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USA Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Seeking Removal Of Name Of Sikh Victim Of 9/11 From State Memorial


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
ARIZONA: Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer invited the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi’s, America’s first victim of hate-crime after 9/11, to her office and vetoed the House Bill number 2230 in their presence which would have removed Sodhi’s name from state memorial built to mark the tragedy of 9/11 and its victims.

Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed on September 15, 2001 in Arizona in an apparent hate violence related to the tragedy of 9/11. Brewer regretted the legislation and expressed her deepest condolences to the Sodhi family.

According to Guru Roop Kaur Khalsa, a family friend and community activist, “During the meeting, Brewer graciously vetoed House Bill no. 2230 to the immense appreciation of Sodhi family and the larger Sikh community”.

“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 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 and the larger Asian community. 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 a controversial bill to alter the Arizona 9/11 Memorial apologized on Tuesday to the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, saying he misunderstood the case. Kavanagh met with Rana Singh Sodhi, his brother Harjit, and Gururoop Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh community spokeswoman. He clarified that he wanted to remove political statements and that the memorial should be limited only to victims who died on 9/11. He also questioned Sodhi’s murder being related to 9/11 hate violence.

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 he proposed a plan that would put Singh Sodhi's name back on the memorial if Gov. Jan Brewer went along the bill with a new wording describing Sodhi's murder with "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 appreciated Kavanagh's apology and his offer to correct the error but still opposing HB2230.

"I am so comfortable. When I met him, he apologized. I have no revenge," Rana Singh Sodhi said.
Opposition to 9/11 memorial alterations got support from many quarters including a sizable Asian community in AZ and 9/11 Commission, a citizens committee that planned the memorial, urging a veto. In addition, Anti-Defamation League, an active Jewish organization, 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 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.

Sodhi family members, Guru Roop Kaur Khalsa and Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, another Sikh leader in AZ, 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 memorial 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, 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 memorial is critical and it ought to teach an important lesson to coming generations of Americans to live in harmony with each other.”

Saldef, a Sikh organization, had asked Sikhs to sign petition urging Governor Brewer to veto the bill.




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