Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category.

UNITED SIKHS Remembers and Prays for the Lives Lost on 9/11/01

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.

Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS Remembers and Prays for the Lives Lost on 9/11/01’ »

Religious Tolerance or Religious Embrace? Memorial Service Honoring the Six Slain Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

“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.

 

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, along with other NGOs meets with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss on growing Human Rights concerns

October 24th, New York: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay met with over 20 NGOs on  October 24th at the UN Church Center in New York to address the growing human rights concerns  and also shared the updates on OHCHR’s activities. The meeting was moderated by Vice Chair for NGO Committee on Human Rights, Dr. Bobbi Nassar.

The Commissioner gave an overview of the OHCHR’s 2011-2012 activities. This included the workings of the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and, a great increase in the number of instances in which human rights (and the OHCHR) is gaining strength at the UN and in “post-2015 development” discussions. “The growing recognition of the centrality of human rights in the peace, security, development and humanitarian agendas, and trust in OHCHR is very rewarding,” Ms. Pillay noted. However, she warned that financial constraints are limiting the resources required to support her office’s mandated activities.

UNITED SIKHS questioned about the ban of conspicuous symbols such as turbans and headgears in schools and in general(in specific countries)which violate the very essence of human rights. The High Commissioner responded saying that “A faith group and minority have the right to practice and manifest their culture, religion and identity without discrimination and I oppose these principles and standards when I raise these matters with government. They have to find balance to accommodate diversity.”

US will continue advocating for equal rights as enshrined in the charter of UN.

 

Prayers and condolences for victims of Wisconsin Sikh Temple attack

People from diiferent faiths and parts of the world make thier way through prayers and condolences for the victims of Wisconsin Sikh Temple attack

Gur Fateh!

I condemn this barbaric act of violence and atrocities against Gur Sikhs who were carrying out the blessed good deed of Sewa at the Gurdwara in various forms. I wholeheartedly wish to express my sincere condolences to the families, relations and friends and the Sikh community across the globe for this despicable act. Wahe Guru bless the soul of the martyrs and give strength to the families, relatives and friends to accept this unfortunate incident and come to terms with it.

 

My gratitude goes to the honorable president Mr. Barak Obama of the United States of America for the wonderful and humane action on ordering the flags to be flown at half mast and expressing his concerns and feeling for the Sikh community of USA.

 

May I also congratulate the officer who very bravely confronted and shot the suspect and unfortunately sustained severe injuries himself. I pray to Wahe Guru for the officer’s speedy recovery. I am ex- Metropolitan Police Service personnel from London and I am fully aware of the dangers the officers have to face in their line of duty in protecting the law abiding citizens. My sympathies also go to the families of the brave officer. (I am not sure if my message can be conveyed to the officer and his family please).

 

May WaheGuru bless United Sikhs of USA with success and long life in carrying out the good deed for the communities not in the USA but across the globe. 

 

Good luck and keep up the wonderful work.  

 

Kind Regards.

 

Harjinder Singh (Retired Strategic Diversity Consultant/Advisor Metropolitan Police Service)

 

As The Peace Islands Institute, we were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. This is not only an act of extreme violence; it is also an act of evil.  Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community. Our prayers and condolences go out to those killed and injured, and we share the grief of everyone affected by this senseless event.

Sincerely,
Peace Islands Institue

On behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury and on my own behalf, I want to assure our Sikh friends and colleagues of our prayers following the devastating attack on the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  At such a time, it becomes all the more important that religious groups work together to overcome all cultural forms that promote racial and ethnic hatred. We mourn the death of the Sikh victims, including the temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, and I invite Christian churches and Sikh Gurdwaras to work together with inter religious groups to hold vigils and pray for the families involved.

Over the last decade, the religious communities in this country have worked very hard to develop meaningful and mutually supportive relationships. I hope that the Sikh community will feel that they are held in our prayers and that we can work together to prevent anything similar from happening again.

With my warm good wishes,

Toby

____________________

The Revd Dr Toby Howarth

Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and National Inter Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England

 

As family members of those lost in the attacks of 9/11/2001, we mourn with those who lost family members and dear friends last Sunday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Once again, we are compelled to reach out to those who have suffered directly such horrific violence.  We extend our friendship, our love and our solidarity with the entire Sikh community as we move forward from this day. We are with you in spirit, and should we be of assistance in any additional way, we are a phone call away.

With respect,

Colleen Kelly September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

My heart goes out to my Sikh brothers and sisters, and I wish you strength and support in your grieving and healing processes. Please let me know if there is a piece I can help with; the Sikh community has always been so generous and compassionate, God bless them.

– Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, Rabbinic Director,NCJH & NYJHC,JBFCS

In my attempt to find global Sikh organisations to contact, you were the first I came across. I would just like to express my upmost sadness and dismay at the shooting which took place in  a temple in Wisconsin and resulted in the deaths of 6 innocent Sikh worshippers. Speaking for us Muslims, we have suffered much discrimination and abuse since the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the resultant war on terror and I have much empathy for the Sikh brothers and sisters to whom this abuse has often been deflected as a result of the hatred and ignorance of certain groups and individuals.

At these times, I believe that it is absolutely essential that members of both religious faiths unite and condemn this act of barbarism as a single body for only through a united front do we have a chance of facing down those who wish to persecute us. Gone are the days before partition when Muslims and Sikhs existed in almost equal numbers and in harmony in cities such as Lahore and Amristar and yet it is more important than ever at times like that that unity and friendship be replicated.

 – From a concerned British Muslim.

We strongly condemn the dastardly, cowardice, mad act against the sikh community in oak creek,

We offer our ardass for the peace of soul of those innocent devotees killed in mad  and meaningless shootout. Also waheguru give courage to the families to face the loss. It is extremely sad,

The sikh community there needs to be alert and appropriately prepared to protect themselves and attacks on gurudwaras, where the message of universal brotherhood and love is imparted.

Hukum te Bhana wahegurujee da,

– Sincere regards, Jatinderpal Singh Uppal Nagpur India

Mark Paul Arabo,  President & CEO, Neighborhood Market Association –  “On behalf of our 2,000 members and 21,000 employees in CA, AZ, and NV; we offer our deepest and most sincere condolences.  We are deeply saddened by the despicable acts of the shooting today at the Wisconsin Sikh temple.  We hope the law enforcement community catch these criminals who have caused this pain and justice is served.  We also hope and pray the Sikh community at large will start the healing process and this tragedy will bring everyone closer as one unit. You are all in my prayers and if there is anything we could do to support the Sikh community, please let me know.  I stand in solidarity with all of you”

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President,New York Board of Rabbis – “When will these tragic senseless shootings stop? Our prayers are with victims and families. We will stand with all of you in a demonstration of spiritual solidarity.”

Alabama, Land of the Scared

This week Alabama passed immigration legislation that turns the police force, whose primary duty is to protect, into immigration officials with the power to question anyone, where there is “reasonable suspicion”, about their immigration status. Moreover, schools which are supposed to provide a nurturing and safe environment are now responsible for recording the undocumented status of their students. In case there was any doubt about the devastating implications of this law for the Hispanic community in Alabama, one only had to read this week’s headlines: “After Ruling, Hispanics Flee…” (New York Times), “Hispanic Students Vanish from Alabama Schools…” (Associated Press). The State of Alabama has confirmed that over 2,000 Hispanic children never showed up for school on Monday. Continue reading ‘Alabama, Land of the Scared’ »

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Comments on RTT Cases

Thanks to the advocacy work of the RTT Legal Team, USCIRF has expressed serious concerns about the Sikhs right to wear the turban in France, and concern about the recent European Court of Human Rights Decision against the Right to Turban (http://www.uscirf.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2650&Itemid=126). As you may be aware, the ECtHR dismissed the case as inadmissible based on a previous ruling that the ban on turbans is a proportionate response to the aims of protection of the rights and freedoms of others and the protection of public order. You can read more about the cases at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt and at http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-16024-Europe-Policy-Examiner~y2009m7d17-European-Court-rules-against-the-Sikh-turban-in-French-schools