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New York City's new bill will allow turbans on jobs and
prevent discrimination

New York, February 18, 2005
Hidustan Times

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

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