorities the power to implement "birth-spacing" in areas with high rates of population growth. Though the bill has no punitive measures, US deputy secretary of state Anthony Blinken and rights activists worry it will be used to repress women's rights as well as religious and ethnic minority rights. Speaking on the matter, Blinken stated: "We shared the concerns that these bills can exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions and undermine the country's efforts to promote tolerance and diversity." The government claims the bill and three others like it were aimed at bringing down maternal and infant mortality rates and protecting women and minorities, but activists argue that there are better ways to accomplish this goal.