Civil Rights – 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 I can now wear my Kirpan for my examination this Saturday http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2016/06/i-can-now-wear-my-kirpan-for-my-examination-this-saturday/ Fri, 03 Jun 2016 05:24:21 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2407 “My MP said he could not help me because it was not under his purview and a Sikh Govt Minister said that I should be prepared to take my CFA level 2 examination this Saturday without wearing my Kirpan”, Rattan Deep Singh of New Delhi.

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Rattan Deep Singh: “Within four days of taking up the matter, UNITED SIKHS delivered what they had assured me of. The CFA Institute have been kind enough to reconsider their decision and allow me to wear the kirpan during my exam on Saturday.”

Dear Friends
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!

Today, first thing in the morning, I saw a message from Mejindarpal Kaur of UNITED SIKHS and I almost sprang out of my bed. It was a head over heels moment for me. It read, “CFA Institute has allowed you to wear the kirpan. Check your mail. Vaheguroo.”

Delighted, elated, overwhelmed, excited, thrilled, ecstatic were some of the few emotions that I went through at that time.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute is a prestigious USA-based global association of more than 120,000 investment professionals, and I had been preparing to sit for their level 2 exams so I could be a charter holder in the near future. But last week I was informed by the CFA Institute that I would have to sit for my exams without wearing my kirpan, a mandatory Sikh kakaar (article of faith) that I have been wearing since I took amrit (became an initiated Sikh) in April. They said that under the ‘Institute’s exam security policy, knives of any type including box cutters, swords, or any other object that could be used as a weapon is not permitted.’

It all started on May 20th this year. I was preparing for my CFA Level 2 exams when I read a news article that a Sikh student in Haryana (India) was barred from entering the examination hall to do the engineering entrance exam. He took a brave step of taking a stand and was denied entry and lost out on 40 precious minutes of his exam time.

That incident incredulously involved an Indian examination authority. My exam however is conducted by a Virginia (USA) based institute, in over 150 countries, and was scheduled for June 4 in the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. To avoid any last moment complications, I wrote an email to the CFA Institute asking them to confirm that I would not face any problem wearing a kirpan during the examination. But to my shock, they said I could not wear my kirpan. According to their mail dated 25th May, the CFA Institute said that they respected my religious beliefs but that their exam security policy excluded the carrying of knives of any type including box cutters, swords, or any other object that could be used as a weapon.

Weapon! It just struck me. An article of faith that bore the qualities of mercy (kripa) and self-respect (aan) is today perceived by the world as just another knife or weapon? It didn’t go down well. I was given this kirpan by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the 10th Sikh Guru) himself through the Punj Pyare (5 Beloved Ones) who initiated me on April 13 of this year. Guru Sahib made me wait for a good 26 years of my life before bestowing me with this kirpan; before giving me the ambrosial nectar (amrit); before making me a part of his army, his panth – the Khalsa (the sovereign). How can I remove my kirpan for the sake of an exam? My forefathers include martyrs Baba Deep Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, my brothers – the Sahibzada’s, they all put their blood into the roots of this plant called Sikhi. I am blessed to be reborn in the family whose history comprise of valiant warriors fighting for the sake of righteousness, be it for others (kirpa) or themselves (aan).

I, therefore, decided not to be a part of a course or an institute that doesn’t respect my religion. I decided to quit! This is exactly when Guru Gobind Singh Ji called upon me to say, “Khalsa so, jo kare nitt Jung” (He is a Khalsa, who does battle every day).

Hence, it was decided. Quitting is not an option for a member of this family for whom “Rann tatta dekh soore chit ullaas”, who actually feel joyous in the midst of a raging war. To shriek away, to cower, to quit is never taught to us. We would rather prefer to die fighting than live as a quitter. “Jab aav ki oudh nidhaan bane, Att he rann me tab joojh maro”! Then so be it! I was determined that whatsoever happens in this case, no other person of Sikh brotherhood shall be subject to such discrimination, especially by premier educational institutions.

It was time that the world realized that this so called weapon was bestowed by the Gurus not just as a mark of power but with an obligation also, “Choo kar az huma heelate darguzasht, Halaal-ast burdan b-shamsheer dast” – in order to stop evil from running through, use all possible strategies and resources available; and when you are left with no other option, then to fight oppression it would be apt for you to pick up the sword!

On 26th May I sent the CFA Institute an email explaining my legal rights to wear the kirpan, under the Indian Constitution, and the stand taken by various governments worldwide in accommodating the kirpan, including the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, Australia, the UK, amongst others. Meanwhile, I sought help from various organizations who protect and uphold human rights around the world. After getting a cold reply from a couple of them and no reply from the majority, one Mejindarpal Kaur of UNITED SIKHS came forward to help.

Till that time, I didn’t know who the UNITED SIKHS people were or what they do as an organization. All I knew was that my Guru is on my side at all times, “Guru mere sang sada hai naale”.

Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS, took up this matter herself. She herself called me up, heard my side of the story, discussed the case in depth and assured me her best efforts. I didn’t know what was in store for me as the exam was just a week away by then.

Initially, I wasn’t even sure if my case will be taken up seriously or not. What would an organization based in the UK, in the name of charity, do for a person they haven’t ever seen; didn’t know he even existed before that day; who they can never trace if he refused later on? I was skeptical. That’s what an analyst is supposed to be though. So I was trying other options as well. I went to my Member of Parliament who said my case did not fall under his purview even though it involved the violation of my fundamental constitutional right in India (article 25 of Indian Constitution accommodates right of Sikhs to wear a kirpan everywhere, all the time). He referred the case to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee ( DSGMC) as the matter related to the Sikh religion, who referred me further to a Sikh Govt Minister in Uttar Pradesh, where the examination center was located. Incredibly this Minister said that any kirpan or Kakaar doesn’t make one a Sikh. His comments were heart wrecking. Broken that I was to have heard such a thing from a Sikh.

On the other hand, Mejindarpal Kaur blew away all my doubts! She tapped all possible resources and avenues that I didn’t even know existed! All by herself, she reached to the highest level at the CFA Institute, Members of Parliament in India, High Court lawyers, authorities of the venue where the exam was held and many more. Almost single handedly, she shook all the authorities. I didn’t even have to step out of my house (as she said I should study for the examination). She took it upon herself, as if it was her own case; as if her personal right was at stake. And she did all this while her mother was ill in Malaysia! Dhan Guru, Dhan Guru ke Sikh! Maybe that’s why Guru Saab says, “Jo deese Gursikhda tis niv niv laagu paaye jiyo!”

Within four days of taking up the matter, UNITED SIKHS delivered what they had assured me of. The CFA Institute have been kind enough to reconsider their decision and allow me to wear the kirpan during my exam on Saturday. They have also decided to take up UNITED SIKHS offer to help them look at their policy the world over for the accommodation of the kirpan.

I thank Pritham Bhagauti, the Almighty, my Guru Sahib, UNITED SIKHS, Mr. Paul Smith – President and CEO of the CFA Institute for reconsidering their policy for the sake of religious freedom and human rights, Senior Advocate Amarjeet Singh Chandhiok who was ready to offer his pro bono services if needed and Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi MP of Patiala, who was kind enough to write a letter to my MP, the CFA Institute and the exam center authorities. I thank my family – for standing by my decision of not entering the examination hall by removing my kirpan. I thank Rhythm Kaur (my younger sister) who was instrumental in this fight, without whom I might not have been able to carry on due to a shortage of time and the necessity to prepare for the examination, she handled all my communications, etc.

I never thought that there will be someone in another corner of this world who would take up this battle even more seriously and sincerely than myself. I just can’t thank UNITED SIKHS enough! I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and I do hereby pledge my all possible services that UNITED SIKHS feel me worthy of performing.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! (The Khalsa is The Great Gurus, Victory is the Great Guru’s)

Rattan Deep Singh, New Delhi

*UNITED SIKHS (www.unitedsikhs.org) is a UN-affiliated civil and human rights advocacy organization that is a registered NGO in 10 countries including India, UK and the USA, which works tirelessly to engage, empower, and safeguard the rights of minority communities worldwide and protecting religious freedoms is a cornerstone of their mandate.

Please watch our videos at UNITEDSIKHSTV and follow us our social media Facebook | Twitter | Blog.and see how your contribution is making a difference. If you have any queries regarding Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy call 1-646-688-3525 or email contact@unitedsikhs.org oracademy-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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U.S. Army Accomodates First Active Duty Religious Beard in Decades http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/12/u-s-army-accomodates-first-active-duty-religious-beard-in-decades/ Tue, 15 Dec 2015 23:10:49 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2334 USA: Months after Iknoor Singh won his right to enroll in the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) , the first accommodation of a religious beard for an active-duty U.S. soldier in decades was granted to Captain Simratpal Singh, 27, last week.

Simratpal Singh (New York Times)

Captain Singh began his career as a West Point cadet at seventeen years old. In the last ten years, Singh has cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star for his valiant services. But his passion to serve and protect others cost him his Sikh identity: from his time as a cadet until last week, Singh was forced to cut his hair and shave his beard–acts that are forbidden in the Sikh faith. As articulated by Singh in an interview where he discussed the requirement to shed his articles of faith, “Your self-image, what you believe in, is cut away.” While Singh’s honorable deeds as a soldier in the last decade exemplify Sikhism’s message to protect those in need and fight for justice, he was forced to routinely cut away the features that identified him as a Sikh to do so. Singh is not the first Sikh American whose ability to serve in the armed forces while maintaining his articles of faith has been challenged. However, Sikhs have been serving in international militias with their articles of faith throughout history, including during World Wars I and II.

Sikh personnel in Belgium in 1915. More than 169,000 Sikh soldiers laid down their lives fighting in the World Wars.

Just last month, Canada’s Harjit Singh Sajjan became the first baptized Sikh to serve as Minister of Defense in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. This comes after a career as an active-duty member of the military, during which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and served three deployments to Afghanistan. When his religious beard posed the obstacle of preventing the use of a gas mask, Sajjan patented a gas mask he designed himself that could be worn over his religious beard. During his first appearance as Minister in the House of Commons last Monday, Sajjan was met with a standing ovation.

Sajjan was sworn in last month. 

UNITED SIKHS is pleased to see this exemption granted to a truly deserving American. While the years that Singh was forced to renounce his Sikh identity cannot be given back to him, we are hopeful that the victories of Sikh Americans in the U.S. Army this year will continue to serve as a precedent for years to come.

“Iknoor Singh approached UNITED SIKHS when he seventeen years old–the same age that Simratpal Singh first cut his hair to begin his training ten years ago. After a two year battle, Iknoor was spared of the ten-year turmoil endured by his fellow Sikh American when justice was ruled in his favor this year. We hope to see times continue to change in favor of unity and acceptance in 2016 and beyond,” said UNITED SIKHS’ Staff Attorney Jaspreet Kaur.

Manmeet Singh, Counsel to UNITED SIKHS added, “The decision by the Federal Court of DC earlier this year in Iknoor Singh’s case has turned the tide towards acceptance of Sikhs in the U.S. armed forces, the most recent example of which is the accommodation given to Capt.Simratpal Singh. In Iknoor Singh’s case, it was the first time in decades that a court of law granted relief to a Sikh on the issue of religious accommodation in the armed forces. This case was a trendsetter, and we are elated that its aftereffects are being seen in the form of accommodations to well deserving soldiers such as Capt.Singh. The legal team at UNITED SIKHS is proud to have served attorneys of record in Iknoor Singh’s case along with attorneys at the ACLU.”

Please make your tax-deductible year end donation today to help us protect civil rights around the world.

 

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

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How Can You Make a Difference this Human Rights Day? http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/12/how-can-you-make-a-difference-this-human-rights-day/ Thu, 10 Dec 2015 19:36:39 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2318

15 year old Gurpreet Singh was a proud Sikh teenager in Panjab who had been wearing his patka to school since he was three and was soon to start wearing his Turban. That was before his family moved to Belgium. Today, he attends his Catholic school in Brugge, Belgium bareheaded, with his unshorn hair tied in a ponytail. This is despite a case won by UNITED SIKHS lawyers last year in the Belgian Supreme Court (Conseil d’etat), which ruled that two Sikh boys who attended another type of school should be allowed to wear their patke (head coverings) to school. UNITED SIKHS’ advocacy battle for turbans in Belgium continues as we move from the courtroom to the Church, so that civil society recognizes that a Sikh’s turban constitutes his identity.

Today, December 10th, 2015, we celebrate the 65th annual Human Rights Day–a day officiated by the United Nations (UN) in 1950 to commemorate the importance of global human and civil rights. While there is still work to be done to protect the fundamental freedoms and innate rights of all, UNITED SIKHS made great strides towards this ideal all over the world this year. As a UN-affiliated organization, we are dedicated to advocating on behalf of minority communities in every corner of the world.

It is only through your support that we were able to sustain these efforts this year, and prepare to protect Human Rights in 2016: Currently, our team is set to launch our European Refugee Relief Effort in the coming weeks, through which we aim to serve hot meals to thousands of Syrian refugees arriving in Macedonia, Europe everyday. If you are interested in volunteering with us for this effort, please email us atvolunteer@unitedsikhs.org. Our team is tirelessly working towards protecting everyone’s rights. Please support us in our efforts.

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

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Bandi Chhor Diwas: A 396-Year-Old Civil Rights Victory http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/11/bandi-chhor-diwas-a-396-year-old-civil-rights-victory/ Wed, 11 Nov 2015 23:55:58 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2263 UNITED SIKHS wishes its supporters a prosperous and blessed Bandi Chhor Diwas today, November 11. On this day in 1619, the sixth Sikh prophet Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison. Upon his release, Guru Hargobind Ji requested that 52 Hindu princes who were political prisoners in the same fort be released along with him. The Emperor Jahangir decreed that as many princes that could hold on to the hem of Guru Hargobind Ji’s shirt could be freed. Thus Guru Hargobind Ji had a special shirt with multiple hems made, and every prisoner held on and attained liberation.

As we celebrate Bandi Chhor Diwas, we remember the duty one has to advocate for the rights of not only oneself, but for all individuals facing unjust treatment. We attain inspiration from the actions of Guru Hargobind Ji 396 years ago to stand unwavering for civil rights–whether it is in the United States, when we fought alongside Iknoor Singh for his right to serve in the U.S. Army, or in India yesterday, where we stood with hundreds of thousands of individuals during the Sarbat Khalsa of 2015 to condemn recent misgovernance and call for reform.

It is through your support that we are able to advocate for the civil rights of minorities all over the world. Donate today to help us continue our efforts.

 

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CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST KIRPAN-WEARING TEENAGER DROPPED http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/10/criminal-charges-against-kirpan-wearing-teenager-dropped/ Sat, 10 Oct 2015 17:09:19 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2229 Criminal charges against 17-year-old Virender Singh were dismissed by the Criminal Court of the City of New York, County of Queens about a week ago.

Virender, an initiated Sikh, was arrested and charged with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, while wearing a kirpan, or religious sword, which is one of the five Sikh articles of faith. He was arrested in South Ozone Park, Queens while walking to the gurudwara, or Sikh place of worship, to offer evening prayers as part of his daily routine. He tried his best to convince the officers that what he was carrying was an article of faith, and that he is supposed to carry it on his person at all times-even while showering and sleeping-but to no avail. He was arrested and taken to the local precinct for processing.

The UNITED SIKHS legal team appointed and worked with attorneys Manmeet Singh, Counsel to UNITED SIKHS representing the Law Offices of Manmeet Singh, P.C., and Enrico DeMarco to fight this case. The attorneys appeared in court on behalf of Virender, and subsequently filed a motion to dismiss this Case in the Furtherance of Justice. At a court hearing about a week ago, the prosecution conceded and the judge accepted the Motion to Dismiss. Attorney Manmeet Singh remarked, “We are pleased that Virender, who is currently in high school and aspires to be an engineer, can now pursue his dreams without any fear. By now, there is enough legal precedent, at least in New York City, which acknowledges the kirpan as an article of faith mandated to be worn by initiated Sikhs at all times. We sincerely hope the New City Police Department now accepts this precedent and stops making innocent initiated Sikhs undergo these ordeals.”

“As a non-Sikh, it was enlightening to know how dear a kirpan is to an initiated Sikh, and that it’s an inseparable part of his, or her Sikh identity. My law office is pleased to have played a role in the vindication of Mr. Singh’s civil rights.- stated Enrico DeMarco, Esq., of Law Offices of Enrico DeMarco.

UNITED SIKHS is grateful to all of its supporters, who make it possible for us to continue advocating for the rights of minorities around the world. Earlier this year, we saw a similar victory in the case of Iknoor Singh, who courageously stood up for his right to maintain his articles of faith while undergoing Reserved Officers Training Corps training, in pursuit of his dream to serve in the U.S. Army. We fought his case, and together we saw him emerge victorious.

With every victory for religious freedom, we are one step closer to a tolerant society in which all can practice their faith without fear of discrimination or misunderstanding.

If you have been victim to a hate crime, bullying, profiling, or discrimination, contact Law-usa@unitedsikhs.org, or call 646-315-3909. For media inquiries, please call 1 (857) 222-8180.

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UNITED SIKHS Remembers and Prays for the Lives Lost on 9/11/01 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/09/united-sikhs-remembers-and-prays-for-the-lives-lost-on-91101/ Wed, 11 Sep 2013 18:55:51 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2026

The day has come again… the day we never saw coming…the day that changed the nation forever… the day that impacted the lives of everyone who lives in America.

Americans will never forget the tragic event that took place on September 11, 2001. A tragedy that changed the New York Skyline, took innocent lives, and brought America even closer together.

A day of great loss and sorrow has birth a nation’s love, compassion, solidarity and bravery among brothers and sisters of all races.

UNITED SIKHS remembers those innocent lives lost on this unforgettable day. We continue to pray and hold vigils for the departed and their families. UNITED SIKHS is proactively working with the United States Department of Justice to make sure events like this never happen again.

Life of the Post 9/11 Victims

While our country remembers the lives of those lost on 9/11, let us not forget those who have become a target because of the tragedy that occurred on the unforgettable day.

Being misidentified in America since 9/11 has been harmful and disheartening to those Sikhs that call America their home. Many incidents have occurred in the past twelve years that leave many Sikhs wondering when this will end. Organizations like UNITED SIKHS will continue its fight to empower and educate all about the principles and beliefs of Sikhism.

The lack of education of who Sikhs are have caused much confusion worldwide. Many see the turban as a sign of terrorism but this is not true. Since September 11, the world has been gripped by fear such that many minority communities, including the Sikh community, have suffered a backlash through 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/biased/hate crimes and from those being denied their rights 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 suffer increased harassment at airports because they wear the Turban.

Below you can find a list of a few of the incidents that have a occurred:

Sept. 15, 2001 — Mesa, Ariz.: Four days after the infamous attacks of 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh, is shot and killed outside the gas station he owned by Frank Silva Roque. When police approached to arrest him, Roque says, “I’m a patriot and an American. I’m American. I’m a damn American.”

Nov. 18, 2001 — Palermo, N.Y.: Three teens burn down Gobind Sadan, a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in New York, because they thought it was named for Osama bin Laden.

Dec. 12, 2001 — Los Angeles, Calif.: Surinder Singh Sidhi, a liquor store owner in Los Angeles who took to wearing an American flag turban after 9/11 out of fear of being attacked, is beaten in his store by two men who accused him of being Osama bin Laden.

Aug. 6, 2002 — Daly City, Calif.: Sukhpal Singh, brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was the first Sikh murdered following 9/11, is shot while driving his cab.

May 20, 2003 — Phoenix, Ariz.: Fifty-two-year-old Sikh immigrant and truck driver Avtar Singh is shot in his 18-wheeler while waiting for his son to pick him up. As he is being shot, he hears someone say: “Go back to where you belong.”

Aug. 5, 2003 — Queens, N.Y.: Members of a Sikh family are beaten outside of their home by drunk individuals yelling, “Go back to your country, Bin Laden.”

Sept. 25, 2003 — Tempe, Ariz.: Sukhvir Singh, a 33-year-old convenience store owner, is stabbed to death by Bruce Phillip Reed. It is not labeled as a hate crime. Representatives of the Phoenix Sikh community issue a statement that says, in part, “Together we can help others to evolve past hate and fear by continuing to organize to reach out to others with increased understanding, respect, and support. May our collective prayer be that God preserve and protect the honor of all people, our nation, and our world.”

March 13, 2004 — Fresno, Calif.: Gurdwara Sahib, a local Sikh temple, is vandalized with graffiti messages: “Rags Go Home” and “It’s Not Your Country.

July 12, 2004 — New York, N.Y.: Rajinder Singh Khalsa and Gurcharan Singh, cousins on their way to dinner at a restaurant, are beaten by two drunk white twenty something men. The attackers describe Gurcharan’s turban as a “curtain.” When Rajinder tries to intervene, saying that Sikhs are peaceful, he is beaten unconscious and suffers a fractured eye socket, among other injuries.

May 24, 2007 — Queens, N.Y.: A 15-year-old student has his hair forcibly cut by an older student at his high school. The scissor-wielding 17-year-old showed the Sikh a ring inscribed with Arabic, saying, “This ring is Allah. If you don’t let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring.” Afterward, he cuts the younger boy’s hair. A main pillar of the Sikh faith compels followers to keep their hair uncut.

May 30, 2007 — Joliet, Ill.: A decorated U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War, Kuldip Singh Nag is approached by a police officer outside of his home for an expired vehicle registration tag. The officer reportedly assaults Nag with pepper spray while hurling expletive-laced anti-immigrant statements. ]

Jan. 14, 2008 — New Hyde Park, N.Y.: A 63-year-old Sikh, Baljeet Singh, has his jaw and nose broken when attacked outside his temple by a man who lived next-door. David Wood, the attacker, had apparently disturbed members of the Gurdwara in the past.

Feb. 28, 2008 — Bryan, Texas: A Sikh man is assaulted in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Though the assailant called him a terrorist, punched him in the face and head and knocked his turban off, the Sikh man does not suffer major injuries.

June 5, 2008 — Queens, N.Y.: A ninth grade Sikh is attacked by another student, who tried to remove his patka, or under-turban, and had a history of bullying the boy.

June 5, 2008 — Albuquerque, N.M.: A vehicle belonging to a Sikh family is defaced with the message “F*** Allah!” and a picture of male genitalia.

Aug. 4, 2008 — Phoenix, Ariz.: Inderjit Singh Jassal is shot and killed while working at a 7-Eleven. No clear motive is found.

Oct. 29, 2008 — Carteret, N.J.: A Sikh man, Ajit Singh Chima, goes for a walk in his neighborhood. He is attacked by a man who casually leaves the scene afterward. Nothing is stolen.

Jan. 30, 2009 — Queens, N.Y.: Three men attack Jasmir Singh outside of a grocery store. Racial slurs are heard. A broken glass bottle is used. Singh loses vision in his left eye.

Nov. 29, 2010 — Sacramento, Calif.: Harbhajan Singh, a cab driver, is a attacked by passengers, who call him Osama bin Laden.

March 6, 2011 — Elk Grove, Calif.: Two elderly Sikh men in traditional garb, out for a daily afternoon walk, are shot and killed. The perpetrator is not found.

May 30, 2011 — New York, N.Y.: Jiwan Singh, an MTA worker and the father of Jasmir Singh, who was assaulted in early 2009 in Queens, is attacked on the A train and accused of being related to Osama bin Laden.

Feb. 6, 2012 — Sterling Heights, Mich.: A gurdwara (Sikh temple) is defaced with graffiti that includes a gun and references to 9/11.

Aug. 5, 2012 — Oak Creek, Wis.: A gunman is shot dead by police after he opened fire in a Gurdwara during Sikh prayer services, killing six.

May 5, 2013 — Fresno, Cal.: 81 year old Piara Singh was beaten with a steel pipe outside a Fresno Gurdwara in what police have determined to be a hate crime.

July, 30, 2013– Riverside, Cal.: Riverside Gurdwara near Los Angeles, California reported  the words “Terrorist” and “Terrist!” scrawled on the brick walls surrounding the Gurdwara and parking lot.

Terrorist, we are NOT. Terrorism, we DO NOT promote. America IS our home too. Help us to continue to bring awareness to Sikhs and Sikhism. Help us so we can make sure events like these including the massiveness of 9/11 never occur again.

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Religious Tolerance or Religious Embrace? Memorial Service Honoring the Six Slain Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/09/religious-tolerance-or-religious-embrace-memorial-service-honoring-the-six-slain-sikhs-in-oak-creek-wisconsin/ Wed, 11 Sep 2013 00:42:46 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2019

“Spreading Love and Peace, Defeating Hate” Attendees and Speakers at the

Garden State Sikh Association Gurdwara, 977 Washingtonvalley Road, Baskingridge, NJ

on August 24, 2013

 

Bridgewater, New Jersey- UNITED SIKHS and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP), together organized a vigil/memorial service in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the Oak Creek Tragedy last year. The memorial event was hosted by the Garden State Sikh Association Gurudwara Sahib in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The theme and topic of the event was “Spreading Love and Peace, Defeating Hate.”

The congregation was addressed by Hon’ John Jay Hoffman, Acting Attorney General of New Jersey and Mr.Edward Dickson, Director, NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. AG Hoffman was kind enough to attend the service with his wife and spend a Saturday afternoon interacting with community members. AG Hoffman while addressing the gathering said that he was extremely saddened by the tragedy in Oak Creek. He ensured that Sikhs and other communities should be rest assured that his department will not sleep unless they have secured all houses of worship in the state. He discussed how uncomfortable he was using the term “religious tolerance” in explaining how people should be respectful of different faiths and said the correct word should be “embrace.” He explained we should embrace people of other faiths and not just tolerate them.

AG Hoffman also praised Director Dickson along with the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for the work their continuous efforts. Director Dickson informed the gathering about the achievements of his department including conducting workshops over the past year to train security coordinators and community members of various houses of worship in the state. He went over a dashboard and a timeline of OHSP’s work over the year in engaging closely with Presidents and security coordinators of various houses of worship to conduct workshops and threat based trainings on how to secure houses of worship, how to identity threat factors and suspects, and active shooter workshops. Director Dickson informed of OHSP’s significant achievements on the aforementioned fronts after the Wisconsin massacre and will continue to conduct more training and workshops. He acknowledged and complimented the efforts of UNITED SIKHS in working together with NJOHSP to develop a Sikh primer for law enforcement. He also acknowledged the efforts of UNITED SIKHS in working with the Department of Education to include information on Sikhs and Sikhism in the New Jersey School curriculum.

The Sikh turban is still seen as a symbol of hostility in the paranoia that has gripped the nation after 9/11. All the aforementioned incidents indicate that there is still a section of people that equate the Sikh turban with Islamic extremism.  These people fail to understand the fact that this is a country of immigrants; that their fathers or forefathers were also immigrants and there is no set of rules, or a set definition of an American appearance. There is still a pressing need for more awareness campaigns to educate people about the fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhism.

Dr.Gurparkash Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS, gracefully conducted the stage as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Other speakers at the event include: Nina Chanpreet Kaur, MSEd; Scot Pruiksma, Founder of Interlocking Arms; Howard Norgalis & Filipe Pedrose, Councilmen

Bridgewater Township; Rev Moises Bogdady; Dr. Ellen J Lindeman; Timothy Burk; Anju Bhargava, Hindu American Seva; Dr Ali Chaudry, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge; Hafiz Samiullah Chaudhry, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; and Micheal Tiger, Anti-Defamation Leagure, NJ.

UNITED SIKHS Staff Attorney Manmeet Singh spoke on the topic of “Spreading Love and Defeating Hate.” He narrated Bhai Kanahaiyaji’s story to to illustrate the importance of the principle of spreading love and defeating hate in Sikhism. The story contained an account from 1704 during the battle of Anandpur Sahib when fellow Sikhs complained to Guru Gobind Singh ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanahaiyaji was serving water to the wounded soldiers from the enemy camp. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?” Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied “Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, … Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God’s people as the same?” The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. Guru Ji said, “Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani”.

Mr. Manmeet Singh also spoke about the Wisconsin massacre and the various hate crimes that were perpetrated against Sikhs around the country even after the massacre. Prominent among them were the recent scribbling of the word “terrorist” twice on the walls of a Gurudwara in Riverside, California; the vicious attack on 82 year old Sikh, Piara Singh, after he had just exited his local Gurudwara for a morning walk. Singh’s attack was confirmed as a hate crime; the attacker, a 29 year old male named Gilbert Garcia was arrested. The police reported that upon Garcia’s arrest, he shouted that he hated “those people” and wanted to bomb their temples. The shooting in Port Orange, Florida where a Sikh man named Kanwaljit Singh was shot multiple times while driving a car with his 13 year old son sitting next to him, was also mentioned.

UNITED SIKHS thanks Mr.David Leonardis, OHSP, and Director Dickson for leading and coordinating this event; as well as all the activities and efforts that OHSP had undertaken in the aftermath of Wisconsin to make all the Houses of Worship safe and secure; and  their efforts to achieve grants for those houses of worship who need them. We strongly believe that such trainings play a pivotal role in thwarting similar attempts by misguided people to attack the congregation. We hope that these trainings, workshops and grants will continue until there are strong systems in place at all houses of worship to prevent such tragedies. We also thank AG Hoffman for his promise to the community, and his inspiring and insightful message that he gave to the  congregation. Special thanks to all the speakers who took time out of their busy schedules to give insight on the topic at hand.

Please click here for a link to the album from the event.

 

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Oui Oui- All in Favor of the Patka! http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/06/oui-oui-all-in-favor-of-the-patka/ Thu, 20 Jun 2013 13:18:16 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2002

Photo Credit: PC / Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Quebec, Canada- Sikh players are no longer limited to playing soccer in their backyards. They are back on the soccer field. Over a year of disappoints and dreams crushed for about 200 soccer players in Quebec, Canada, has ended in victory as the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) has lifted their ban on the patka during soccer games.

UNITED SIKHS team led the advocacy to revoke this ban for over a year. Constant contact with the affected families as well as lawmakers were included in the efforts. About two weeks prior to the decision, UNITED SIKHS Directors Sukhwinder Singh and Ranbir Singh, along with UNITED SIKHS community advocate Deepinder Singh met with the Hon. Bal Gosal, Canadian Minister of Sports, at his office in Brampton, Ontario, to discuss the ban on patkas and turbans by QSF. During their meeting, the team was encouraged to continue their efforts by the Minister and assured that he will assist in driving the message of eliminating religious barriers being set by QSF.

UNITED SIKHS led the advocacy with:

– June 2012- QSF issued ban on patka in June 2012

– June 2012- June 2013 Persistent contact with the affected families

– June 7th, 2013 – Coordinated with Canadian Ministers exclusively, including Minister of Sports Bal Gosal for lifting the ban on the Patka in Quebec

–  Reached out to various soccer clubs and other soccer associations in Canada and UK to seek support about the ban

– Circulated statements made by International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) which clearly states its ruling to allow the Hijab and Patka on field

– Lobbied directly with the Prime Minister’s office about the ban

– June 14th, 2013- Further clarification from FIFA about specific instructions on the Patka during a soccer game were issued. These specifications includes that the patka should not be hanging one over the neck, should be neatly tied tightly, and the color should be matching the uniform of the club.

– June 15th, 2013- QSA lifted the ban of the Patka for Sikh players

UNITED SIKHS Team would like to thank the all of our supporters and those who helped us out in the fight against the ban including: Canadian Minister of Sports Bal Gosal, Councilor Mary Deros (Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension), Conseillère de la Ville, Membre du comité exécutif, Indépendant (IND)-), Narinder Singh Minhas , Surjit Singh and Rupinder Singh (Sikh Vision Association). Our appreciation is extended to the Sangat of Montreal as well.

The fight for revoking the ban brought solidarity and support across Canada and the world. “The best outcome of all this is many of our fellow supporters and parents from other ethnic backgrounds withdrew their children from playing soccer under protest we should identify them and honor them,” said UNITED SIKHS community advocate Deepinder Singh.

A ‘Soccer in Solidarity’ event, will take place at Marcel-Laurin Park (2345 Boulevard Thimens, St-Laurent, H4R 1T4) from 2:30PM until 7:30PM, on June 23, 2013. The event will be a soccer match, with participants of all religious, class, creed, and gender affiliations.

UNITED SIKHS along with other organizations will celebrate this grand victory on Canada Day, July 1st. There will be an exhibition soccer match and UNITED SIKHS will sponsor a trophy along with WISE. All are invited to this celebration. Details will be available on UNITED SIKHS Facebook Page.

UNITED SIKHS continues to encourage you to practice your religion to the freely. Fighting for religious accommodation is a daunting task because of the vagaries of national and international laws, but UNITED SIKHS will continue, nation by nation, to promote and protect Sikh articles of faith.

For UNITED SIKHS to continue its efforts (both domestically and internationally), we need your assistance, so please donate. You may donate online or in person to a UNITED SIKHS chapter near you. For details of our chapters, please visit our contact page.

Issued By:

Sukhwinder Singh

Director, UNITED SIKHS Canada

223B-2980 Drew Road

Mississauga Ontario L4T-0A7

Ph: 905-672-2245/416-895-4100

unitedsikhs-canada@unitedsikhs.org

www.unitedsikhs.org

Contact us | Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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CA Elderly Sikh Man Attacked, Humiliated, Disrespected: Bias Crimes MUST be STOPPED! http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/05/ca-elderly-sikh-man-attacked-humiliated-disrespected-bias-crimes-must-be-stopped/ Fri, 10 May 2013 17:05:12 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1971 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

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UNITED SIKHS Welcomes Appointment of Melissa Rogers As New White House Faith Based Director http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/united-sikhs-welcomes-appointment-of-melissa-rogers-as-new-white-house-faith-based-director/ Fri, 15 Mar 2013 05:19:22 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1878 Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

New York, NY, March 15, 2013:  UNITED SIKHS  welcomes the appointment of Melissa Rogers as Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“Melissa’s leadership role and  focus on religion and policy will be very helpful while dealing with the advocacy components of faith based groups”  said Gurvinder Singh,  Director UNITED SIKHS.  “We welcome the choice of the President. ”

UNITED SIKHS looks forward to working with Ms. Rogers  to fully realize the potential of government partnerships with religiously-affiliated and community-based organizations and ensuring that basic human needs and social justice are firmly in place.

She previously was executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a board member of Public Religion Research Institute and the general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.

Manvinder Singh
Director, UNITED SIKHS
P: 646-315-3909
F: 810-885-4264

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