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Fighting Power with Poetry: Sikh Rights Activist Sukhjit Kaur Wins Hearts Across Australia

Melbourne, Australia: Recently, Sukhjit Kaur who was UNITED SIKHS director, Australia made it big on media on “Australia’s Got Talent”. She won the hearts of audience and people across Australia after her smashing performance on national television. She used the power of spoken word poetry to emphasize her identity as a Sikh born and brought up in Australia.

I have a passion for performing arts and my degree is in Political Science and International Relations, so about 2 years ago I merged the two and started doing spoken word poetry. When I saw an opportunity to audition for Australia’s Got Talent (AGT), I thought it would be an awesome way to reach a wider audience. It’s not often you see Sikhs on commercial TV so I thought it would be worth giving it a shot!

My message: Face our fears. Standing up for what we believe in. Standing up for human rights. The right to live in a country and belong to a country. Practising Sikhi in our everyday lives with love and compassion.
Remembering that Guru Nanak Sahib ji was a rebel of his time. He shifted the paradigm. Even when society was against him, he was not afraid to share what he believed in.
In a post 9/11 era, I’ve grown up in a society that can be harmonious and accepting as well as intolerant and discriminatory.
We have the power to educate and sometimes people forget there are different avenues you can do that in. Before they shut down the arts, and the road less travelled – maybe it’s time to open up our minds to a new progressive way of thinking!
A lot of people in our community are proud to be Sikhs and are proud to share that message with society, but they are tested at a point where they get racist comments spat at them. What do they do with that anger? They turn it into hatred for ‘the other’ and shoot fire right back! I don’t think that is the Sikh way to deal with things. We need to spread awareness strategically with love, compassion, and creativity.
My message isn’t about igniting anger in those who have ever received discrimination in the past. My message is about igniting passion to make a positive change. Standing up as a Sikh with Sikh values and a Sikh upbringing and using those tools to help those who are voiceless.
Whether you are Indigenous, an asylum seeker, have a disability, are marginalised for the colour of your skin, religion, gender, sexuality or status in society – you have rights.
The right to live in your country.
The right to be respected by members of society.
The right to be free.
‪#‎Sikhingthetruth‬‬

Where else have you raised your voice for this issue?

Youth Parliament: From the 8th – 13th of July, 2012 I was lucky enough to be selected as the Member for Jandakot, my local electorate, in the annual YMCA Youth Parliament of Western Australia. Here, young people come together to share their views on community issues and develop a piece of youth legislation. On the last day in Parliament House, we were given the opportunity to speak on any issue of our choosing. I chose to give a testimony on courage, drawing on my personal experiences with accepting the hair on my body and my story of overcoming bullying. I felt that these issues were important to explore as it gave the audience a chance to enter my world, feel my emotional and impassioned story, and take that message of courage with them.

Watch the speech here.

What was the response of the audience?

I believe the most courageous act is to be yourself; to be true inside and out. Only when you stand up for who you are, can you stand up for what you believe in. When you speak the truth, the universe is behind you. I got an overwhelming response from the audience. Love and compassion all the way!

How are hate crimes a threat to social justice?

Sikhi teaches us that we are all equal, and should treat others with complete equality. Sadly, this is an uncommon practice today. Inequality begins in our communities, in the simplest of ways. It begins as a tiny seed. It takes root, and quickly flourishes. Why do we argue later about cutting down the tree of inequality, when we could have avoided planting the seed to begin with? Why do we have to wait until a human is killed due to a hate crime to start the conversation of injustice when we could work on strategies to preventing these hate crimes from occurring in the first place.

You can watch Sukhjit Kaur’s spoken word performance on Australia’s got talent here

How, at UNITED SIKHS, did you work against hate crime incidents?

Director of Projects
UNITED SIKHS Inc., Australian Chapter
September 2011 – March 2015
Key role: To increase social awareness and inclusion of the Australian Sikh population in the Australian community

Responsibilities:
· Leading training sessions on the Sikh faith and contemporary scenarios at the Western Australian Police Academy for police recruits;
· Assisting lawyers with discrimination cases and advising clients on religious protocols;
· Conducting Sikh awareness presentations at schools tailored specifically for staff, parents and students;
· Representing the Sikh community and delivering speeches at inaugural events, including, but not limited to, interfaith panels and national conferences;
· Organising community events that foster social inclusion, including an annual blood drive and Sikh commemorative events;
· Managing free turban tying events at schools and community fairs to break down barriers of difference.

Issued by:
Dr. Gurparkash Singh
CEED Director,UNITED SIKHS
E: contact@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHSMeetsFrenchAmbassador

UNITED SIKHS Meets Ambassador to Rebut France’s Denial of Turban Ban

New Delhi: UNITED SIKHS led a meeting with the French ambassador on Thursday to rebut France’s recent statement that the turban was not banned in France.

UNITED SIKHS director, Gurpreet Singh, submitted to the French ambassador, H.E. Francois Richier, that it was misleading to say that there is no Sikh turban ban in France as the 2004 ban in public schools and on ID photos continues to date.

“We reminded the ambassador that the turban ban continues even though UNITED SIKHS lawyers had won three cases against the ban before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC),” said Gurpreet Singh.

The French embassy had issued a statement on 2nd February titled ‘No ban on Sikh turban in France’ following the call from Sikhs to the visiting French President, Francois Hollande, to lift the ban on the turban in France. Read the French embassy’s statement in full athttp://www.ambafrance-in.org/No-ban-on-turbans.

At the meeting with the ambassador, which was also attended by former ambassador KC Singh, S. Daljeet Singh of UNITED SIKHS and S. Partap Singh of the Sikh Forum, the ambassador was urged to take up the matter with the French Government immediately so that Sikhs in France do not continue to face harassment for wearing the turban.

The Sikh delegation members who met the French ambassador.
Left to right: KC Singh, UNITED SIKHS director, Gurpreet Singh, Daljeet Singh and Partap Singh.

“Mr. Richier assured us that he would take up with his government the need to consider using biometric ID documents without photos and to consider allowing the patka at schools,” said Gurpreet Singh.

“The meeting was very constructive and the matter was discussed at length. We shall continue to be in touch with him to follow up on the progress of his efforts”, added Gurpreet Singh.

UNITED SIKHS had submitted a letter to the President of France on his visit to Chandigarh on January 25, asking him to reverse the turban ban. You may read our previous press release on this issue at http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-25-01-16-01.html.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Issued By-
Mejindarpal Kaur
International Legal Director, UNITED SIKHS
E: Law@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHS works with Halfords to confirm that a Sikh may wear a Kirpan on their premises

UNITED SIKHS works with Halfords to confirm that a Sikh may wear a Kirpan on their premises

 

Halfords, the UK’s leading retailer of leisure and automotive products, and the UK’s leading operator in garage servicing and auto repair, has introduced new guidance to support Sikhs and confirm that Sikhs may wear their articles of faith, including the Kirpan, on all Halfords premises.

Birmingham, UK – UNITED SIKHS are pleased to announce that we have been working with Halfords Group PLC to introduce new guidance confirming that Sikhs may wear their articles of faith, including the Kirpan, for Amritdhari Sikhs (initiated Sikhs who have taken Amrit), on all Halfords premises.

Halfords is the UK’s leading retailer of leisure and automotive products, and the UK’s leading operator in garage servicing and auto repair, with offices, Distribution Centres, Autocentres and over 460 Retail Stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Halfords was named one of the Sunday Times “25 Best Big Companies to Work For 2015”.

This collaboration came about when Manjinder Singh, an Amritdhari Sikh from Coventry, contacted UNITED SIKHS because of a lack of clarity in Halfords’ policy in respect of wearing the Kirpan.


Manjinder Singh of Coventry, UK

Once alerted to this issue, Halfords:

  1. Apologised if Sikh sentiments were hurt due to any confusion in relation to the drafting of their original Health and Safety policy and prepared new guidance clarifying that there is no conflict between Health and Safety rules prohibiting the use of knives (other than safety knives) within their Distribution Centres and the right of Amritdhari Sikhs (initiated Sikhs who have taken Amrit) who want to wear the Kirpan, a Sikh article of faith which an initiated Sikh is mandated to wear at all times.
  2. Halfords will also be addressing this issue during Health and Safety training in their distribution centres.
  3. Halfords is actively promoting this to all its colleagues in furtherance of its commitment to equality and tolerance, values which are passionately shared by UNITED SIKHS.
  4. Halfords will also be briefing employees involved in conducting job interviews to ensure that any questions raised by Sikh applicants can be answered appropriately. As Halfords has explained, Sikhs are welcome to wear all five articles of faith on Halfords premises.

“We are delighted to have worked with Halfords on this important issue and hope Halfords’ actions send an encouraging signal to other employers. We are also grateful to Starck Uberoi, specialist Human Rights Solicitors, who assisted in drafting the clarification of the policy, and Manjinder Singh, who put us in touch with Halfords Group PLC,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS.”I welcome that Halfords has apologised if Sikh sentiments were hurt due to the lack of clarity. I would like to encourage Sikhs to practise their faith freely at their workplace and to contact UNITED SIKHS if they need any help regarding their rights,” said Manjinder Singh.

If you have any questions or concerns about your rights at work please contact UNITED SIKHS through our Know Your Religious Freedom Rights reporting site at http://unitedsikhs.org/KnowYourReligiousFreedomRights/

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Issued By-
Mejindarpal Kaur
International Legal Director, UNITED SIKHS
P: +447709830442
E: Law-uk@unitedsikhs.org

Saddened on hearing shooting in San Bernardino

‪#‎UNITEDSIKHS‬ is deeply saddened to hear of a shooting in San Bernardino, California today, December 2nd. Several people are reported to have been killed, and up to 20 injured. We advise local residents to restrict their travel to San Bernardino. If you are in the area and in need of assistance, contact us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org, as well as your local authorities.

“We mourn with the victims and the families of those who have been impacted by this tragic incident” – says Gurvinder Singh, Sikh-Aid Director, UNITED SIKHS

United Sikhs appeals for urgent relief aid for displaced Pakistanis

United Sikhs appeals for urgent relief aid for displaced Pakistanis   PDF Print E-mail

NEW YORK, June 27 (APP): A US‑based international organization, United Sikh, has issued an urgent appeal for donations to provide humanitarian relief to Pakistani internally displaced persons from Swat and other adjacent valleys. Continue reading ‘United Sikhs appeals for urgent relief aid for displaced Pakistanis’ »

Sublime Poetry Session by CAOF Students-UNITED SIKHS India

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1010951512368&oid=7047643971

This video is made by UNITED SIKHS-UK volunteer Sandeep Singh during his visit to India. Students of Khalsa college and neighboring schools in Amritsar district are gathered for a local Kavi Darbar event. 

To know more about UNITED SIKHS Literary Project click:  http://unitedsikhs.org/caof/

Continue reading ‘Sublime Poetry Session by CAOF Students-UNITED SIKHS India’ »

19th April: Parenting Workshop: Advancing Care Together

19th April, Richmond Hill, New  York:  Dr Jasjeet Kaur, MD, conducted a Parenting Skills workshop at the UNITED SIKHS Educare Center, in Richmond Hill, New York.  The topics covered were on based on the following questions: Is your child not doing

Continue reading ‘19th April: Parenting Workshop: Advancing Care Together’ »

UN rights council to examine turban ban

The United Nations Human Rights Council is set to examine the issue of ban on wearing of turbans and religious symbols in France during its current session at Geneva. Continue reading ‘UN rights council to examine turban ban’ »