Press Relase: Friday 14th October, 2005 (30 Assu, Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)

American Sikh Consultative Forum Seeks Redress on Sikh Issues from NY City Agencies

New York City, USA: The American Sikh Consultative Forum (ASCF) submitted on Wednesday a memorandum to New York City Agencies seeking redress on issues faced by Sikhs living in New York City. The memorandum was handed at a meeting between representatives of the ASCF and eleven New York City agencies, including the New York City Police Department, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Department of Corrections and the Office of Emergency Management.

Mohinder Singh, president of Flushing Gurdwara, related the concerns of the Sikh community in New York, post-9/11, highlighting the need to raise awareness of Sikh issues within New York City agencies and among the general public. The memorandum presented by the 19 member-organizations of ASCF, called on City Agencies to make provisions for Sikhs who live, work, study and visit New York to wear their articles of faith such as the Turban and the Kirpan (a sheathed scimitar) in all public places under the jurisdiction of the City Agencies. Click here for the full text of the memorandum and a list of ASCF member organizations.

"Our first achievement was that Sikhs were able to wear a Kirpan to the meeting held at a city department building. ASCF members are hopeful that collective action by the community will help us achieve our goals to live as equal citizens in New York City," said Rawinder Kaur, UNITED SIKHS programme director of Community Affairs. Using a slide show (File Size: 8.53 MB), UNITED SIKHS briefed the City Agencies on Sikhism and how Sikh religious rights were preserved by laws in other countries for e.g. Canada, United Kingdom and Sweden.

The meeting was in response to a UNITED SIKHS request to New York City Mayor Bloomberg to discuss Sikh issues following a humiliating incident when Sikhs from the United Kingdom were handcuffed for being mistaken as 'terrorrists' soon after the July bombings in London.

The ASCF memorandum also sought improvements in hate/bias crime monitoring and reporting and an assurance from the police that they will respond to all hate/bias incident reports held on the ASCF members' database.

Other issues raised in the memorandum were the under-representation of Sikhs on City Agencies' Public advisory and inquiry boards and tribunals. On education, the ASCF members sought adequate provisions for Sikh school children to study Panjabi as a second language and for City Agencies to support the Sikh community's after-school programs for Sikh schoolchildren.

Amardeep Singh presented the Sikh Coalition's cases on Sikh issues, including the problems faced by Sikhs with regards the Turban and Kirpan.

The City Agencies spokesman, Dr Guillermo Linares, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, said he found the meeting and the ASCF's slide show on Sikhism very comprehensive and educational.

Azadeh Khalili, Deputy Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, said after the meeting that ASCF could have further meetings with individual City Agencies to discuss the issues raised in the memorandum.

If you represent a Sikh organization and wish to be a member of the ASCF please send an email to contact@americansikhconsultativeforum.org or telephone 1 888 645 5581.

Issued by:
Meerat Kaur
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy

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