Thursday, 28 July 2005 (13th Saawan 537 Nanaksahi)
New York City—UNITED SIKHS has urged Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City to step up awareness training for law enforcement and other public agencies to ensure that the humiliating experience of UK Sikh tourists is not repeated.
UNITED SIKHS wrote to Mayor Bloomberg today that the Sikh American Community is appalled and disturbed at the mistreatment of five UK Sikh tourists on Sunday, July 24, 2005, who were removed from a bus, handcuffed and told to kneel on the ground. "These tourists had committed no crime. However, they were misidentified, humiliated and treated worse than common criminals in the heart of New York City. Whilst we understand the heightened alert status that New York City is in after the London bombings, the Sikh American Community feels that such treatment by New York law enforcement is unacceptable," UNITED SIKHS said in the letter to the Mayor.
"Although the Sikh American community is thankful to you for your quick apology to the Sikhs involved, we believe that further measures need to be taken to prevent misidentification," the letter continued. UNITED SIKHS proposed the following course of action to Mayor Bloomberg:
"Racial profiling is inexcusable within the general public but to find law enforcement agencies acting irrationally at this day and age, begs the question if any lessons were learnt from the unfair backlash suffered by the Sikh community post 9/11," said Harpreet Singh, legal director of UNITED SIKHS, a human development organisation working for the betterment of the Sikh community.
The Sikhs first faced humiliation and discrimination at the hands of law enforcers when the first person to be arrested in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was Sher Singh, a turbaned baptized Sikh who was arrested by police from Amtrak because he was wearing his article of faith, a Kirpan. Following his acquittal there was no apology made by police for this misidentification. Further, the first backlash victim who paid with his life was a Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was shot dead in Texas within four days of 9/11 because he wore a turban and looked like the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 act of terror.
The Sikh American Community has been in the U.S. for over 100 years and continues to play a vital role in its contribution to American society. During the aftermath of tragic events of 9/11, over 400 Sikh Americans were victims of bias and hate related crimes. In response, the Sikh American Community has worked very hard to educate the American public about the Sikh faith and community. Thus, UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh American Community consider such types of incidents to be preventable.
"UNITED SIKHS has been involved in providing awareness training for police and the incident involving the UK Sikhs suggests more needs to be done," Harpreet Singh added.
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.