UNITED SIKHS
October 12 2010
28th Assu (Samvat 542 Nanakshahi)
Press Release

Protecting Our Right to Kakaars:
UNITED SIKHS Works Across the Country to Address Civil Rights Violations

Highlights:

  • 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 wear kakaars.
  • 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.

NEW 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 said.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Sikhs.
  4. After 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).
  5. 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 religion.
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.

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 law-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

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 UNITED SIKHS.

To see a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS' Protect Our Identity campaign click here.

Issued by:
Kashmir Singh
Director
1-888-243-1690
law-global@unitedsikhs.org

Help us reach the $1 million mark

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 campaign include:

  • Right to Turban,
  • Airport Security in European Union and United States,
  • 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.

Contact Us

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

OUR MISSION

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.

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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.