Anisha – UNITED SIKHS Blog http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog Recognize The Human Race As One Fri, 01 Sep 2017 23:45:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hate Crimes: Its History and Society’s Role Against It http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/01/hate-crimes-its-history-and-societys-role-against-it/ Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:13:05 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2139 Opinion piece by: Amanpreet Singh, UNITED SIKHS volunteer

An Opinion piece by Amanpreet Singh, 22-year-old UNITED SIKHS volunteer. Amanpreet aspires to become a family/immigration lawyer.

                Hate crimes have been a problem throughout America’s history and still remains a problem for this great nation. A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator attacks the victim due to their ethnicity, physical appearance, religion, or sexual orientation. As a kid I learned about attacks against African Americans in the 1800s by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacists. They believed African Americans were inferior to them and did not deserve the same rights, such as the right to vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 was passed to help stop violence perpetrated by the KKK. One of the most brutal cases we were taught about was the Emmet Till murder that took place in 1951 in Mississippi. A fourteen-year-old African American boy was savagely beaten and then shot dead for looking at a white woman. The jury found the two white men that committed the crime not guilty. This trial highlighted how bad racial prejudice was in the south during that time period. A few years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law which aimed to put an end to racial segregation in the public, work, and schools. For the first time whites and minorities were to be given equal rights in a country who’s founding principles were based on freedom and equality. These stories of hate and racially motivated attacks are in books across the U.S. and taught to every child. Something these history books fail to mention and is not taught in the classroom are the hate crimes committed against Sikhs.

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world with around 25 million followers around the world. Sikhism is often misunderstood by the general public. Growing up, my younger brother and I were not only the only sardars in our school but also the only Sikhs. Besides the usual teasing that took place in elementary school, life was normal.

But that all changed on September 11, 2001. I still remember to this day sitting in my forth grade class and the teacher telling us that two planes had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I remember going back to school and being called a terrorist and Osama because I wore a patka. I remember an incident where I was with my parents at a store and one of the workers called my dad Osama. Fortunately for us it never escalated further than being called these names. But some Sikhs in America were not so fortunate. Four days after the attacks, a man named Frank Roque was heard saying he wanted to “shoot some rag heads” and then he gunned down a gas station owner in Arizona, Balbir Singh Sodhi.  Thankfully justice was served and Roque is serving life in prison without parole. This was the first of many attacks against the Sikh community in the United States. Since 9/11 more than 300 hate crimes have been committed against Sikhs.

One of the most notable of these attacks took place in Oak Creek Wisconsin in the summer of 2012. I remember I was in England at the time and went on CNN on my phone and saw the breaking news that a shooting had taken place at a Gurudwara in Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe that something so horrific had happened. In the past there had been reports of vandalism at Gurudwaras in the U.S., but never a shooting. Wade Micheal Page, the perpetrator of the shooting, had ties to white supremacist groups. He entered the Gurudwara shot and killed six people before killing himself. The one thing that saddened me even more was hearing people in the Sikh community saying, “Why did that man attack a Gurudwara? We are not terrorists so why do people confuse us for them?”

The most effective way to prevent these hate crimes is education. After this tragedy the news and law enforcement became more aware and educated about the Sikh community in America. They learned about the principles of Sikhism and why we wear a turban. As a Sikh I have seen the change in the public; people are more accepting of my religion and how I dress. People will come up to me in the streets and ask why I wear a turban and what the significance of the kara is on my wrist. If people are a taught about different religions and cultures from a younger age they will grow and be more accepting of other people’s religion and culture.

Only through educating people can we stop these vicious attacks, we are all Americans and all have the responsibility to help each other and not let acts like these happen again.  Finally, we as Sikhs need to take a stand against all hate crimes, not just ones committed against us. Our Gurus taught us to stand up for everyone. A crime against one race or religion is a crime against all of us; we are all humans and created equal in the eye of God.

 

 
Opinion piece by: Amanpreet Singh, UNITED SIKHS volunteer

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Support for NYC’s IDNYC Program http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/01/support-for-nycs-idnyc-program/ Tue, 13 Jan 2015 17:53:39 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2132 UNITED SIKHS welcomes and supports the IDNYC municipal identification program for residents of all New York City boroughs. This will provide a sense of community for undocumented individuals to open the bank account or get any financial aid and benefits.

The IDNYC card is our light to unification, integration, and equality. The impact that this will have on our immigrant and undocumented communities is key to providing a support system long overdue. Newly immigrated families will have the opportunity to enroll their children in school and take advantage of libraries and bank accounts, something undocumented immigrants could not have done before.

The IDNYC will allow the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID, to come out from the shadows and finally initiate themselves into the community, making New York a more integrated society, one that will be inclusive and connect all residents from all boroughs to the programs and benefits the state provides.

“IDNYC is not only a card for all New Yorkers, it is the gateway to City services, the key to opening a bank account or getting a library card, and the ticket to many of our city’sfinest cultural institutions. More than that, this card represents who we are: New Yorkers who value equality, opportunity and diversity,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

UNITED SIKHS supports this step towards providing vital assistance to all families.

Read more about the program here: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/idnyc/index.page

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Reforms to Federal Racial Profiling Guidance Continue to Negatively Impact Sikh Community http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/12/reforms-to-federal-racial-profiling-guidance-continue-to-negatively-impact-sikh-community/ Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:07:59 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2128  UNITED SIKHS is disappointed by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) revisions to the federal racial profiling guidance. We are specifically concerned by the exemption allowing law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to continue profiling our communities behind a veil of national security investigations. With their exemption from the new changes, profiling will continue to be permitted at our borders and in our airports on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin.

In 2003, DOJ had released their racial profiling guidance containing several loopholes which in turn allowed law enforcement officials free reign to profile without consequence. As stands, almost all Sikhs with turbans are subject to secondary screening at airports, an issue UNITED SIKHS and other civil rights groups have been bringing to the attention of lawmakers, the administration, and government officials for years. Major efforts have been taken to push DOJ to remove such profiling from their federal guidance and a lot more work needs to be done.

We do commend the DOJ for including the ban of racial profiling from national security cases and expanding the definition of profiling to prevent FBI agents from considering factors such as religion and national origin when opening cases. It adds national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the categories of individuals protected from profiling.

We join other civil rights groups in our disappointment with the loopholes remaining in the guidance and implore Attorney General Eric Holder and DOJ to stand against such profiling.  Particularly, the guidance must apply to state and local law enforcement, must apply to TSA and CBP, and must ban the surveillance of our communities through mapping efforts.

We stand by our stance against the use of any kind of profiling by law enforcement agencies. UNITED SIKHS will continue to advocate for the international Sikh community until turbans DO NOT equal secondary screening. We are committed to working towards a fair government no longer reliant on profiling measures as a means for national security.

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Unity Strengthens for Eric Garner http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/12/all-lives-matter-unity-strengthens-for-eric-garner/ Sat, 06 Dec 2014 06:27:08 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2125 Before our communities have had a chance to wrap our minds around what is happening in Ferguson, we find ourselves once again stunned by a grand jury decision not to indict a police officer who used excessive force against an unarmed man. This time it was Eric Garner, father of six in New York City. UNITED SIKHS stands in solidarity with Eric Garner’s family in seeking reform for the continuous lack of police accountability and justice in police brutality cases.

Disguised behind the veil of “Stop-and-Frisk” and phrases like “potential threat to national security” we have seen the New York Police Department disproportionately profile and harass the Sikh and Muslim communities for over a decade. As an international Sikh civil and human rights advocacy organization, UNITED SIKHS has continuously advocated for better treatment for our respective communities.

Today is no different.

We join our brothers and sisters in the civil rights community nationwide to continue the fight for police accountability and reform. This issue directly affects each and every one of us: It is not just a black issue, nor is it just a minority issue. It became a humanity issue when an unarmed man was choked to death despite repeatedly pleading, “I Can’t Breathe” eleven times, all without any consequence.

We commend the Department of Justice’s decision to further investigate Eric Garner’s death and hope these efforts, coupled with the awareness and unity on streets across the nation, will lead to the structural reform of policing practices and accountability penalties that are vital for the just America we all strive to live in equally.

A nation unites in protest with Eric Garner’s final words: “I Can’t Breathe.”

 

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Unity for Ferguson http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/11/unity-for-ferguson/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/11/unity-for-ferguson/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 18:37:35 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2118 As an international civil and human rights advocacy organization dedicated to representing minorities around the world, UNITED SIKHS stands united with the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who despite being unarmed, was shot six times by a police officer.

We join our partner communities around the United States in disappointment and sadness by the grand jury’s decision yesterday to not indict the police officer in question.

Sikh community members in the United States have been mistaken for terrorists ever since 9/11/2001 due to physical appearances. We, more than most, understand the feeling associated with being targeted and hated before given a chance. The increasing mistrust between law enforcement and minority communities needs to be addressed through education and sensitivity trainings, similar to those conducted by UNITED SIKHS in North Carolina, Mississippi, and New Jersey.

We stand with President Obama and the Brown family in hope that there will be peaceful and constructive protest and dialogue between the community and the government to address the bias and racial profiling issues still prevalent in our society.

UNITED SIKHS has engaged with civil rights partners and the White House for updates on what the Administration is doing to help Ferguson, and how we can assist. We also join hands with other advocacy groups in urging the Department of Justice to do everything in their power to investigate Brown’s death and the policing practices by the Ferguson Police Department, and bring justice to light.

 

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“The Army Is Making Me Choose Between My Faith and My Country” By Iknoor Singh http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/11/the-army-is-making-me-choose-between-my-faith-and-my-country-by-iknoor-singh/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/11/the-army-is-making-me-choose-between-my-faith-and-my-country-by-iknoor-singh/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 19:40:52 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2110 All my life, I’ve dreamed of serving my country.

But when I tried to enlist in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at Hofstra University, I was told I couldn’t because of my religious beliefs. I follow the Sikh faith, which requires that I keep my hair long and wear a turban and beard. The ROTC recruiters said I would not be able to enlist unless I complied with all Army grooming and uniform rules, which would require me to immediately cut my hair, shave off my beard, and remove my turban.

I couldn’t believe the military was asking me to make the impossible decision of choosing between the country I love and my faith.

Sikhs have had a long and rich tradition of military service in nations across the globe since World War I. Currently, we are allowed to serve in the armed forces of Canada, Great Britain, and India, among others. How is it possible that most Sikhs like me are prohibited from serving in the United States—a nation whose founding principle is religious freedom?

After learning that the Army had granted religious accommodations to several Sikhs and soldiers of other faiths, I decided to apply for one too, but my request was denied. The decision made little sense to me. In addition to religious accommodations that have been granted, the Army allows men to wear beards for medical reasons and wigs to cover baldness. Women may have long hair provided they keep it neat and out of the way. There is no indication that these existing grooming policies and accommodations have caused problems.

That’s why I decided to file a lawsuit with the help of UNITED SIKHS and the ACLU.  Religious beliefs and practices shouldn’t prevent military service where, as in my case, they don’t pose any risk to the military and they don’t harm others.

In the aftermath of 9/11, many Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims. The Sikh turban and beard were equated with terrorism. Sikhs became the victims of the unfortunate and sad wave of anti-Muslim sentiment that swept many parts of the country, including a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin two years ago.

Barring us from serving in the military because of our religious practices helps reinforce these hurtful stereotypes.  It is my hope that, when fellow Americans see Sikhs like me defending this great nation, the misperception of Sikhs being “terrorists” and “foreigners” will fade away. They will start judging Sikhs for who we are, based on our character, as opposed to how we look.

Many of my non-Sikh friends and peers have already joined the ROTC program or enlisted in various branches of the military. We had nurtured our dreams together to join the armed forces ever since we were little kids. I don’t want to be left behind just because I’m adhering to the tenets of the faith I was born into.

Choosing between one’s faith and serving one’s country is a decision that no one should have to make.

 

Iknoor Singh, Client and UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy Graduate

Iknoor Singh, Client and UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy Graduate

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In Remembrance of Balbir Singh Sodhi http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/09/in-remembrance-of-balbir-singh-sodhi/ Tue, 16 Sep 2014 01:19:36 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2106 Today, we remember Balbir Singh Sodhi, a hard working American, who lost his life to hate 13 years ago in Arizona. He was one of the first victims to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. As a practicing Sikh, Balbir wore a turban and sported a beard, leading his attacker to believe he was a terrorist. As Balbir was planting flowers outside his gas station, he was shot five times by his attacker.

Now, Balbir’s turban from that tragic day lies within the ‘Beyond Bollywood’ exhibit in the Natural History Museum in Washington, DC.

Mr. Rana Sodhi, Balbir’s brother, spoke to UNITED SIKHS about the memory of his brother and the fight against ignorance: “Since 9/11/2001, a lot of innocent people have been killed. Ignorance took my brother’s life. I lost two brothers in a 10 month period. Despite these things, i feel so proud to be a part of this country. The love and respect expressed by the government and community gives encouragement to my family to speak for justice and our freedoms. It gives me encouragement to make our country better. I am so proud of this country and I honor my brothers as I talk to elementary schools students and educate the community about our religion.”

The Sodhi family’s congressional representative, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (9-AZ), also commented, “Today we remember Balbir Singh Sodhi, whose life was cut short due to a vicious shooting. I condemn all acts of violence against innocent civilians; those who commit such acts should be held accountable. In America, we celebrate diversity, and it is in Balbir’s legacy that we must work to ensure that celebration. My deepest thoughts are with the family of Balbir.”

In July, UNITED SIKHS met with over 30 government and congressional offices to discuss issues of discrimination and hate. UNITED SIKHS is committed to fighting for the Sikh community’s rights to practice their religion freely in America, and abroad. We continue to work hard with the United States government to assure ignorance is quashed through education, and justice is brought forth for those who fall victim to hate.

If you are a victim of hate, report it here: http://unitedsikhs.org/reporthc.php

 

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UNITED SIKHS commends Canada Government on Kirpan Accomodation Policy in Canada Missions http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/04/united-sikhs-commends-canada-government-on-kirpan-accomodation-policy-in-canada-missions/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/04/united-sikhs-commends-canada-government-on-kirpan-accomodation-policy-in-canada-missions/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:13:30 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2101 On Monday, April 14, 2014, the government of Canada approved a new policy which allows Sikh visitors to Canadian missions abroad to wear kirpans. The new policy was announced by  Tim Uppal, minister of state (multiculturalism), on behalf of Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird. UNITED SIKHS commends Mr. Tim Uppal and the government of Canada for embracing religious freedom and taking the opportunity to understand the importance of the kirpan to the global Sikh community.

According to the statement, kirpan carriers must be sure to secure the kirpans within a sheath, attached to a fabric belt, and worn under the clothing across the torso. They must also follow the other four Sikh articles of faith: Kesh (uncut long hair), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (steel or iron bracelet), and a Kaccha (undergarment).

This is a victory for the Sikh community and demonstrates that Canada is one step closer to accepting the significance of the Sikh articles of faith and their deep rooting meaning to followers of the faith.

However, the struggles for kirpan acceptance has not always been universal in Canada. In 2011, the Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously to ban the kirpan from its premises. UNITED SIKHS created a press release and petition (which can be viewed here: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-27-02-2011-00.html and here: http://unitedsikhs.org/petitions/petition.php?id=14) to generate signatures contesting their decision. A report was also made to address the issue (http://unitedsikhs.org/docs/BackgrounderKirpaninCanada.docx.pdf).

Later in 2012, Toronto became the first city in Canada to create a policy allowing Sikhs to allow kirpans into courts.  In 2013, Alberta province  created a similar policy allowing kirpans in their courts. The kirpan has also been permitted at the Parliament of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada.

We at UNITED SIKHS will continue to push for kirpan accommodation policies in Canada and internationally.

 

 

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Statement of support and solidarity with the Jewish community after Kansas City attacks http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/04/statement-of-support-and-solidarity-with-the-jewish-community-after-kansas-city-attacks/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:45:57 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2097 Yesterday a well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader shot and killed 3 people in attacks at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement complex near Kansas City. UNITED SIKHS extend our support and prayers to those affected by these attacks and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.
In August 2012, a white supremacist similarly opened fire at a Sikh house of worship and the Sikh community continues to heal from this massacre in Wisconsin.
No community should have to face such criminal acts of hatred. It is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done to fight the ignorance which drives such attacks and we will assist the Jewish community in any way we can as they recover from these heinous acts of violence.

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New White House Initiative Brings Hope to Disadvantaged Youth http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/03/new-white-house-initiative-brings-hope-to-disadvantaged-youth/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2014/03/new-white-house-initiative-brings-hope-to-disadvantaged-youth/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 20:27:29 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2094 co-authored by Apneet Singh Sidhu

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (March 7, 2014) —On February 28th, 2014, President Obama unveiled his, “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative, which focuses on helping every disadvantaged youth find opportunities. Boys and young men of color, who are willing to work hard, will now have a new pipeline for mentorship, support networks, and skills. The Sikh community, in particular, is encouraged to partner with local businesses and organizations to help the next generation of Sikhs go to college and find good jobs. With recent news and involvement of young Sikhs getting involved in gang activity in neighborhoods and cities, such as Richmond Hill, Queens, and Vancouver, B.C., the timing of this initiative could not have been more imperative.

We at UNITED SIKHS have been working with Sikh community members who have asked us for help to bring positive influences to the youth in their community. As we continue to build a strong partnership with the parents of our youth and their respective communities, it is also important for Sikh leaders to engage young Sikhs across the U.S.A. and Canada. This is an issue of national importance. UNITED SIKHS believes every child deserves a chance and will continue to engage in dialogue to assure our youth stay on the right path to reach their full potential.

As President Obama noted in his speech, “They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.” This is the notion we need to instill in the youth facing obstacles in our community. If you would like to get involved, please contact us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org  or call 646-688-3525.

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