In a hate crime against Hindus and Muslims, a New York City woman pushed an Indian man in front of an oncoming subway train, causing him to be crushed to death in the second such murder to occur this month.
Erika Menendez, 31, is now being charged for the death of Sunando Sen, 46, who was killed by a 7 train in Queens last Thursday. The woman told police she shoved the man onto the tracks because she believed he was a Muslim or a Hindu. She then fled from the scene.
“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers. I’ve been beating them up,” Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, quoted the woman as saying.
In an interview with the New York Times, Brown said the victim was “allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself.” Sen, who was born in India and was raised a Hindu, never saw the face of his attacker. According to the district attorney’s office, Menendez and Sen had never met, and it was unclear to tell what the victim’s religious background was.
“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s nightmare: Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Brown said.
Menendez fled from the scene on Thursday, but was arrested after a witness tipped off the authorities on Saturday. The passerby recognized her from the sketch and surveillance tape released by police after the incident.
“It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial,” he added. If convicted, Menendez faces 25 years to life in prison. Menendez also has a history of violence and multiple arrests. The 31-year-old was arrested once for cocaine possession and twice for attacking two other strangers. Over the past 12 years, she has had 14 encounters with police. Five of those times, her mother called the police, while two other incidents resulted in assault charges, the Wall Street Journal reported. In 2003, she attacked a retired firefighter as he took out his garbage in Queens.
“I was covered in blood,” Daniel Conlisk, 65, recalled to the Times. “She was screaming the whole time.”
Two months prior, Menendez was accused of hitting and scratching a man in Queens. The woman has repeatedly been institutionalized for mental health problems and was discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center earlier this year. The woman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and never received any jail time.
“People get well and then they get sick again,” said Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corportation.
“No one monitors if they are taking their medication or follows up to see if they are in danger to themselves or others,” said D. J. Jaffee, executive director of the Mental Health Policy Organization. Relatives of Menendez claim the defendant frequently failed to take her prescribed medication.
The judge in the case of Sen’s death ordered that Menendez be held without bail and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Conlisk believes that if Menendez had a weapon when she attacked him, he would have been killed. The most recent subway murder brings further attention to the mental health system of the United States, which has already been scrutinized this month after 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 26 people in an Elementary School earlier this month.
The death of Sen also marks the second time that a man was pushed to his death from a subway platform this month. On December 3rd, a homeless man pushed a man into the tracks at the Times Square subway station. The New York Post published a photo of the man, clinging to the edge of the platform before being crushed to death by the oncoming train, sparking an uproar about the photographer’s decision to flash the camera rather than help the man back onto the platform.
In a speech on Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed historic lows in the city’s yearly homicide and shooting totals, but also encouraged residents not to forget Sen’s death.
“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” he told reporters.
The incident also sheds further light on lingering racism faced by Hindus and Muslims in the US. According to Sen’s roommates, the victim was kind and respectful of other people’s religions. He opposed war and violence, especially those prompted by religious intolerance.
“He was so gentle,” one of Sen’s roommates told the Times. “He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things.”
An undated photo shows a Rohingya refugee woman carrying a child in an unregistered camp in Kutupalong, some 400 kilometers southeast of Dhaka.
I am writing to every contact listed at Buddhanet.info’s American Buddhist Directory to ask:
Are you aware of the ongoing genocide in Myanmar (Burma) — a genocide that is being committed in the name of Buddhism?
And did you know that the United States of America bears responsibility for this genocide, since the US has been rewarding the Myanmar regime with ever-closer political and economic ties during recent months of accelerating atrocities?
As American Buddhists, you are in a position to help stop this genocide, by pressuring the US and Myanmar governments as well as international human rights organizations. Your visible participation in the campaign to save the Rohingya people from extermination by murderous Buddhist fanatics will not only help draw the world’s attention to this horrific situation, but also help restore the image of Buddhism as a religion of compassion.
The facts about the genocide in Myanmar are not in dispute. The fanatical Buddhist nationalists, who unfortunately represent a large segment of the roughly 60 million Buddhists in Myanmar, admit that they are trying to uproot and exterminate the roughly one million Muslim Rohingya from land that the Rohingya have lived on for centuries.
Here is what a typical genocidal Buddhist fanatic from Myanmar wrote in a comment on a Wall Street Journal article:
“Burma is Buddhist nation created for the 135 Tibeto-Burman tribes. People do not get citizenship just because born there or illegally lived there for centuries. Please do not interfere with the law and internal affairs of Burma just as you do not like other nations to poke their nose in your internal affairs.”
“People do not get citizenship just because born there or illegally lived there for centuries.” This statement, which aptly sums up the official policy of the Burmese regime, could get the person who made it, and the government that follows it, hanged for crimes against humanity. Obviously, being born in a modern nation to a family that has been there for centuries automatically confers citizenship. And obviously, any modern nation that denies citizenship to such people, burns their homes and communities, and murders them en masse, with the aim of removing them from the nation of their birth, is committing the internationally-recognized crime of genocide.
In recent weeks, many thousands of homes, and more than 20 mosques, have been burned by murderous Buddhist mobs, backed by national security forces, in the Arakan state of Myanmar. Estimates of the number of Rohingya Muslims murdered, whether directly or by drowning in the Naf River, as they flee the killers, range from the thousands to the tens of thousands. Every one of the more than 500 mosques in Arakan has been taken over by the genocidal regime’s security forces and shut down, and they are being demolished one-by-one. (This happened during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to spend as much time as possible in a mosque.)
Muslims have been living in Burma since roughly 800 c.e. — that is, nearly for as long as the religion of Islam has existed. And Arakan has been a Muslim region, ruled by Muslim kings and/or populated by Bengali Muslims, since 1430. The most notable population increase of Muslims in Arakan took place in the 1600s. The idea that the Rohingya people are somehow “recent immigrants” to the region is clinically insane — a symptom of the larger insanity known as nationalist fanaticism.”
Both Buddhism and Islam are universalist religions: They proclaim truths that are valid for all people, indeed for all of existence. And the core truth that both religions proclaim is the primacy of compassion. In Buddhism, a central feature of the Buddha nature is compassion for all beings. If one were to choose a single hallmark of a successful advanced practitioner of Buddhism, it would be a highly-developed sense of compassion.
Whatever has happened to the Myanmar Buddhists’ compassion for their fellow citizens who happen to be born as Rohingyas?
Islam, too, views compassion as a central reality of creation. Muslim theologians, like the more advanced Christian and Jewish religious thinkers, view God as ineffable; but the primary and overriding tangible characteristic of God in Islam (with the proviso that no tangible characteristics fully express the reality of the one ineffable God) is rahma, or compassion. The two adjectives Muslims use the most to “describe” God are ar-rahman ar-rahim, usually translated as “the merciful, the compassionate.” (The root of rahma and its cognates derives from the word for “womb,” suggesting that this “compassion” has something in common with the nurturing, all-embracing, unconditional love that mothers feel for their children.)
Additionally, both Buddhism and Islam teach us to transcend or even annihilate the (tribal) ego. Buddhism offers a set of teachings that take its practitioners beyond the ego, which is the source of the endless desire that is the cause of the pervasive suffering or disappointment that characterizes ordinary human existence. Likewise, Islam teaches its serious practitioners to annihilate the “ego that desires evil” through absolute submission to God. Each religion offers a very similar cure for the unhappiness of the ordinary human condition.
The kind of chest-thumping egotistical nationalism that proclaims “I am a Buddhist, my heroic nation is Buddhist, I am so much better than those non-Buddhists that I must kill them or exile them” is about as far from the compassionate teachings of the Buddha as it is possible to get. Likewise, extremist Muslims who proclaim that their narrow version of Islam is the only truth, and that everyone who disagrees should be killed, are equally far from the universal, all-compassionate message proclaimed by God through Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him).
Muslims and Buddhists ought to unite against ego-driven nationalist fanaticism, which is an affront to both religious traditions.
- Bangkok Conference On The Rohingyas Of Myanmar – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Democracy and slaughter in Myanmar: Gold Rush overrides Human Rights (Aletho News)
- Stateless Rohingya… Running on Empty (Aletho News)
The FBI and the Justice Department are still up to their old tricks. Not only do they continue to entrap Muslims in terror cases that wouldn’t exist without FBI involvement, but now they silence anyone who complains, charging them with trumped up offenses and insuring that the assault on law continues.
Khalifa al-Kalili is an American Muslim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Beginning in January of this year he was stalked by a man calling himself Muhammad but who has now been identified as Shahed Hussain. Hussain was on the verge of being convicted of a felony when he became an FBI informant in 2002. It was Hussain who entrapped four African American men from Newburgh, New York, into a phony plot to bomb synagogues in the Bronx.
Al-Kalili was rightly suspicious when Hussain and another informant befriended him and spoke of the need for jihad. Al-Kalili was not as naïve as the Newburgh Four or the dozens of other people who were charged and convicted of committing terror acts which were created solely by the government.
Al-Kalili voiced his concerns very publicly, to the Albany Times Union newspaper and posted his fears on his Facebook page. He used Google to identify the cell phone number of the man who was stalking him and discovered that he was in fact Shahed Hussain. Al-Kalili’s attempts to protect himself were of no avail. After he scheduled a press conference to announce his plans to sue the FBI, he was suddenly arrested for a firearm violation and remains held behind bars without bail.
This case is one of many in which the American government has created a separate and decidedly unequal system of justice for Muslims. Shahed Hussain is now well known and notorious for tricking people into committing crimes. He is so brazen that he felt no need to hide or to even get a new cell phone number. Obviously he knows that the FBI is his protector and that he need not take any precaution to avoid detection. Even when his victims use legal means to avoid being ensnared, they go to jail anyway.
These entrapment tactics began during the Bush administration, but as in other instances, the Obama administration is nothing more than Bush part two. The president of the United States, the attorney general and the FBI director are all complicit in violating not only the protections granted to Americans in the constitution, but in establishing a system of separate and unequal justice for Muslims in this country. Once again, the value of having a former constitutional law professor sitting behind the desk in the oval office is less than negligible and an insult to anyone who cares about justice.
The story of Khalifa al-Kalili is an example of the rot which permeates the American political and judicial systems. Mass incarceration, selective prosecution, prosecutorial misconduct and police brutality all make a mockery of the claim that there is equal justice under American law. There have always been groups who were subject to brutality and injustice and now the first black president has proven that the system cannot be changed from within. It must be uprooted by people who first are willing to call the evil by its name and who are willing to dedicate themselves to eradicating it once and for all.
There are a multitude of reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, but his decision to continue a wholesale subversion of what is left of the justice system is one of the most important. How does anyone claim that the Democrats are our saviors and the Republicans are the evil doers, when all evidence points to criminality on both sides?
Neither Democrats nor Republicans are fit to govern this country. It is useless to continue revealing the injustices suffered by al-Kalili and others if the end result is a continuation of the status quo. Good journalism brought this case to light, but if must go further. A laundry list of people who have been turned into criminals by our government is useless unless a call to action comes along with it.
What will the call to action be for al-Kalili? Will people who excoriate Obama because of the injustice perpetrated by his Justice Department still make the case for his re-election? If so, they need not have bothered with al-Kalili at all. They should have swept his case under the rug and forgotten him. Voting for Obama and the Democratic party is tantamount to doing that anyway.
Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
- US Muslim claims detention and torture by FBI (rt.com)
- Entrapment blues: Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings! (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
- Trouble follows some (miscellany101.wordpress.com)
- Interview: Infiltrator who spied on Muslims reveals FBI techniques (alhittin.com)
New York City appears to be going all out to win a world award for racism and bigotry. On February 24 the New York Post published a cartoon (1) depicting three men with long noses, long beards, turbans, and dishdashas assembling bombs in a locked upstairs tenement room. One of the men has a bomb strapped to his waist. He is looking out a window at a New York Police Department car in the street. The cartoon shows him speaking into the phone: “Hello, AP Press? . . . I’d like to register a complaint against the N.Y.P.D. for spying on us.”
This racist cartoon is an attempt at satire of an Associated Press story of February 20 exposing a blanket campaign of surveillance of Arabs and Muslims in New Jersey and upstate New York by the New York City Police Department. The surveillance was not only well outside New York City’s jurisdiction but also had no basis in any kind of criminal investigation. It was what the police would call an intelligence gathering operation, and what everyone else would call profiling and spying. It targeted Arabs and Muslims for being Arabs and Muslims, doing such things as attending mosques and meeting in campus student groups. The operation has been funded by the White House and advised by the CIA through both the Bush and Obama administrations. With this funding, the NYPD invented a new role for itself as a regional secret police force. Others have commented that had this cartoon depicted any other religious or ethnic group it would have been immediately condemned for its bigotry. Indeed, so would the entire NYPD spying program. But the “war on terror” has made it open season on Arabs and Muslims, so that instead of apologies from New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly and mayor Bloomberg, we got a back-in-your-face defense that the police are only trying to keep New York safe, and you’re lucky they are. The billionaire mayor used the mind-boggling reactionary argument that without the police doing what they do (destroying constitutional rights, among them freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly), we could not enjoy our freedoms and constitutional rights.
Not reported by any of the media so far was an outrageous attempt by an NYPD undercover agent to ensnare a young man as far away as Boston in a plot to undergird the war on terror by actually creating a “terrorist.” The young man was Tarek Mehanna, an Egyptian American and Muslim from Sudbury, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Tarek wrote a statement (2) about this experience, which was read aloud to a rally on Boston Common on February 25. The statement says:
“In late 2005, I was approached by an individual whom I’d never met. Over the course of two years, he attempted to befriend me, and gradually began shifting otherwise mundane conversations to suggesting the need to “do something.” Eventually, this “something” that he was hounding me to “do” emerged as a plan of his to find American soldiers returning from Iraq (whose addresses he supposedly had) and kill them. He would show up at my house uninvited, and always try to steer the conversation in this directions, and I would steer it away and bury it, but he would never give up. Finally, I told this individual to never contact me again. “
Perhaps because of the fact that once the police have made someone a victim, they never let that person go, Tarek went on to being targeted by the FBI, who wanted him to become an informant at his mosque. When Tarek refused, the FBI simply made up stories about him, saying that he was planning to shoot up a shopping mall. This story was splashed all over the press, and Tarek then entered into a special hell prepared for him by the federal judicial system in the shape of the notorious Michael Sullivan, then US Attorney in Boston, and his corrupt prosecutor, Jeffrey Auerhahn, who brought him up on charges of terrorism (3).
Tarek’s statement goes on to say:
“Two years later, I found myself here in a Plymouth jail awaiting trial on terrorism charges. From day one, I related this to my lawyers, and that I was 100% sure this had been an attempt by the FBI to entrap me in one of their artificial “plots” so that they could have additional firepower in this case. But my lawyers explained that without some acknowledgement from the government, it would be impossible to prove. So we filed numerous motions over the course of the two years before trial requesting exculpatory evidence (i.e., evidence that would be in my favor) from the government regarding this, but they feigned ignorance, and said that they had nothing.”
From the time of his arrest by the FBI in October 2009 to the time of his trial in November 2011, the shopping mall shoot-up charge was forgotten and an equally bogus new charge of “material support for terrorism” was created. But a few months before that trial began Tarek’s lawyer got a call:
“Finally, in the early summer of 2011, my lawyer, Jay Carney, got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said that two sources within the NYPD had contacted her and confirmed to her that the NYPD had sent an undercover agent up to Boston to “befriend” me, and try to prod me into carrying out a “terrorist attack,” and that I had refused to go along (bingo!). Furthermore, these sources in the NYPD told this journalist that when the prosecutors in my case found out about this – the same prosecutors at my trial, Aloke Chakravarty and Jeffrey Auerhahn – they became frantic and called the NYPD to come up to Boston for a meeting, where they admonished them for “interfering” in my case. With this information, my lawyers filed an additional motion asking the judge to compel the government to disclose these details so that they could be mentioned at trial – the logic being that this is a “terrorism” trial, and here was an attempt by the government to actually push me to carry out an act of “terrorism,” and I had refused, and they were trying to cover this up. The motion was filed on July 15th, 2011.”
Now comes federal judge George O’Toole, an apparently affable man in black robes who appeared in court to have no prejudice one way or the other against the defendant, but who acted behind the scenes, in all rulings, from the beginning, to aid the prosecution and hobble the defense of now 29 year old Tarek Mehanna. At a hearing in August 2011, when the subject of airing NYPD’s role in court, before a jury, was brought up, Judge O’Toole made a cheating, underhanded agreement with the prosecutors behind closed doors. Tarek reports that his lawyer . . .
“ . . . mentioned to the judge that we were seeking exculpatory evidence from the government, as they had thus far given us none. And then he mentioned that from the items we sought were details of an attempt by the NYPD to prod me to engage in a domestic attack, which I refused, etc. This was apparently the first the prosecutors knew that we were privy to this, and the surprise was evident on their faces. The judge asked them if they knew anything about this, and Mr. Chakravarty’s response was an ambiguous “we have no information from our office on this, and it is the defendant who should know,” to which Jay stood up again, faced Mr. Chakravarty, and asked: “So you’re willing to say, on record, before the court, that no members of the NYPD came up to Boston at anytime to meet with you to discuss an attempt to prod Tarek Mehanna to engage in an act of terrorism that he refused to go along with?” The prosecutor’s response, verbatim, was: “Well, I didn’t say that either…”
O’Toole said he would wait to rule on the motion, and immediately, the prosecutors requested a private meeting with him in the judge’s chambers. He granted their request. My lawyers stood outside the judge’s door as the prosecutors walked in and protested: “Well, that’s not fair. How are you going to meet with the judge privately about this motion, and we have no idea what is being said?” But the judge met with them for almost 20 minutes. We will never know what was said in that meeting, but the next morning, O’Toole denied our motion, and that was the last anyone had ever heard of it: nothing about this topic was allowed to be mentioned to the jury at trial. Not a single word.”
This is just one story about one individual who was a part of NYPD’s attack on Arabs and Muslims. If the cartoon in the New York Post were accurate, it would show three white men in coats and ties, representing the CIA, the FBI, and New York City undercover police, bringing all the weight of the state against a young man (pictured on a torture rack) to present him to the public as someone about to commit a crime which they – the police – had not only thought up and provided the materials for, but miraculously “prevented.” The FBI agent would be calling the press to say, “Hey, we have another phony terrorism story for you – let’s keep the war going strong.” Outside the window would be an ignorant US public, eyes wide, ready to believe anything they were told.
The games of the police have consequences, as those in prison well know. Tarek Mehanna has now been in jail, in solitary confinement, for 866 days. He is real. His family is real. This racist scapegoating affects their lives. The NYPD, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Obama administration are not protecting anybody. They’re attacking innocent people in order to prop up a war that keeps them in power. This is the height of dishonesty and cowardice.
1 Cartoon republished at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/nypd-surveillance
2 See statement at Free Tarek website: http://www.freetarek.com/my-arrest-a-continued-explanation/
3 Richard Hugus, “FBI Repression in Boston”, February 2011, http://www.onepalestine.org/resources/articles/FBI_Repression_In_Boston.html