Intolerance of Religious Symbols

December 20, 2008 at 1:52 am | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

N.C Mission Rejects Charity Over Turban ” read the title of a November 21 US news article on


In short, a man and his wife were asked to leave a mission in North Carolina after he refused to remove his turban–which is required by the Sikh faith–before entering the building. They wanted to see where their annual donations were going and decided to visit the mission. The building has a large sign that outlines the mission’s policy regarding headwear. The in-take director and executive director of the facility said that the man became argumentative after being asked to remove his turban; he was then asked to leave.

An Associated Press article posted on December 17 is titled: “GA judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf .”

Hold on…back up.

A Muslim woman who refused to remove her head scarf at a court security checkpoint was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail by a local judge. The judge said she violated a court policy that prohibits people from wearing headgear in court. The woman was freed unexpectedly following the involvement of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

You haven’t heard anything yet: “Sikh family accuses deputies of abuse, taunts ” was the title of a December 5 article in the Houston Chronicle.

A Sikh family returns home to find that their house has been robbed. Like any other human being, they called the police, hoping they would document the scene, track down the perpetrator, and receive some piece of mind. Upon arriving at the residence, the deputy became hostile and inquisitive and asked for IDs from the family members. After noticing that one of the family members was carrying a Kirpan, a small ceremonial knife mandated by the Sikh faith, he “freaked out.” The confusion multiplied when the deputy pointed a taser to the woman and started handcuffing other family members, even holding one of them in the back of the sheriff’s car. More deputies arrived, but none investigated the robbery, until a supervisor arrived and ordered the deputies to release the family members.

These incidences are maddening. I remember growing up in school, and wondering why kids were able to miss class because of religious observances when I didn’t have any of my own. I realized that it was part of the community and we should respect that. Reading these articles hints at the intolerance possessed by too many individuals in this society.

In a country that witnesses people getting up early on Sunday mornings and wearing their best outfits to church for the sake of adhering to and respecting their faith; that considers Christmas a national holiday where nearly every establishment is closed; that has Easter sale specials painted on every TV ad and newspaper, you’d think that we would be fine with turbans, head scarves, and ceremonial knives for religions that do not have a national holiday or special deals. Especially with the peak of the holiday season next week, I urge everyone to go beyond tolerance and exercise a higher sense of understanding


Free book for new JACL members

December 9, 2008 at 2:48 am | Posted in JACL, JACL Blog | Leave a comment

As an added bonus to new members, the Japanese American Citizens League is giving JACL: Paving the Road to Opportunity, a book commemorating the JACL’s first 75 years, free to new members who purchase a membership on their own and/or to new members who have gift memberships purchased on their behalf by December 31.

Tim Koide, National JACL Membership Coordinator, and Ryan Chin, new Vice President of Membership for the JACL, are trying to enhance the benefits of a JACL membership. They are also encouraging people to join the JACL. They cannot do it alone. They need the help of the JACL members to bring in more members.

This is the season for giving. As you are contemplating what to give for gifts, please consider a gift membership in the JACL for family and friends.

If you are not currently a JACL member, please join. If you have any questions about membership, you can contact Tim Koide via email at or call the JACL Headquarters.

December 7

December 7, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Posted in APA News, Masaoka Fellow | Leave a comment

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the significance of today.

It’s been 67 years since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, forcing—or encouraging (depending on your point of view)—the United States of America to become a major player in the second world war.

All across the national mall today, flags flew at half-staff, remembering the day when an “enemy” caused bloodshed and chaos on American soil.

Yes, President Roosevelt declared December 7 as a date, which will live in infamy. But 67 years later, I feel that it’s also a date that will forever be a ghost, haunting my American experience. I can speak only for myself as a yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American), but today I carried December 7 as both a cultural burden and an opportunity.

When Japan, the enemy, attacked Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese ancestry became the enemy in the eyes of the federal government. On December 7, Japan turned its back on its brethren and allies, just as America turned its back on its people, herding 120,000 Americans into internment camps.

It’s a burden to know that my great-grandparents’ siblings fought against America. When I visit the National World War II Memorial, I feel guilty. It’s a burden to know that my great-grandparents and grandparents suffered behind barbed wire fences. When I visit the National Japanese American Memorial, I feel a mix of anger and nostalgia.

But dwelling on the past isn’t helpful.

I look at December 7, also as an opportunity.

It’s important to remember, but it’s also important to move forward, make new history, grow from the past. As a Japanese American, I feel a responsibility to create new days, new reasons, for remembrance and recognition.

December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor attacked.

December 7, 2008: Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) becomes the USA’s first Vietnamese American elected to Congress. (read the New York Times article)


December 6, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

Study after study states that Asian Americans maintain a higher stress level compared to other groups. However, it seems that this holiday season brings stress to everyone. The American Psychological Association (APA) issued a press release Thursday regarding a new poll that found more than 8 out of 10 people anticipate a stressful holiday season. This poll also found that the economic crisis is impacting women and families the most. What were these sources of stress? In order, they were money (82%), the economy (82%), and work (69%).

Women are more likely than men to worry about having enough money to purchase gifts. About a quarter of the respondents are feeling pressure to purchase gifts. In households with children, these stressors are even more likely.

With the economy in shambles, it seems like folks are having a real love-hate relationship with the holidays. But as APA’s executive director for professional practice states, “It is important to put things in perspective and realize that materialism is not the focus of your holiday.” The press release goes onto provide some ideas to prevent stress, such as taking time for yourself, volunteering and creating realistic expectations.

These ideas shouldn’t be practiced just during a straining holiday season, but throughout the year as well. The number-one suggestion was to take time for yourself. I can’t say how many times you hear that from mentors as an undergraduate: take time for yourself. Often, as involved, young adults, we want to be like the Energizer bunny (machines even!) and turn out product after product, and show up at event after event while living, breathing and drinking caffeine.

My question to you is: how can you change the world if you can’t take care of yourself? How can you prioritize other important issues if you don’t prioritize yourself?

Your work is important, but realize that your work can’t be done if you are keeling over in pain from not eating in the last 10 hours or dozing off at the wheel because you haven’t slept in days. Lead by example, practice what you preach, or pick your own cliché to follow. Bottom line, give a gift to yourself this season: time.

An Ounce of Prevention

December 5, 2008 at 3:44 am | Posted in fmori, Youth | Leave a comment

By Floyd Mori, JACL National Executive Director

Recently I attended a congressional hearing on Youth Crime and Violence. A basic premise was that “prevention” is far more effective and less costly than punishment and suppression. This is the case with most things in life. Child poverty, inferior education, and lack of adequate health care are root causes of youth crime, and yet these are weaknesses in our society that can be prevented. Therefore, the focus of the hearing was to enhance programs that are aimed at prevention in order to have a real impact on the problem. The evidence of life around us collaborates this premise.

If I may draw a parallel, it is my feeling that our community is besieged by the crime of ethnic denial and cultural neglect. The result is poor self image and an absence of self identity. Yet at the same hearing mentioned above, developing a sense of identity was a major element in building self worth and a sense of well being. To me, this is a crime that can be mitigated by more aggressive preventive measures.

Continue Reading An Ounce of Prevention…

Keeping the promise

December 2, 2008 at 11:19 am | Posted in Health, Masaoka Fellow | Leave a comment

World AIDS Day (1988-2008)On this day, December 1, a lot has happened:

  • 1955: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala., city bus.
  • 1959: Antarctica became a scientific preserve, free form military activity.
  • 1963: The Beatles’ first single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was released in the United States.

And in 1988, the World Health Organization established December 1 as World AIDS Day to raise awareness about the global AIDS epidemic.

Continue Reading Keeping the promise…

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