Our Right to Kakaars:
UNITED SIKHS Works Across the Country to Address Civil Rights Violations
- UNITED SIKHS has received an increase
in reports of Sikh civil rights violations from all over the United
States in recent months, particularly challenges regarding the right to
- Now more than ever, there is a need for
Sikhs to inform and educate the public about the significance of Sikh
articles of faith.
- UNITED SIKHS Protect Our Identity
campaign is building momentum and gathering support in various states
across the country. Please join us and empower our community to
stand defiant against discrimination and religious intolerance.
YORK, NY: Since the launch of the global Protect Our Identity
campaign earlier this year, UNITED SIKHS has received an increase in
reports of Sikh civil rights violations from all over the country and
is actively pursuing cases where the Sikh identity has been under
threat from institutions and their employees. UNITED SIKHS has been
defending the right of the Sikh community to wear their religious
articles of faith, specifically the kirpan and kara, in everyday places
like federal buildings, universities, exam testing centers, airports,
and state courthouses.
The Protect Our
Identity campaign emphasizes the need for raising awareness regarding
religious identity, which is more important than ever in an age where
Sikhs have been targets of hate crimes and increased racial
discrimination at school, work and public spaces.
Sikhs have been
fighting for their right to maintain their articles of faith for
generations, and unfortunately they continue to do so today. "From Bhai
Taru Singh, who was scalped alive in the 1700s because he refused to
have his unshorn hair cut, to a Sikh New Jersey high school student in
2008 whose hair was set alight by another student during a fire drill,
protecting one’s identity is a sacred and necessary act, defying both
time and space," Hansdeep Singh, Senior Staff Attorney at UNITED SIKHS
The legal team at
UNITED SIKHS has been working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the
Sikh community members who have been discriminated against. Recent
cases include incidents where:
The kirpan (short sheathed religious blade) reminds a Sikh of their
religious duty to pierce through the veil of falsehood, uphold truth,
and to protect those most vulnerable. The kirpan is not a mere knife or
symbol; rather it is an article of faith that binds a Sikh to the
ideals of serving humanity. Hence, by carrying the kirpan, a Sikh
“takes up the sword of wisdom” and adheres to the discipline of
recognizing the human race as one. Similarly, the kara (religious steel
band worn on the wrist) serves as a constant reminder for Sikhs to
always act righteously and literally binds a Sikh to the Creator. The
kirpan and the kara are two of the five kakaars (articles of faith)
that Sikhs must carry in accordance with their religious teachings.
- An elderly Sikh man was forcibly
removed from a Social Security Administration (SSA) office for wearing
a kirpan in California in August 2010. An agent approached the
gentleman without any provocation, or suspicion of wrong-doing, and
forcibly pushed him out of the office.
- A freshman student at a large
California university received a harsh reality check when he was told
not to return to campus with his kirpan. UNITED SIKHS continues to work
with the university to ensure this young man’s education is not impeded
and his identity is not compromised.
- A young gentleman in Texas was
initially precluded from entering a testing center, which had metal
detectors. He informed the security officer prior to entering the metal
detector that he was carrying a kirpan. After the young man explained
the religious significance of the kirpan, supported by UNITED SIKHS’
immediate intervention, he was allowed to take his examination. UNITED
SIKHS is currently in consultation with management from the Testing
Center to jointly create a broad based religious accommodation for
four years on the job, a lead TSA officer in New York was told that he
must remove or cover his kara. No specific reason was articulated for
why this was necessary only that it was for general safety
reasons. Yet, medical bracelets and wrist watches can be worn
without the requirement that they be hidden. UNITED SIKHS continues to
pursue this case with the Equal Employment Office (EEO).
- A mere traffic ticket payment in court
turned into an injustice when a Sikh gentleman was denied entry into
the courthouse by security agents because of his kirpan. He was seeking
to address a traffic ticket he received, and merely wanted the judge to
hear the circumstances that led to his fine. That never happened.
Instead, the only option he received was to make a written submission
to the court. Access to courts is a fundamental right and to
preclude Sikhs from entering with their faith intact, is an affront to
our constitutional rights of due process and the free exercise of
Sikhs should have the right to wear their kakaars and practice their
religion freely. If you or someone you know is being discriminated
against because of wearing their kakaars at places of employment or
study, or in other situations, please contact the UNITED SIKHS legal
team at email@example.com.
UNITED SIKHS is currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are
willing to spread the message of the Protect Our Identity campaign
within their own communities. Protecting one's identity is both an act
of empowerment and a celebration of diversity. We live in a post-9/11
society, however, we must not allow fear to compromise our
individuality or be bullied into conformity. We need to collaborate
with institutions and individuals to spread awareness of the tenets of
Sikhism. If we do not speak out about these threats to our identity
now, it will mean larger threats to the identity of minority
communities - Sikhs and others - in the future. To join or contribute
to the campaign, volunteer
or donate to
To see a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS' Protect Our Identity
campaign click here.
Help us reach the $1 million mark in 1
year! Donate to the Protect Our Identity Campaign!
Protect Our Identity (POI) is
an ongoing international campaign launched by UNITED SIKHS in August
2010 . It focuses on the need to protect the Sikh community's right to
express its religious identity. Initiatives under the POI
- Right to Turban,
- Airport Security in European Union and
- Anti-Bullying Initiatives,
- Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan,
- Equality in Employment,
- Right to Kakaars,
- Recognition of Sikhs as a Religion and
Ethnicity in UK and US Census, and \Raising Awareness of Sikhs and
Sikhism to reduce acts of violence and xenophobia against Sikhs.
UNITED SIKHS' Return on Investment is 90%, which means for every dollar
donated, 90 cents will go toward the cause and only 10 cents for
operating costs, compared to other international organizations with
operating costs of between 40% - 50%.
Click here to Donate.
Click here to Volunteer.
You can help those affected
by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial
gift to the UNITED SIKHS, which will provide immediate relief and
support to those in need. Call 1-888-243-1690 for
more information. Contribute to UNITED SIKHS through local chapter in
your country http://unitedsikhs.org/contact.php