ICHRA – 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.

13319896_10153785607394315_6046030128722952235_n

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

]]>
Want to bring a bigger change? http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/12/want-to-bring-a-bigger-change/ Sat, 19 Dec 2015 15:21:10 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2340  

 

 

Divya Kaur (right).

Below is a message from UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid (AHAA) graduate Divya Kaur. 

 

Dear Supporter Ji,

Right from my childhood, I have faced the challenges of modern society. Should I learn Gurmukhi or Spanish? Harmonium or Piano? Shabad Kirtan or Choir? Would colleges give me credit for choosing something they are not familiar with? Would organization and corporations understand that Langar Seva (serving food) is on equal footing with volunteering at a food shelter? This created an emotional tussle between me and myself, but I chose the former-my Sikh identity-because that’s who I am.

As a teenager, I realized that America welcomes everyone. However, Washington D.C. expects different communities to speak up for themselves. Without the hard work of a few, minority groups will neither get recognition, nor their rights. That’s why, although I had many opportunities for internships and other programs, I was ecstatic to be chosen into the highly selective UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA) this summer. Meeting with congressmen in D.C. and being part of the minority voice was a dream come true. It is not that I walked into their office and they had an open time slot to meet with me. The bigger question was “What coherent powerful impressionable statement would I make when I meet with influential policy makers?” Never had I thought about such details, until I decided to be mentored by professionals.

AHAA students met with the office of Congressman Mike Honda.

First, I applied and was welcomed into the UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy. The Academy platform was used to organize workshops to decipher the policy making process. It arranged for speakers to highlight global Sikh issues and helped students like myself network with professionals whose business is advocacy. They taught the entire process of engaging with lawmakers to make powerful impression. Just the inspiration from the boundless energy of the people itself was priceless. My mentor, UNITED SIKHS attorney Jaspreet Kaur, actually drove down from New York and dedicated countless hours to coach a team of us.

This experience was a must-have to provide a serious boost to my motivation and uplift my confidence. UNITED SIKHS arranged everything starting with picking me up from the airport. Because Sikh donors from all walks of life have contributed to UNITED SIKHS, I was able to have this experience at a mere nominal fee. Based on my firsthand experience, I know our future is in need of serious investment. We all make investments – financial investments for retirement, familial investments in our children, investment in our community to build a better world. Obviously, the better world must include our values and provide opportunities for our community.

Why not connect with UNITED SIKHS? It is an eminent organization that promulgates Sikh values and human rights. You can start with a donation! A part of your dasvandh (donation) can be used for a better future: yours and mine.

I am Divya Kaur, a graduate of the UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy, and a teenager focused on making an even bigger difference in the world, and I approve this message.

Sincerely,

Divya Kaur

Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy Graduate

UNITED SIKHS

]]>
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

]]>
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

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

 

]]>
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

]]>
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

]]>
Sikhs Ask Canadian PM to Raise France’s Turban Ban at Meeting with French PM http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/sikhs-ask-canadian-pm-to-raise-frances-turban-ban-at-meeting-with-french-pm/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/sikhs-ask-canadian-pm-to-raise-frances-turban-ban-at-meeting-with-french-pm/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 03:57:36 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1858 Sikhs Ask Canadian PM to Raise France’s Turban Ban at Meeting with French PM . 

Harper Should Raise France’s Turban Ban at Meeting with French Prime Minister: Canadian Liberal Leader.

Highlights:

  • UNITED SIKHS wrote recently to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, requesting him to raise his objection to the French turban ban during his meeting this week with his counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault.
  • Sikhs globally believe that a ban on the turban is a betrayal of France’s motto- Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
  • Canadian Liberal Leader Bob Rae said in a statement today, “If we are to be a defender of rights, we must defend them around the world, including in France. We would encourage Mr. Harper to have a frank and open discussion with his French counterpart on this issue”.
  • Canadian Sikhs have also asked all Canadian Members of National and Provincial Parliaments to release similar statements supporting a Sikh’s right to his turban, urging Mr. Harper to raise this issue with the French PM.
Toronto, Canada: UNITED SIKHS wrote to the Canadian Prime Minister earlier this week asking him to raise his objection to the turban ban in France, during his meeting with his French counterpart, who is currently visiting Canada.

“It is not very often that the people of a nation write directly to their Prime Minister about the threat of their identity in another sovereign state,” UNITED SIKHS’ director, Ranbir Singh, said in the letter to the Canadian Prime Minister.

“Unless France allows Sikhs to wear a turban in schools and on ID documents photographs, the Sikh turban would be deemed to be banned in France, which will be a betrayal of France’s motto – Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” the letter added.
“Globalization in the 21st century has made human rights a border-less right. It is now no longer acceptable to say that we cannot interfere with the ‘internal affairs’ of a sovereign state (France). The precedent was set in the previous century when the world joined the Blacks of South Africa to fight apartheid – an ‘internal affair’ of a sovereign state. Just as the Blacks of South Africa could not remove the color of their skin, Sikhs cannot remove their turban and strip themselves of their identity,” the letter said. You may read the letter in full here.
Liberal Leader Bob Rae made the following statement today on Stephen Harper’s meeting with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault:
“France’s decision to ban the wearing of turbans and other religious symbols in identification photos, government schools and public spaces has received international criticism and flies in the face of religious freedom. As a result of this ban, many Sikhs are denied access to employment, public health care and social benefits that require a government identification card. It should be an issue of great concern to this Conservative government and all Canadians.
After the much-publicized launch of Canada’s new Office of Religious Freedoms, today’s meeting is an ideal opportunity for this government to come to the defense of minority rights and walk the walk on religious freedoms. If we are to be a defender of rights, we must defend them around the world, including in France. We would encourage Mr. Harper to have a frank and open discussion with his French counterpart on this issue.”In 2008, UNITED SIKHS’ attorneys filed three cases against the French turban ban in schools and ID photos before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC).

Victory was achieved at the UNHRC in the cases of both, Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh. We await to hear the outcome of Shingara Singh’s case. If there was any doubt about the legality of France’s action, the eminent jurists of the UNHRC recently pronounced unequivocally that France had violated the human rights of both Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh by denying them their religious right to wear a turban.
However, France has not overturned their ban and continue to enforce it on Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh despite UNHRC’s decision. All Canadian Sikhs, UNITED SIKHS’ team members and the global Sikh community urge and seek the support of the Canadian Government, Leaders of New Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Canada and all Members of the Parliaments to help raise this ban.

Sukhwinder Singh
Director, UNITED SIKHS
Tel: 1-905-672-2245
Fax: 
1-810-885-4264
Contact us | Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
unitedsikhs-canada@unitedsikhs.org

]]>
http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/sikhs-ask-canadian-pm-to-raise-frances-turban-ban-at-meeting-with-french-pm/feed/ 2
First Sikh American Offers Prayers at the 67th United Nations General Assembly Opening Session http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/first-sikh-american-offers-prayers-at-the-67th-united-nations-general-assembly-opening-session/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/first-sikh-american-offers-prayers-at-the-67th-united-nations-general-assembly-opening-session/#comments Fri, 08 Mar 2013 06:31:36 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1848

Community Update

First Sikh American Offers Prayers at the 67th United Nations General Assembly Opening Session!

Highlights:

  • Jatinder P. Singh, a Sikh American and an Associate Director, UNITED SIKHS, offers prayers at the 67th United Nations (UN) General Assembly opening session conducted in the General Assembly building of the UN.
  • Over 1500 attendees, including UN President H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic and leaders from various religious organizations across the globe, joined hands to promote messages of world peace.
  • UNITED SIKHS is the first Sikh UN-DPI affiliated organization and is recognized by the United Nations since December 2007.
  • Click here to see the prayer.

Mar 06, 2013
25th Phagun (Samvat 544 Nanakshahi
New York, USA
:Jatinder P. Singh, a Sikh American and Associate Director, UNITED SIKHS, offered prayers at the United Nations 67th General Assembly opening session. The event, ‘United for a Culture of Peace Through Interfaith Harmony’, was part of the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. Organized by the Office of the President of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and The Committee of Religious NGOs, this event was held at United Nations General Assembly Hall on February 14th, 2013.

Each participant was allotted a time of thirty seconds for their prayer. Jatinder P. Singh recited excerpts from the Mool Mantar accompanied by a musical piece played by Jon Blond on the flute. The following is an excerpt from Jatinder P. Singh’s prayer:

“Ik Onkaar, Satnaam… In this age of darkness this world is filled with maya, money, and weapons of mass destruction. The only answer to save this world is through prayers in the company of saints.”

Jatinder P. Singh also read the English translation of an excerpt from Sukhmani Sahib (Ashtpadi 7.3).

“In the company of saints all enemies become friends. In the company of saints, man becomes very pure…” He also added, “I truly hope one day, all the countries can get together at the United Nations and just pray for world peace.”

After delivering his prayer, Jatinder P. Singh was approached by members of the UN and other faith groups, who shared how they were moved by the positive and uplifting message of peace.

A flag ceremony followed the prayers. Flags of UN member nations were hoisted with a heart-warming welcome and blessing of peace upon each country.

The UN General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising of 193 members of the United Nations, it provides a unique platform for multilateral discussions on the international issues covered by the UN Charter.

The event ended with closing statements from Ms. Monica Willard, President of the Committee of Religious NGO’s. There were over 1500 attendees from various organizations including Gail Bindley, UN General; Philippe Kridelka, Director of UNESCO; Ambassador Byrganym Aitimova,Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations; Reverend Father Mark Arey, Director of Inter-Orthodox group; Ms. Kiran Bali, Chair of the United Religions Initiative Global Council, and H.E. Ambassador T. Hamid Al-Bayati, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations.

Messages of world peace and prayers were offered by various religious organizations including:Tuwe Huni Kuin–Brazilian Amazon Huni Kuin community, Caroline Vasquez–Baha’i International community, Ven. Seong Won–Director, social affairs at Korean Zen Buddhism, Rev. Kathleen Stone–United Methodist Church, Swami Parameshananda–Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Lucy Schmitz–Ethical Culture Society, Apeksha Vora–Member, Anuvrat Global Organization, Rabbi Michael Weisser–Free Synagogue of Flushing, Imam Izak El M. Pasha–Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, and Nina Mistry–Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America.

UNITED SIKHS is humbled to partake in this event where representatives from various countries and religions were able to come together amidst international conflict and share common values of peace and pluralism.

Manmeet Singh
Staff Attorney, International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)
UNITED SIKHS
Tel: (646) 315-3909
Contact us | Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
law@unitedsikhs.org

Follow us on TwitterTwitter  Connect on FacebookFacebook Read Our BlogBlog UNITED SIKHS TVYouTube

]]>
http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/first-sikh-american-offers-prayers-at-the-67th-united-nations-general-assembly-opening-session/feed/ 8