Author Archive

Advocacy and Legal Efforts Pay Off with Passage of New EEOC Guidelines

UNITED SIKHS is elated to convey the news about EEOC’s new guidelines on Religious Garb and Grooming in the workplace.  Now, businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban, nor can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress. That means that an employer cannot tell a Sikh that he/she will be given a position which does not involve dealing with patrons directly. Doing so would amount to a violation of EEOC’s guidelines.

We are humbled and proud at the same time to have directly and indirectly worked hard towards the implementation of these new guidelines. We vociferously raised this issue at every relevant forum, whether it was at meetings with Congressional offices, EEOC officials, and at the Department of Justice interagency meetings.  A little over six months ago, the EEOC made a determination in favor of our client, on her religious discrimination claims. It held that, “the evidence obtained in the investigation establishes reasonable cause to believe that the Respondent discriminated against the Charging Party because of her religion, Sikh, by failing to provide a religious accommodation, in violation of Title VII.” In this case, one of our client’s superiors had tormented her based on her new appearance. She had been newly initiated into the Sikh faith, and started wearing the turban (keski) to work. UNITED SIKHS is still actively pursuing this matter; we are now preparing to represent our client again at the upcoming EEOC conciliation proceedings.

We strongly believe that cases involving religious discrimination will be handled more justly with these guidelines in place. It is the persistent advocacy by us, other Sikh advocacy organizations, and the previously mentioned determination by the EEOC in favor of our client, which have vastly contributed towards the implementation of these new guidelines.

If you have personally been a victim of employment discrimination, please contact us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org  or call 646-688-3525. We will continue to take up similar cases of discrimination and injustice and bring them to their just conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNITED SIKHS supports FIFA’s Removal of Ban on Headwear

Following a meeting of the International Football Association Board in Zurich, FIFA has decided to lift a ban on head covers worn for religious purposes. This decision impacts both Muslim women and Sikh men who are required by their faith to wear religious head wear.

After FIFA expressed concerns of safety concerns, a two-year trial took place to see if head wear affected performance; no such effect was found.   The rule change will go into effect in June 2014.

Anisha Singh, Attorney and Policy Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, stated, “This is a step in the right direction for the understanding that religious head wear does not pose threats to safety.  It brings hope that the turban ban in effect in France, and being considered in Quebec, will also be put to rest soon. The United States military has also expressed concerns of religious head wear posing a threat to safety, and UNITED SIKHS will continue to fight to get such bans and measures reversed as well.”

“UNITED SIKHS was the only organization to obtain consent from parents of Sikh youths in Quebec to fight for their concerns regarding the patka ban in soccer there. We took the issue with FIFA, the Sports Minister, and all other related authorities. The issue was prominently discussed during the Canadian Sikh Summit in the Canadian Parliament in 2013.  FIFA ultimately gave the positive decision to allow patkas to be worn by Sikh youth while playing Soccer.” Deepinder Singh, Community Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, said.

UNITED SIKHS has also fought and won cases involving the turban ban in France, and advocated against any proposed turban ban in Quebec, through advocacy efforts worldwide.

 

 

US Sikhs ask French President Hollande to stop violating Freedom of Religion in France and adopt the UNHRC’s resolution at the 108th Session of the Committee’s sitting

February 11, 2014: Washington DC, DC:  UNITED SIKHS wrote to President Barack Obama to bring up the issue of the violation of the turban ban in France during the visit of French President Hollande.  During his trip, the French President met with Charlottesville, VA Mayor Satyendra Huja and President Barack Obama and was invited to the State Dinner.

“I have been a French citizen for more than 20 years. I continue to be proud to be French but I fail to see how my country can be proud of its slogan of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity if it cannot uphold its citizens’ fundamental right to religious freedom. I hope that the UNHRC’s decision will wake France up to its international obligations,” said Shingara Singh, who is struggling to conduct his life in France without an identity document.  His driver’s license had been refused because of his refusal to bare his head for the ID photograph.

“The UN Human Rights Committee has said that by requiring Shingara Singh to remove his turban for his passport photograph, France has violated his right to religious freedom that is guaranteed under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and that France must now re-examine his passport application and review the relevant laws to ensure that no violations of the same occur in the future,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS International Legal Director, who is at the fore-front of a legal campaign for French Sikhs’ right to wear their turban.

As per the the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s report, “The  Committee concludes that the regulations requiring him to appear in his passport photographs ‘with the head uncovered’ is a disproportionate restriction that poses a threat to the author’s [Shingara Singh’s] freedom of religion and thereby constitutes, in the present instance, a  violation of Article 18 of the Covenant.  The Covenant was entered into force for France on February 4, 1981.

Shingara Singh,  a French national, who refused to remove his turban for his passport photograph

Shingara Singh, a French national, who refused to remove his turban for his passport photograph

French President Hollande

French President Hollande

 

 

 

UNITED SIKHS Salutes New York City Mayor for Proposing Deal to End NYPD ‘Stop-and-Frisk’

New York, NY-On January 30th, 2014, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the city had reached an agreement over the NYPD’s ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy. This policy includes stopping, interrogating, and frisking minorities in the less affluent neighborhoods of New York City.

“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. De Blasio said at a news conference.

Due to its profiling nature, Sikhs and Muslims have been particular targets of this policy. The ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy was found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge about a year ago for this reason, finding it to be, “a policy of indirect racial profiling.”

The city has appealed this decision but Mayor De Blasio and Center for Constitutional Rights have announced that they will now settle the suits by pursuing the judge’s remedies.

“This is a positive step towards seeing an end to the ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy. It has been too long that Sikhs and other minorities living in or visiting New York City have been stopped and questioned because of their appearance, where they come from, or what neighborhood they happened to be in. The majority of these ‘stops’ were of people who are innocent,” said Anisha Singh, policy advocate and attorney for UNITED SIKHS.  “We thank Mayor Bill De Blasio for withdrawing the city’s appeal and embracing the judge’s remedies.”

UNITED SIKHS has received many complaints from New York residents who experienced ‘Stop-and-Frisk.’

The Stop-and-Frisk program in New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. The rules for stop, question and frisk are found in New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50. The stop-and-frisk program also aims to promote proactive policing. Proactive policing is the practice of deterring criminal activity by showing police presence and engaging the public to learn their concerns, thereby preventing crime from taking place in the first place. It began with former Mayor David Dinkins, 1990-1993. New York, having the reputation of being a dangerous crime infested city that it was, needed a turn around. Dinkins attempted to do this with a 1.8 billion dollar plan to fight fear in New York by hiring 8,000 new officers. NYC.gov shows the murder rate in New York City peaked in 1990 and dropped 30% by 1994. However, most of the credit goes to Dinkins’ successor, Rudy Giuliani.

UNITED SIKHS International Civil and Human Rights Directorate is here to assist you with hate/bias-related crimes and incidents. Examples include racial slurs and rudeness, such as spitting, name-calling etc., indirect discrimination in the workplace and behavior such as refusal of entry to places of leisure because of their particular racial features, and physical assaults against people resulting in loss of life and damage to property, including Gurdwaras and homes. If you or someone you know has experienced any of these harmful acts, please reach out to us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

 

Sikh Groups Call On Obama To Reinstate IRS Agent Fired For Wearing Religious Article Of Faith

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (February 2, 2014)—On January 28, 2014 letters were sent to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder by twelve major American Sikh advocacy organizations, including United Sikhs, calling on the Obama Administration to immediately reinstate Kawaljeet Tagore, a Sikh IRS Agent based out of Houston, TX fired in July, 2006 for wearing a kirpan, a Sikh religious article of faith.

Following her termination, Tagore sued the IRS and the Federal Protective Service (FPS),the federal agency responsible for the security of federal buildings, under Title VII and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for failing to accommodate her Sikh religious practice of wearing the kirpan, a dagger-like article that symbolizes the Sikhs’ commitment to justice.  Even though FPS and IRS allow saws, box cutters, letter openers, and cake knives into federal buildings for work-related purposes, the IRS and FPS defended Tagore’s lawsuit by claiming that a federal criminal law, 18 U.S.C. section 930, prohibits them from according Tagore any accommodation for her kirpan.

In 2012, a Houston federal judge sided with the government and dismissed Tagore’s lawsuit. However, on November 13, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—relying on a December, 2012 FPS Policy Directive that requires accommodation of kirpans —reversed the federal judge’s ruling in favor of FPS. The Fifth Circuit held that the new FPS Policy Directive “contradicts the arguments previously advanced by the government for denying Tagore an exception or exemption for the wearing of her kirpan.

Yet, to date, the government has refused to reinstate Tagore to her position as an IRS agent, compensate her, or accommodate her kirpan.

“A hard working IRS agent is being kept from work due to her religious beliefs in a country founded on diversity and religious freedom. The FPS has already allowed 2.5 inch kirpans in almost 9,000 federal buildings but will not allow Ms. Tagore to wear her kirpan to work in an IRS building. Now that this inconsistency has been addressed by the Fifth Circuit, it is time to give Ms. Tagore her job back,” said Anisha Singh, staff attorney and policy advocate for United Sikhs.

In their letter, United Sikhs, along with other Sikh advocacy groups, claim that the “IRS and FPS’ continuing violation of Ms. Tagore’s right to religious accommodation is contrary not only to RFRA and FPS Directive 15.9.3.1 but to the guiding principles and tenets of the Obama Administration,” including an Executive Order that requires federal agencies to promote diversity. The Sikh groups call on Obama to “direct the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, IRS, and FPS to appropriately resolve” Tagore’s lawsuit, by “reinstating her employment with the IRS and providing her with an exemption to wear her kirpan to work.”

2013-02-14-Kawaljeet-Kaur-Tagore

Department of Defense Introduces New Religious Guidelines: UNITED SIKHS Statement

Washington, DC- On January 22, 2014, we learned that the Department of Defense released new policy instructions addressing religious accommodations in the military.  They can be viewed here: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/130017p.pdf

We at UNITED SIKHS welcome these new revisions and believe it is a step in the right direction. It speaks to the hard work we and other Sikh organizations have put in to bring this to the government’s attention.  This new instruction shows that concerns for religious freedom in the military are finally being considered and debated by our government.

However, these revisions still include a presumptive ban on the Sikh articles of faith. The new standard continues to give the military full discretion to deny a Sikh from serving this country while maintaining his faith. Sikh Americans are still being forced to request an accommodation and wait, and hope, that the military will provide them with an accommodation. They still must worry that an accommodation will be denied because a finding was made that such a denial “serves a compelling government interest.”

We will continue to work on a national level with other Sikh organizations so that Sikhs in America may serve in the U.S. Military, with their articles of faith intact, without having to choose between the two.

UNITED SIKHS CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SIKH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR

By Anisha Singh and Manmeet Singh

Dr. Prabhjot Singh

Dr. Prabhjot Singh image taken from Fox6

On Sunday, September 22, 2013, Dr. Prabhjot Singh was walking on 110th Street in upper Manhattan, New York, when individuals began yelling anti-Muslim remarks him.  They knocked Dr. Singh down and punched him several times in his face, resulting in bruising, swelling, a puncture in his elbow, and a possible fractured jaw.

Dr. Singh is a doctor in East Harlem and an assistant professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.  The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force and Columbia University’s Department of Public Safety are investigating this as a hate crime.

This is not the first time a Sikh American has been attacked while walking.  In California we have had many cases of Sikh Americans being attacked and in New York and New Jersey we have seen Sikh children being bullied and attacked in their own schools.  Due to misconceptions after September 11, 2001 and little knowledge about world religions, Sikhs are seen as members of Al Qaeda because their turbans and beards are equated with terrorism.

Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SIKH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR’ »

Campaign Against the Death Penalty in India

By Gareth Sims, Human Rights Law Network

The death penalty is judicial murder”

                                  Former Supreme Court Judge K T Thomas, 27 April 2013

 

The demand for ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY today got a boost when a conference was organized at Constitution Club, New Delhi, where renowned speakers from the legal academic and NGO fraternity strongly came out with the demand that the death penalty should be abolished from Statue books with immediate effect. The ‘Campaign Against the Death Penalty’  comprising of distinguished jurists, senior lawyers, human rights groups, academics, NGOs and activists have strongly asserted the demand  in wake of the disappointing return to capital punishment in the country.  The secretive and barbaric nature of these executions has added to the alarm and concern among the activists.

From left to right: Colin Gonsalves (Snr advocate Supreme court of India and Director of HRLN), Shailesh Rai (Amnesty International), Professor Anup Surendranath (National Law University Delhi), Suhas Chakma (Asia Centre for Human Rights), Razia Ismail Abbazi (India Alliance for Child Rights), Henri Tipghane (People’s Watch), Iftikar Gilani (Journalist).

From left to right: Colin Gonsalves (Snr advocate Supreme court of India and Director of HRLN), Shailesh Rai (Amnesty International), Professor Anup Surendranath (National Law University Delhi), Suhas Chakma (Asia Centre for Human Rights), Razia Ismail Abbazi (India Alliance for Child Rights), Henri Tipghane (People’s Watch), Iftikar Gilani (Journalist).

Speaking on the occasion Justice A.K Ganguly, Retired Supreme Court Judge, said the fact that Supreme Court in 2009 itself accepted that they have erred in hanging six persons by not following the ratio of the Bachan Singh judgment is a powerful reminder for abolition. The argument that the death penalty amounts to punishment is erroneous since it ends the possibility a person reforming, which is intrinsic to the very concept of punishment. The handing of the death penalty has become dangerous because of its arbitrary and judge centric nature and he strongly demanded its abolition.

Death is not a punishment it is killing…something that is irreversible cannot be a punishment. Death sentence is a full stop not a coma. “

On the case of Professor Bhullar, Justice Ganguly stated “The split verdict was granted in case of Bhullar- If two  judges say he is guilty and one says he is not, then give him life imprisonment but the death sentence in his case is atrocious, unethical, and barbaric.”

Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India

Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India

Anup Surendranath, Professor of law at the National Law University Delhi, analysed the inconsistent approach to alleged terror cases and other “heinous crimes” applied by the Supreme Court in awarding the death penalty pointed out that even Israel, a country which is known for its harsh and uncompromising approach to terrorism understands that the death sentence does not deter terrorism.

Journalist Iftikar Gilani, discussed the situation in Kashmir and drew our attention to two contrasting outcomes where individuals had and had not been executed.  In the first situation, the hanging led to further unrest and the deaths of thousands.  In the latter, the person who was finally released was responsible for the negotiation of a peace accord, saving the lives of thousands.

 Dr. V Suresh, General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) emphasized the decision to execute is to a great extent decided by political considerations and the Supreme Court in Professor Bhullar’s case has increased the possibility of its misuse by creating a new category of ‘terrorist’ while considering the mercy petition. He adds that the ethnic and social status bias is quite evident in death penalty sentencing: Dalits, minorities and the poor are overwhelmingly more likely to go to the gallows.

A statement to the conference by Justice MB Shah (who found that Professor Bhullar should be acquitted), was read by Satnam Singh Bains, Barrister from the UK,

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Reiterated MB Shah’s concerns over the Bhullar case:

“A Confessional statement made before a police (under TADA) would not be sufficient for imposing death sentence because there would be always a room for doubt…. In any set of circumstance, this was a very good case for allowing mercy petition, without being inference by any extraneous reasons…. If such confessional statements are relied for imposing death sentence, number of innocent persons would stand convicted.”

Satnam highlighted the role of some sections of the media who irresponsibly reporting alleged terrorist offences (as in Bhullar’s case) creating a hostile public atmosphere towards those on death row.  He pointed out that Professor Bhullar has never been convicted for being a member of a proscribed organisation, or for any other offences relating to a terrorist group.  Satnam also analysed the inherent flaws in Bhullar’s conviction.

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Shailesh Rai of Amnesty International discussed the “lethal lottery” of the death penalty by analysing a number of judgments. He highlighted the inconsistent and arbitrary manner in which the Supreme Court, in similar kinds of cases, makes its judgements – not so much by legal consideration but by the whim of the judge(s) hearing the case

Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, discussed how after the December 16 rape case the media deliberately tried to reduce the debate to the single demand of hanging the rapist. The women’s movement, to a great extent succeeded in exposing the mask of the patriarchal forces that were hiding their real bias against women’s freedom behind the demand of ‘Hang the Rapist’. It is very significant that the progressive women’s movements are against the death penalty for rape, holding that the death penalty is not part of the solution to a much deeper rooted problem.

From left to right: Dr V Suresh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Satnam Singh Bains (UK Barrister), Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Kavita Krishnan (All India Progressive Women Association), Navneet Kaur Bhullar (wife of Professor Bhullar).

From left to right: Dr V Suresh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Satnam Singh Bains (UK Barrister), Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Kavita Krishnan (All India Progressive Women Association), Navneet Kaur Bhullar (wife of Professor Bhullar).

Reprieve’s Meagan Lee (from the United Kingdom) , Stated that Professor Bhullar’s case is an exceptional one. The Indian Supreme Court’s recent affirmation of  the death sentence in his case is inconsistent with the international standards that have been developed in relation to “death-row” phenomenon. She stated that such prolonged delays can constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture. There’s been a continued global decline in application of he death penalty, with only 21 countries in the world known to have carried out executions in 2012. India has also voted against UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.”

Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar, told of her moving 18 year fight for Justice and the journey of pain and agony that she has gone through to seek justice for Professor Bhullar. Since the 2002 Supreme Court verdict she has lobbied the Indian, German, and United Kingdom Governments as well as the European Union.  She thanked all the delegates, those in India and abroad who had taken up the case of Professor Bhullar.

Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate (Left), Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar (right)

Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate (Left), Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar (right)

Razia Ismail Abazzi from the India Alliance for Child Rights, spoke on the issue of juvenile justice.  She pertinently stated that the issue is not whether someone who is a few months above the age of 18 can be executed and someone a few months the other way cannot be executed, but simply that there should not be the death penalty for anyone of any age.

Henry Tipghane from People’s Watch spoke on the death sentences passed on the alleged associates of Veerappan now aged in their 60s. As with many death row cases there had been an inordinate delay. Henry highlighted the gross human rights violations committed by the Special Task force, purportedly established to catch Veerappan, which included torture, custodial deaths, and rape, has gone unpunished.  He highlighted the contradiction between the failure of the Indian state to secure justice for the victims before the NHRC and members of the security forces involved in human rights violation being accelerated for promotion.

Colin Gonsalves, Snr Advocate of the Supreme Court and Director of HRLN

Colin Gonsalves, Snr Advocate of the Supreme Court and Director of HRLN

Colin Gonsalves Senior Advocate of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) moderated the sessions and emphasized that this is not the first and nor the last effort to abolish the death penalty. It should go on till we succeed in removing these draconian provisions from statue books.

The speakers who spoke on the occasion were Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, Director of Human Rights Law Network , Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Razia Iamail Abbazi, Indian Alliance for Child Rights, Iftikar Gillani, Journalist, Henri Tipghane, People’s watch, Shailesh Rai, Amnesty International, Professor Anup Surendranath, NLU Delhi, Meagan Lea, Reprieve, Gurvinder Singh Sidhu, Secretary Lawyers for Justice, Satnam Singh Bains, UK Barrister, Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women Association, Suhas Chakma, Asian Centre for Human Rights, Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar, Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate, and Smriti Minocha of HRLN, .

Around 200 people participated in the conference which was organised by Human Rights Law Network in collaboration with Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Free Bhullar Campaign, PVCHR, AISA,  Anhad, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, , Indian Alliance for Child Rights,  Lawyers for Human Rights International, Lawyers for Justice, People’s Watch, SHRG and other NGOs.

The full conference will be available on you tube under the heading “Campaign against the Death Penalty India Conference 10/5/2013” 

CA Elderly Sikh Man Attacked, Humiliated, Disrespected: Bias Crimes MUST be STOPPED!

Written by Sharon Persaud and Anisha Singh

 

Fresno, California– BIAS ATTACK, HATE CRIME, BRUTALITY… no matter what it is called, IT MUST STOP NOW! This week, a California, elderly, Sikh man was violently attacked outside the gurdwara he faithfully attends to practice his religion. Eighty-two year-old Piara Singh, was beaten with a steel pipe outside a Fresno temple in what police believe is a hate crime. Singh spends his nights at Nanaksar Sikh Temple in Fresno, California, to watch over the grounds and prepare langaar, the free daily meals that Sikh temples traditionally serve. According to his nephew, Charanjit Sihota, on the morning of Sunday, May 5th, 2013, , Singh left the temple grounds for a morning walk dressed in his usual traditional clothing. Singh’s son, Kawal Singh, was driving to the temple to pick up his father when up ahead he saw a man jump off his bicycle and beat Singh with something metal. He honked the horn and called 911.[1] Singh is expected to make a full physical recovery after suffering a punctured lung, fractured jaw and staples in his head due to lacerations.

But what about Singh’s emotional recovery? Too often, members of the Sikh community become victims to hate crimes, bias-based bullying, and discrimination throughout the United States.While we live in a country created by many cultures, races, and religions, we still see these attacks frequently occurring even in the 21st century. Because Singh wears a turban on his head does not mean he is any different from the Caucasian man waiting for the bus, or the African American man entering the store, or the Hispanic woman playing with her child in the playground. Just like them, he is a husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend.  He is a human being regardless of the faith he follows.

Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), co-chair of the American Sikh Caucus, released a solemn statement to the public stating, “My heart broke when I heard about the suspected hate crime on Piara Singh, an elderly Sikh man dedicated to his faith and his community. He was doing what he did every day, volunteering at his gurdwara, when a man viciously attacked him.  In the wake of Oak Creek and Elk Grove, it is clear that hysteria and stereotyping are still far too common.  We must combat the growing wave of violence and intolerance that threatens the safety and civil liberties of all Americans, including the Sikh American community. That is why I have pushed the FBI to finally begin tracking hate crimes against the American Sikh community.  This will help law enforcement officers in every locality to do all they can to prevent violence against this – and all – communities.  We cannot wait any longer.”

Since September 11, the world has been gripped by fear and many minority communities, including the Sikh community, have suffered from the backlash of misinformation and ignorance. The first reprisal killing after Sept 11 was of a Turban wearing Sikh in Arizona, who was mistaken as belonging to the group which perpetrated the 9/11 incident. Sikhs, due to their unique appearance, have since been a target of hate and bias crime and discrimination. Every week, UNITED SIKHS receives reports from Sikh adults and children who are victims of race-based hate crimes and those being denied their right to practice their religion. A Sikh’s right to wear his articles of faith has been challenged in schools, the workplace, prisons and other public places. Sikhs also suffer increased harassment by TSA officials at airports because they wear the Turban.

While the fear of another attack is understood, nothing justifies channeling that fear through violence towards others based on stereotypes perpetuated by the media.  UNITED SIKHS continues to work to stop the cycle by creating awareness of these issues amongst authorities and the public through talks, seminars, and multifaith events. In addition, UNITED SIKHS offers advice, counsel and legal representation to those whose legal rights are being denied by errant and mis-informed authorities and the public.

Manvinder Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director, attended the town hall meeting at Nanaksar Sikh Temple in Fresno on the evening of Tuesday, May 7th to discuss this vicious attack on Piara Singh. There were 300 attendees including police officials and Fresno’s Police Chief that spoke out against hate crimes and the need to educate society on the Sikh religion and its worshippers.

 

1. Marcum, Diana. “Sikh Man, 82, Beaten with Pipe in Fresno in Suspected Hate Crime.” Los Angeles Times., 8 May 2013. Web. 9 May 2013.

 

Mr. Piara Singh

Mr. Piara Singh

UNITED SIKHS cosponsor and speak at the “NYC 2013: Electing the Right(s) Mayor” Forum

On Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 2pm, the Arab American, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian community of New York gathered at New York University to hear where mayoral candidates stand on important issues affecting our community.  The packed room listened in as moderator Errol Louis, of NY1, asked candidates tough questions.  Mayoral candidates in attendance were: Sal Albanese, Bill de, Blasio, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., John C. Liu, Christine C. Quinn, Erick Salgado, and Bill Thompson.  UNITED SIKHS cosponsored this event and policy advocacy and representative, Anisha Singh, asked the candidates how they would address bias-based bullying.

Anisha asked the candidates about their bias-based bullying prevention initiatives. She stated, “Three out of four Sikh American boys are bullied in the United States due to their appearance.  They were called Bin Laden, terrorist, and told to go ‘back to their country’ even if they were born and raised in the United States. Too many of our children are victims of hate crimes. In 2008, a Sikh boy’s turban was lit on fire by a classmate in New Jersey.  That same year a New York City Sikh girl’s uncut, sacred, hair was forcibly cut by a classmate.  A year later, another New York City Sikh boy was punched and harassed daily for about a year and nothing was done for him until it escalated to disturbing degrees of violence.  Those are just three examples within a period of a year.  Our children are afraid to go to school and are constantly looking over their shoulder with this fear, all at such a young age.  As Mayor, what preventative measured are you going to take to ensure our children are not victims of bullying and hate crimes in their schools?” she asked.

In response to the question, candidates and audience members gasped and began tweeting their thoughts (for more see: #Right4NY). Sal Albanese spoke on his experience working in public school education and his belief that the message must go out to the public that bullying will not be tolerated.  Bill de Blasio gained applause from the audience when he addressed the issue by stating that “we as a nation have let go of civics at a time when it is most vital for civic education to become a priority.”  Adolfo Carrion said “it will be his mayoral directive to speak to parents of children who bully other children to make sure they are educated.”  He also said that this was an issue that was “swept under the rug” and thanked Anisha for highlighting the issue.  Christine Quinn responded by saying that, “just as students are victims of bullying and are afraid to walk into their school buildings, so are the teachers and staff who also get victimized.”  To address this she posed the implementation of staff trainings for teachers and, if elected, she would visit schools with bullying incidents the morning after the incident happened.  Erick Salgado said there should be “zero tolerance” for bullying and there needs to be a hotline for reporting these bullying incidents.

John Liu stole the spotlight by speaking at length about Sikh advocacy work. He started by thanking UNITED SIKHS for our work and pointing out that Sikh advocacy groups work hard to come up with free curriculum kits for school to use to educate their students on Sikhism yet these kits are ignored by the schools.  He also pointed out that complaints to the Department of Education are not taken seriously but that these complaints and incidents need to be addressed and even tracked.  Finally, he spoke on how the NYPD does not allow Sikhs to wear turbans while on the police force and this also needs to change.  Bill Thompson agreed with Liu about getting rid of the NYPD turban regulation in order to show Sikhs are a part of and accepted by the community.

Other memorable moments at the forum included opening statements and other important questions posed to the candidates. In her opening statement, Christine C. Quinn stated, “[We should be] bringing communities together, not ripping them apart.” Bill de Blasio spoke on the need for Muslim Holidays and John C. Liu recognized that our communities suffered the most.

Other questions posed to the candidates included topics of religious freedom, police accountability, free speech, and Muslim school holidays.  In light of the “Ground Zero Mosque” opposition, candidates asked what they would do as mayor to ensure that people of faith are able to build places of worship and that no neighborhood in our city is off limits to any community.  In addition, candidates were informed that zero leads have been produced from years of warrantless spying and profiling by the NYPD on Muslim and Sikh Americans.  When candidates were asked to raise their hands if they thought the current NYPD surveillance program is unconstitutional, only John C. Liu and Erick Salgado raised their hands.  John Liu added, “America is a place of religious freedom.  How can anyone here think it is okay to spy on people just because they look Muslim?” All other candidates present claimed that while they thought the NYPD surveillance is constitutional, they think it is wrong.  Nourah AbuShaban, an NYU student, also asked the candidates to speak on the protection of free speech.

To see the buzz from the event, search #Right4NY on twitter and read comments from candidates, participants, and the audience.

 

Anisha Singh, Policy Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, asks candidates about bias-based bullying

Anisha Singh, Policy Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, asks candidates about bias-based bullying

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates