Saturday, 5 February 2005
Magh 24, 536 Nanakshshi
UNITED SIKHS Legal and Advocacy Director, Attorney Harpreet Singh, was invited to give a seminar to various law enforcement agencies at the Detroit Metro Airport in order to educate and raise awareness about the Sikh faith and the issues Sikhs face at airports. Representatives of the Federal Air Marshal Service, Detroit Metro Airport Police, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were in attendance for this seminar. These agencies are responsible for the security and screening at the airport.
Mr. Harpreet Singh gave a presentation entitled "The Sikh Faith, Community and Its Concerns". The presentation lasted 45 minutes which contained information about post 9/11 issues and ways to create a dialogue between the community and the airport officials. This was followed by 15 minute question and answer session. Many of the attendees were appreciative of the presentation and said that it would greatly assist them in their understanding the Sikhs and their concerns at the airport.
On January 14, 2005, the same presentation was given to a gathering of federal agencies and civil rights groups in the Detroit area by Mr. Harpreet Singh. In addition, Harpreet Singh has been working with local Michigan Police Departments, School Districts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Michigan Civil Rights Department to incorporate information about the Sikh faith into their cultural sensitivity training programs. The initiatives in the Detroit area come at the heels of UNITED SIKHS assisting Mr. Bhagwant Singh in getting his criminal charges dropped for wearing his Kirpan at the Detroit Metro Airport. UNITED SIKHS will continue to conduct such seminars regarding the Sikh community and its concerns in a tireless effort to create a dialogue with government agencies.
UNITED SIKHS West Coast Representative Dr. Gurtej Singh and Darshan Singh, Public Relations Officer of the Sikh Temple Sacramento Gurdwara, were invited to join in the quarterly meeting of the California Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in an endeavour to educate the Task Force about Sikh beliefs and values. JTTF comprises of several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and its various branches, the California Highway Patrol, a representation of local sheriffs and various police departments. In addressing the government officials, Mr. Gurtej Singh stressed the Sikh belief in One God and the equality of mankind irrespective of ethnicity, gender and social status. Mr. Singh explained that throughout Sikh history, the Sikhs have resisted terrorism and have always been champions of fundamental human rights.
Representatives of the Task Force were also apprised of some of the concerns of the Sikh community. The Khanda, the Sikh emblem that adorns the Nishan Sahib (Sikh religious flag), was explained as well as its differences from the Iranian symbol present on the Iranian flag. Mr. Singh stressed to the law enforcement officials to be keenly aware of any attacks on Sikh religious institutions by ignorant criminals because of mistaken identity of the Sikhs and their religious insignia.
UNITED SIKHS East Coast Advocacy Representatives Arvind Kaur and Attorney Baljinder Kaur, along with a team of legal experts conducted a legal workshop at Gurudwara Baba Makhan Shah Lubhana in Richmond Hill, New York. This was attended by close to fifty-two members of the community, especially taxi drivers. Legal Attorney Baljinder Kaur addressed the concerns of the congregation by saying, "Sikhs should wear their Kakkar's without any fear", referring to the concern many Sikhs have regarding their articles of faith in lieu of the post September 11, 2001 tragedy. Attorney Kaur also encouraged the congregation to report any bias crimes or attacks against the Sikhs to the police without any fear. New York City has been a hotbed of bias crime activity, with the most recent attack against two Sikhs in the Richmond Hill area where the Gurudwara is located. These bias crimes and incidents have been on a sharp increase since the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 9, 2001. The Sikhs have been prime targets of the hate crimes due to their distinct appearance.
The UNITED SIKHS Representatives and the Legal Team was on hand after the presentation to address individual questions of the Sangat and any cases of individuals or groups of individuals that may have suffered from discrimination or possibly been a victim of a bias crime or incident.
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UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.
UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.
Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.