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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-06-06-2007-00.htm
Press Release: 12th June 2007, 23rd Jayth (Samvat 539 Nanakshahi)
06/12/2007: PRESS RELEASE
Queens, New York: The recent incident pertaining to the Sikh boy's hair being forcibly cut by a fellow-student, at Newton High Schoool, Elmhurst, Queens, NY, came as a shock to the Sikh community. To express dismay and to convey concern to appropriate quarters, UNITED SIKHS , in collaboration with The Interfaith Center of New York , organized a "MULTI-FAITH SOLIDARITY PRESS-CONFERENCE", on June 6, 2007, in Richmond Hill, New York.
More than 30 organizations from various faiths, advocacy group/networks, got together in the wake of this event, to show their support condemning the incident. They asked the Department of Education to investigate, and asked the District Attorney's office to take appropriate steps for delivering justice to the victim. The emphasis: "No faith allows religion to be used as a tool to attack other people; any such attacks should be condemned, and must not be condoned".
|S. Mohinder Singh, Member, Queens Democratic Council||Helen Marshall, President, Queens Borough President||Matt Weiner, Operations Director, Interfaith Center of NY|
The city officials who addressed the gathering included Hon'ble Helen Marshall (Queens Borough President) and David Weprin (NYC Councilman) both gracing the occasion to add to the vociferous of concern of the Sikh community, and to enhance the solidarity within the community.
Tejinder Singh, Legal Advisor UNITED SIKHS, said: "The District Attorney has charged Umair Ahmed with a felony and are prosecuting vigorously, the case has been adjourned for pre-trial on 2nd of July. UNITED SIKHS is advising the family and closely following the case. We want to ensure that strong measures are under-taken by the Department of Education for the safety of our kids in schools. Schools need a systematic overhaul of the way it handles bias . ”
|George Gibson, President, Corona-Elmhurst Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement||Sr. Malika Rushdan, Director of Youth and Community Development, Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA||Monsignor John O'Brien, Pastor, St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church, Richmond Hill|
Matt Weiner (Executive Director of Operations, The Intefaith Center of New York) said : "Tolerance is something that is taught by all religions and helps foster an understanding and respect among all different groups of New York City".
All speakers emphasized upon the serious nature of the incident, and also stressed upon the urgent need to maintain peace and harmony in the community. Other prominent community-voices heard were those of
Ms Diane Barrett (Chief-of-Staff in the office of Assemblyman Rory Lancman) Ms Rosemarie (Advisor to Queens Borough President) Bob Kaplan (Director, Cause-NY, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Mr George Gibson (Pres., Corona-Elmhurst Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP) Jennifer Rapoport (Assistant Director for Anti Defamation League -ADL) Aliya Latif (Civil Rights Coordinator for Council of American Islamic Relations-CAIR), Ms. Kathleen Stone (Chaplain at The Tillman Chapel Church Center for the United Nations).
|The Reverend N. J. L'Heureux, Jr. Exec.-Dir., The Queens Federation of Churches||Aliya Latif, Civil Rights Coordinator for Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR||Tejinder Singh, Legal Advisor UNITED SIKHS|
Sr. Malika Rushdan (Director of Youth and Community Development, Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNA Relief USA), said: "T he incident at Elmhurst High School is not an isolated incident, immigrant minority students face harassment and bias attacks on a daily basis. The Muslim community stands side by side with the Sikh community, sharing a common goal of keeping all children safe from harm. The Holy Qur'ân is very particular about freedom of conscience as it teaches respect for everyone regardless of any differences and that is the key to pluralism"
Dr Arthur Flug (Executive Director, Kupferberg Holocaust Resource and Archive Center) said: "I have seen a photo in which Nazi guards were cutting the hair of the Hassidic Jews and this incident reminded me of that picture. I am shocked that this has happened, today, here in New York".
Mohinder Singh (American Sikh Consultative Forum, a network of 18 Sikh organizations, within the Tri-State region) said: "We stand in solidarity with the boy and will support him in whatever way possible".
|Satkirin Kaur Khalsa, Sikh Chaplain at UN rep of 3HO.org||Imam Ashraf-uz-Zaman Khan, President. Al-Hera Islamic Institute,NY||Rev Kathleen Stone, UN Church Center|
Sardarni Satkirin Kaur Khalsa (Sikh Chaplain at UN, and rep. of 3HO.org ) said: "My appearance initially was viewed very differently but as people became familiar with Sikh faith, their thoughts towards my faith changed".
Sikh members of the Queens Democratic Council, who participated and spoke were Mohinder Singh, Harjinder Singh Duggal, and Gurmej Singh briefly addressed the gathering, as did Kulraj Singh (Sikh Afghan Association.), Harpreet Singh Toor (Sikh Education Foundation), Prof. Indrajit Singh Saluja (Chief-Editor, The Indian Panorama).
Others present at the solidarity event were from the Muslim Consultative Network and Turning Point for Women & Families, David Holloway (Police Sergeant), community leader Jagir Singh, Attorney Kuljit Singh Ahluwalia, and Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba (Chief Editor, 'Sant-Sipahi' Amritsar, India) and Ms. Pennie Yogiraj (Jus Punjabi TV), Guru Gobind Study Circle-NY chapter, Director, Sarabjit Singh, and Karamvir Dahiya (Attorney). Chan Jamoona represented Hindu Cultural Council, Rev. N. J. L'Heureux, Jr. (Executive Director, Queens Federation of Churches), Monsignor. John H. O'Brien (Pastor, St. Benedict Joseph Labre), Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop D'Marzio (Pastor, St. Benedicts Joseph labre, and Rector of Bishops' Diocese of Brooklyn) and Imam Ashraf-uz-Zaman Khan, President. Al-Hera Islamic Institute,NY.
|Diane Barrett, Chief of Staff Assemblyman Roray Lancman, 25th district Queens;||Jennifer Rapoport, Assistant Director ADL||Mohinder Singh, Gurcharanjit Singh,(Editor Sant Sipahi), Prof. Indrajit Singh Saluja (Chief-Editor, The Indian Panorama)|
Messages of solidarity received from Congressman Joseph Crowley, Rev. Bud Heckman (Chief Development Officer, Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT and Formerly, Director at Religions For Peace), Ms. Rori C. Picker (Acting Executive Director, Religions for Peace-USA, NY), and Darshan Singh Bajwa (Pres., Guru Nanak Durbar, CT), were read.
The UNITED SIKHS team of volunteers and members constituted of Mankanwal Singh, Sukhpreet Singh, Arvind Kaur, Jaskaran Singh and Amarjit Singh.
To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.
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.