New York, February 18, 2005
New York City became the first place in the US on
Wednesday when it introduced two bills aimed to allow
wearing of turbans or Muslim hijab in its services
and put in place emergency measures to deal with racial
crimes as happened after 9/11.
Various ethnic, religious, immigrant and civil rights
organisations had lobbied with city council members
for introducing these bills to safeguard their rights.
Councilman David Weprin, from Queens where Indians
form a huge chunk of the immigrant population, is
instrumental in the introduction of the two bills.
He met with representatives from various organizations
at City Hall before these legislation were introduced
in City Council.
According to a statement by the New York-based Sikh
Coalition, the first bill would ensure that Sikhs
and Muslims working in New York City agencies will
never again be forced to choose between their jobs
and their turbans or head coverings. "This is
the choice that the New York Police Department (NYPD)
put before two traffic enforcement agents in 2001
when it fired them for refusing to remove their turbans.
Just last year, another city agency, the Metropolitan
Transit Authority (MTA), told Sat Hari Singh he would
be removed from his job if he did not stop wearing
his turban. This bill would not only prevent such
incidents from happening in the future, but it would
also send a strong message discouraging religious
discrimination by private employers. In addition to
this New York City bill, the Coalition is currently
working to get a similar measure passed in the New
York State Assembly,'' it said in a statement.
Under the second bill, the city will put in place
an emergency response plan to check backlash as happened
after 9/11 when West Asian Muslims and Sikhs were
subjected to racial violence leading to beatings and
killings and discrimination in workplace. "We
thank Councilman Weprin for his leadership and foresight
in taking measures that will prevent discrimination
and make the city safer for all New Yorkers,"
said Sikh Coalition acting executive director Prabhjot
Singh. "We are hopeful the measures will become
law in New York and will work with other communities
to enact similar measures across the country."
Ethnic and religious bodies have been pressing for
anti-discriminatory measures legislated since 9/11.
Three years ago, the New York City Police Department
(NYPD) had fired US-born Amric Singh for not removing
his turban to conform to uniform laws.
However, New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer
sided with Amric Singhin his lawsuit against NYPD.
Sikh officers working with police forces in the UK,
Canada and elsewhere too came to New York to lend
their voice against NYPD's `no-turban' policy.
Ultimately, Amric Singh was taken back in October
2004. Today, he directs traffic near the busy Manhattan
Bridge entrance leading into Brooklyn