ARIZONA GOVERNOR VETOES BILL SEEKING TO REMOVE NAME OF SIKH backlash VICTIM FROM STATE 9/11 monument

  
FAMILY OF BALBIR SINGH SODHI AND SIKH COMMUNITY OVERJOYED





FRIDAY APRIL 29, 2011 Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer invited the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi , America’s first victim of backlash hate-crime  after 9/11, to her office and vetoed House Bill # 2230  in their presence which would have removed Balbir Singh Sodhi’s name from the Arizona September 11, 2001 Commemorative Monument marking the tragedy of 9/11, honoring victims and aftermath. Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot five times on September 15, 2001 in Mesa, Arizona in an apparent hate violence related to the tragedy of 9/11. Brewer regretted the legislation and she expressed her deepest condolences to the Sodhi family.

According to GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh community activist, “During the meeting, Brewer graciously vetoed House Bill # 2230 to the immense appreciation of Sodhi family and the larger Sikh community”.



Embrace Diversity event showing mass support in AZ in September 2002. Brothers of Balbir Singh Sodhi and diverse leadership can be seen in the picture.

“This is why we love this country. The leadership is responsive. When we met with the Governor today and Representative Kavanagh Tuesday they each honored my brother, our family and our Sikh community with caring concern. We humbly requested that they help us so that our brother’s part in the local and national 9/11 history would not be denied. Our brother represents all 9/11 backlash victims,” responded Balbir Singh Sodhi’s brother Harjit Singh.

Rana Singh Sodhi youngest brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi added, “They honored us so much. In the intensity after September 11th as a community we made a difference. Today, as we head into the tenth anniversary of 9/11 the world is again watching and together as an entire community we reinforced no backlash, no hate, don’t target…. even in times of crises, respect and understanding should prevail.  My brother was killed because of the way he looked and our articles of Sikh faith – his turban, and in his heart and on his lips were the words, ‘Please respect, and protect the innocent people.’

“We had requested that the Governor continue to display this quality of leadership. The last ten years we have promoted Arizona’s leadership’s heroic response to our Sikh community and backlash through every media channel and faith community throughout the world including within our own twenty seven million Sikh members.  As we prepare for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 erasing Balbir Singh Sodhi from the AZ 9/11 Monument would create such sorrow and a tremendous outcry,” said Sikh Community Spokesperson GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa.

“It is vital that the Arizona September 11, 2001 Commemorative Monument continue to serve as a forewarning that backlash is an “after effect of an attack” and a reminder that “No gentle person, no child, no culture and no religion should be condemned, assaulted or targeted because of the unspeakable acts of others.” said Khalsa. “Backlash murders are the Invisible causalities of September 11th. Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first such death categorized as a hate crime.”

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills who introduced the controversial bill to alter the Arizona 9/11 Monument apologized on Tuesday to the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, saying he misunderstood the case. Kavanagh met with Rana Singh Sodhi, his brother Harjit Singh, and GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa,. He clarified that he wanted to remove political statements and that the felt that the memorial should be limited only to victims who died on 9/11 and more like a gravestone.

He sought to remove the panel containing the key phrase, "09 15 01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, murdered in Mesa" plus 11 other inscriptions which according to him were offensive such as "Foreign-born Americans afraid," ''Must bomb back" and "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles."

After the meeting with the family he proposed a plan that would put Balbir Singh Sodhi's name back on the Monument if Gov. Jan Brewer did not veto the bill with  new wording describing Sodhi's murder with "09 15 01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, First backlash hate-crime murder victim” and dropping the phrase "fear of foreigners".

"I apologized for dredging up the sorrow once again. I apologized for any misunderstanding," Kavanagh said. Rana Singh Sodhi deeply appreciated Kavanagh's apology and his offer to correct the error but still opposed HB2230.

"I am so comfortable. When I met him, he was so responsive and understanding. I have no revenge," Rana Singh Sodhi said.

Opposition to 9/11 Monument alterations got support from many quarters including a sizable Asian  community in AZ , the Arizona InterFaith Movement and AZ 9/11 Commission, a citizens committee that planned the memorial, urging a veto. In addition, Anti-Defamation League, an active Jewish organization who fights bigotry, hate-crimes and extremism, came in support of the Sodhi family and urged the lawmakers to alter the action on this bill.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley a Republican, who prosecuted the case against Balbir Singh Sodhi’s murderer, also opposed the bill and blamed Kavanaugh for not doing his ‘homework’. According to him   the shooting of Balbir Singh Sodhi was meant as retaliation for 9/11 based on the Sodhi’s  killer’s own admissions.

Balbir Singh Sodhi family members, GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa and Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev reached out to all communities and leaders to express their opinion on this issue.  Arizonians of various political and religious spectrum came out in support of this effort similar to the outpour of support to the Sikhs after 2001. Sodhi family has appreciated support from Sikhs across America and thanked community leaders for their hard work.

Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, Sikh community leader in Phoenix, expressed his satisfaction at the outcome and said, “ This is truly a great relief that this Monument will remain as is and will continue to remind how this great nation honors its fallen heroes.”

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), lauded the role of the Sodhi  family  and Khalsa for their outreach efforts and building a strong relationship with various  political and religious communities in AZ to keep the positive profile of the  Sikh community.  He said, “This reminds us that we must stay engaged in the fabric of American society to make people aware of our issues and traditions.” He added, “ Governor Jan Brewer has sent a right message to the entire nation and the world that the tragic lessons of 9/11 and its victims  cannot be easily forgotten. This Monument is critical and it ought to teach an important lesson to coming generations of Americans to live in harmony with each other.”

For More information:

Rana Singh Sodhi

Phone: (602) 369-6500

GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa

Phone: (602) 617-0950

_____________________________________________________________________

MEDIA BACKGROUNDER


Photo: Balbir Singh Sodhi photo, Guru Roop Kaur Khalsa, a leader of Phoenix Sikh Community , Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr Jaswant Singh Sachdev, Rana Singh Sodhi, brother and son of Balbir Singh Sodhi, during a memorial event at the Capitol Hill by SCORE on December 11, 2001. http://fateh.sikhnet.com/s/SikhMemorialDC

THE FAMILY HAD REQUESTED A MEETING REGARDING CLARIFICATION OF HB # 2230 WITH GOVERNOR JAN BREWER R-ARIZONA



MONDAY APRIL 25, 2011

PHOENIX AZ -- On behalf of the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh community and larger Asian community, a request was made for a meeting with the Governor before the she was to sign HB # 2230 which would remove a panel containing the key phrase, "09 15 01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, murdered in Mesa" from the September 11, 2001 Commemorative Monument.

HB # 2230 was presented in the Legislature that:  “The panels are being removed so the Monument can be more like a memorial or gravestone.”



Sikh community spokesperson clarified that the Commemorative Monument was   explicitly dedicated to the commemoration of the events and effects of the attack on the United States  on 9/11/01 which not only included the victims in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon but also our local victims and communities most impacted in the aftermath of the tragic events.

HB # 2230 was presented in the Legislature that: “There's also some question about whether Sodhi's killer, Frank Roque, was truly motivated by 9/11.”



Clarification was presented by the Sikh community spokesperson that Balbir Singh Sodhi’s family and numerous members of the Sikh community sat through every moment of Frank Rogue’s hate crimes trial.  They listened to the guilty verdict.  They also sadly listened to all of the testimonies regarding Mr. Rogue and his associates desire to round up all of the, “rag heads, towel heads, the sand niggers and kill them.” ; and according to testimony post 9/11 Mr. Rogue made a determination to act on his anger and hatred.

HB # 2230   was presented in the Legislature that: “The memorial's mention of Sodhi is part of a panel that includes statements about America's fear of foreigners at the time. That it is part of a myth that, following 9/11, Americans went into a xenophobic rage against foreigners. That there was not any xenophobic response. And that America's reaction towards foreigners was commendable.”



Clarification was presented by the Sikh community spokesperson that in the intensity of   the first few weeks after September 11th  there were over seven hundred violent backlash incidents targeting Arab Americans, Muslims, Indians, and Sikhs reported. Innocent people had been violently assaulted in various locations; murdered, run off the road in their cars, temples were attacked, reports of vandalism of private property and other crimes skyrocketed since 9/ 11 . While there was some decrease in the amount of attacks in the years following, certain areas, such as New York, New Jersey, Northern California have had a recent resurgence of hate related crimes and murders.

Balbir Singh Sodhi made headlines around the world because he was the first of seventeen backlash murders in the first year post 9/11, also because of the heroic way the Arizona faith community, media, law enforcement, government and agency leadership responded, he also deeply loved and cared for his community which lead his neighbors to respond lovingly to his murder. At that time, together we took the position protect the innocent people– encouraging everyone to evolve past hate and fear by reaching out to others with increased understanding, respect, support; therefore preventing large scale backlash.

SPONSOR OF HB # 2230 REP. JOHN KAVANAGH, R-FOUNTAIN HILLS MEET UP WITH BALBIR SINGH SODHI BROTHERS

TUESDAY APRIL 26, 2011

PHOENIX  AZ -- Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills very politely shared his convictions regarding the HB #2230, he apologized and graciously received Harjit Singh and Rana Singh’s open-hearted response and reaction to his actions.

Clarification was presented by the Sikh community spokesperson that the key misconceptions with statement around HB #2230 and the recent articles that: It is a monument not gravestone; Balbir Singh’s murder was in response to 9/11;  that there continues to be backlash reaction including lists and descriptions were presented of the backlash murders of all faiths and races 9/11/2001-9/11/2002  and the numerous backlash murders (Sikh) 9/11/2001- current; including two elder Sikh men who were just recently murdered in a drive by shooting in Sacramento CA.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills proposed a separate area and plague at the entrance of the Monument. Balbir Singh Sodhi’s family on behalf of the Sikh Community shared that they did NOT want a separate plague at the entrance. That Balbir Singh needs to be included in the circle of the current Monument, therefore representing all backlash victims within the circle of the tremendous love, support, response, and strength of the entire nation, community and its leadership; which is what the 9/11 Monument means to us.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills then kindly offered that if the bill is signed by the Governor that he would then propose a new bill next session to include:

“09/15/01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, first backlash hate crime murder victim”

FAMILY OF BALBIR SINGH SODHI AND THE SIKH COMMUNITY ARE HUMBLED BY REP. JOHN KAVANAGH, R-FOUNTAIN HILLS OFFER

WEDNESDAY APRIL 27, 2011

PHOENIX AZ -- IT IS STILL NECESSARY THAT THE GOVERNOR VETOES THE  HB #2230. The   Arizona September 11, 2001 Commemorative Monument process was highly participatory and included a bi-partisan Commission appointed by R Governor Jane Hull and D Governor Janet Napolitano. The state commission that raised private funding for the memorial and chose its design. The inscriptions, which were submitted by the public, are etched into a steel visor that partially circles the memorial located at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza near the Capitol.

The legislative proposal would be changing a privately funded memorial

Family members were on the commission that had lost loved ones on 9/11. There was a broad cross-section of Arizonans — Republicans and Democrats. It was a community process. The people on the 9-11 Commission who lost loved ones insisted from the beginning that Memorial not be a headstone.  The survivors wanted something that would memorialize Arizona’s experience with the tragic events of 9-11 and provide a way to talk about what happened beyond being a headstone or list of names.



  


Please help SCORE in its mission by donating generously. Your support is greatly appreciated.