Arizona Rep Backpedals on Effort to Remove Sikh Man from 9/11 Memorial

Remember John Kavanagh, of birthright citizenship fame? He's back. And this time, he's sorry.

By Asraa Mustufa Apr 27, 2011

Anti-birthright citizenship Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh has changed his mind about possibly removing a post 9/11 hate crime victim’s name from a memorial.

Earlier this year, Kavanagh introduced House Bill 2230, which would remove panels containing 11 phrases that Kavanagh considers offensive from an Arizona 9/11 memorial. Among the phrases proposed to be removed was the name of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man who owned a gas station in Mesa and was killed on September 15, 2001. His murderer, who is currently serving a life sentence, mistook Singh Sodhi’s turban for Arab garb and also fired at two other Middle Eastern targets that day.

Kavanagh said he believed the memorial should be limited only to victims of the events of 9/11, not the aftermath, the Arizona Republic reports. He also said he’d be willing to have a separate plaque commemorate Singh Sodhi’s murder as long as it wasn’t attached to the 9/11 memorial. But after meeting with Singh Sodhi’s family and local Sikh community members, the state representative has apologized, saying he misunderstood the case. He also agreed that should the bill be signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by Monday, he would introduce follow-up legislation in January that would put Singh Sodhi’s name back on the memorial.

Kavanagh said that he was more concerned about political statements on the memorial that he considers "American bashing" – statements such as "You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles" and "Feeling of invincibility lost."

The controversial bill has received widespread criticism. The citizens committee, the 9/11 Commission, that planned the memorial is against it, and the Sikh civil rights and educational group SALDEF expressed outrage over the legislation.

"HB 2230, sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, disrespects Mr. Sodhi’s memory by removing his name from the memorial and seeks to rewrite your state’s history. The bill insensitively sells his memorial plaque to a scrap metal dealer. . . As we approach the ten year anniversary of his death, is this the way Arizona will treat the first person killed in 9/11 backlash?" a SALDEF petition read.

Fellow Republicans have also come out against the bill. Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who prosecuted the case against Singh Sodhi’s murderer, said he would urge Brewer to veto the bill, which passed both houses and was sent to the Governor last week.

"He’s dancing, he’s trying to get away, its bad legislation. He didn’t do his homework," Romley told the Arizona Republic.

Singh Sodhi’s brother, Rana Singh Sodhi told the Arizona Republic that he still opposes the bill, but by proposing follow-up legislation, Kavanagh was at least admitting that the original bill is flawed.