UNITED SIKHS-USA – 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 Sikh Community of Seattle Offers Helping Hand to Washington Wildfire Victims http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/10/sikh-community-of-seattle-offers-helping-hand-to-washington-wildfire-victims/ Sun, 18 Oct 2015 21:29:32 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2237 Seattle, Washington-UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh community of Washington have organized a relief effort in support of victims of the hundreds of wildfires that have devastated the state since July.

Community members gather at the check presentation ceremony in Washington State. Photo courtesy of The Chronicle.

Over the last few weeks, UNITED SIKHS’ United States Northwest region coordinator Balwant Singh worked with the Seattle Sikh sangat, or Sikh congregation, to raise a total of $20,000. Members of the six-family Omak Sikh community raised an additional $6,000. In total, a check of $26,000 was donated to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which manages multiple fire relief funds that aim to assist wildfire victims as effectively as possible by assessing specific needs and channeling donations directly to affected individuals. $15,000 of the donation was designated to the families of the three firefighters who have lost their lives since the fires began, with each family receiving $5,000. The rest of the money will be utilized directly for fire victims.

UNITED SIKHS is grateful for your continued support, which allows us to provide assistance victims and their families.

 

“God gave us the same color blood.”

During the check presentation ceremony, which took place at Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare, Harminder Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Kuldip Singh, Balwant Singh, and other members of the local Sikh community were present. Mayors Jon Culp and Cindy Gagne of Okanagan and Omak, respectively, attended the ceremony as well. Not only was this event an opportunity to provide seva, or selfless service, to those in need, but also a chance for the local Sikh population to build common ground with their fellow community members, comprised of Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, and to present themselves as the supportive, concerned, and active citizens that they are. Balwant Singh addressed the community members in attendance, stating,”We are the Sikh people-different look, different faces. But the almighty God gave us the same color blood. God sent us here to help each other.”

This year, wildfires have burned over 8 million acres of land in the United States. Wildfires have been burning in Washington State since July, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate as numerous homes have been destroyed. Victims, firefighters, and evacuees are still in need of immediate assistance.

UNITED SIKHS is now collecting canned food and clothing for those affected by the wildfires. To donate, please contact

sikhaid-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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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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UNITED SIKHS: Filling Gaps in Community Oral Health Needs http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/06/united-sikhs-filling-gaps-in-community-oral-health-needs/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/06/united-sikhs-filling-gaps-in-community-oral-health-needs/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 04:32:58 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1995

Highlights:

  • UNITED SIKHS’ team provided free medical and oral health screenings
  • Promoting Oral Health and Dental care in the Sikh Community
  • Click here for more information on CEED Projects and how you can volunteer to help.

New York/New Jersey, USA – Results from an ongoing study conducted by UNITED SIKHS and partners, within the Sikh American community in New York, show that more than half (53%) of all Sikh South Asian surveyed members have never received a check-up or screening from a dentist. Identifying and acting upon this need, UNITED SIKHS’ Community Empowerment and Education Directorate (CEED) team provided free medical and oral health screenings: on April 7, 2013 at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar in Port Reading, NJ; on April 21, 2013 at the Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, NY; and on June 2, 2013 at the Gurdwara Sikh Sabha in Port Reading, NJ.

Supported by the Dentaquest Foundation’s National Community Committee Oral Health Initiative, this was the first time our health projects focused on oral health and its relationship with chronic medical conditions, such as, diabetes and hypertension. Our partners in this undertaking are the New York University Prevention Research Center, New York University College of Dentistry, many Gurdwaras across New York and New Jersey and community members.

The highlight of the event was addressing oral health promotion in the Sikh American communities in New York and New Jersey, and built a capacity for community engagement for oral health. The four-hour oral health screenings attracted over one hundred and fifty participants who took advantage of our fifty volunteers providing language support and access to oral health services such as proper teeth cleaning and flossing, preventing cavities, oral health tips, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, oral cancer screenings and oral health awareness.

Screening

Gurjeet Kaur, a community member who attended said, “It was a wonderful event and was very helpful. At the oral screening, I found that I had a cavity which I will get taken care of. I learned how to take better care of my teeth. The event was very well organized and all the volunteers were very helpful.”

Dr. Rucha Kaur, CEED manager, UNITED SIKHS, expressed her excitement of the event saying, “This is an example of community-academic collaboration where we are building upon projects we have previously undertaken in the community. More than half (53%) of all Sikh South Asian surveyed members, in our study, had never received a check-up or screening from a dentist. We recognized the crucial gap in the health needs of our community members and brought resources and partners to address and educate the community.”

Health providers were faculty and students from NYU College of Dentistry, individual doctors, medical assistants and dental hygienists, who volunteered their time and expertise. Each participant was given an information brochure to take with them detailing oral care and its importance.

Issued By:

Dr. Seema Kaur Director,

Community Empowerment and Education Directorate (CEED)

UNITED SIKHS

Tel: 1-646-688-3525 ceed-usa@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 cosponsor and speak at the “NYC 2013: Electing the Right(s) Mayor” Forum http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/05/united-sikhs-cosponsor-and-speak-at-the-nyc-2013-electing-the-rights-mayor/ Thu, 09 May 2013 17:25:16 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1956 On Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 2pm, the Arab American, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian community of New York gathered at New York University to hear where mayoral candidates stand on important issues affecting our community.  The packed room listened in as moderator Errol Louis, of NY1, asked candidates tough questions.  Mayoral candidates in attendance were: Sal Albanese, Bill de, Blasio, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., John C. Liu, Christine C. Quinn, Erick Salgado, and Bill Thompson.  UNITED SIKHS cosponsored this event and policy advocacy and representative, Anisha Singh, asked the candidates how they would address bias-based bullying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

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Reminder:Grand Opening of Sikh Heritage Photo Exhibition Today http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/04/grand-opening-of-sikh-heritage-photo-exhibition/ Sat, 06 Apr 2013 03:46:45 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1898

Grand Opening of Sikh Heritage Photo Exhibition Today

Atlanta, Georgia: UNITED SIKHS is proud to invite you and your families on behalf of the Gurudwara, Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta to attend the grand opening of the Sikh heritage photo exhibition.

Program of Grand Opening on Saturday, April 6

Venue: 1158 Rockbridge Road, Norcross, GA 30093
Date: April 1st – 20th
Reception & Refreshment: 4 PM
Grand Opening Ceremony: 5 PM
Guru Ka Langar: 6 PM

Gurudwara Sahib aims to create awareness of the historical significance of the Sikh community and its legacy through its exhibits. The exhibition is featuring photo displays of rare art and artifacts of Sikh heritage including Kalgi of Guru Gobind Singh, painting, photographs, and manuscripts.

Guru Gobind Singh gifted his personal belongings, arms, and handwritten manuscripts to his followers, which are preserved as rare collections. His handwritten and signed hukumnamas (commandments) are preserved in museums at Sikh Takhts (Primary Shrines). A strong urge to protect and preserve the Sikh history, its distinct identity and culture was posed. Various Sikh groups made sustained efforts to create a collection of documents and to build a repository that includes clothes, monuments, rare jewelry, ornaments, rare frescoes, tapestries, manuscripts and numismatics associated with the Sikh gurus and emperors.

Katar of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Kirpan of Guru Teg Bahadur Singh Ji
Guru Gobind Singh’s Katar, Size 20”x30” Kirpan of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji
Both Relics are in the collection of the Maharaja of Patiala at Moti Bagh Palace

The photo displays in the exhibits are:

  • Chola (robe) of Guru Nanak Sahib,
  • Personal belongings of Guru Hargobind Sahib,
  • Images of rare manuscripts,
  • Illustrated folios,
  • Hukumnamas (commandments),
  • A beautiful personal Kirpal (scimitar) of Guru Gobind Singh,
  • Breast plate with gold inscription of Guru Gobind Singh,
  • Historic khanda used at the time of the formation of the Khalsa,
  • A bed-sheet of the Guru Gobind Singh,
  • Panchkala Shastra (weapon) of Guru Gobind Singh,
  • A chakki (grindstone) used to grind flour for Guru Gobind Singh,
  • Rare photographs of the collection of artifacts in the Toshakhana of the Golden Temple,
  • A shield from the armies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,
  • Photographs of valuable relics.

For more information please contact Gurudwara Sahib at 770-931-3490, email: atlanta.gurdwara@gmail.com.

Issued By
Jasminder Kaur
888-243-1690

 

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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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Becoming an Eco-Sikh !! http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2013/03/becoming-an-eco-sikh/ Thu, 14 Mar 2013 19:41:36 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1862  

 USLogo  EcoSikhPoster

UNITED SIKHS  in collaboration with EcoSikh is planning to outreach all their members and sangat about Sikh Environment Day.

Becoming an Eco-Sikh !!

15th March 2013, Fremont California:

Environmentalism and Sikhism are commonly looked upon as two completely separate theologies. It is only when we look closely at the Gurbani, we can see how important our environment is to basic Sikh spirituality.

Somehow in the mixture of the waves of immigration, and shifting our focus from an agrarian lifestyle to more post-modern modes of production, we have forgotten how intrinsic and crucial our environment is, and has been, to the existence of basic Sikh philosophy and history. We have armed ourselves with physical, political, and legal protections to keep each spiritual thread intact on our sacred bodies. Despite being miles and years apart from our traditional history as agrarian innovators in Punjab, we still maintain a spiritual thread that connects us to our past and spiritual homeland. A homeland that is being decimated by international corporations, corrupt politics, lack of regulations, economic impositions, and so many man-made health and environmental disasters. The very roots of our metaphorical spiritual hair, whose roots are embedded in the environment that inspired Guru Nanak to start a powerful religious movement, is being destroyed by our decisions as modern Sikh consumers. The cyclical impact that we have on our environment is a spiritual embedding in our beliefs as Sikhs, which is something that Guru Nanak, himself, stressed when he stated “Pawan guru pani pita mata dharth mahat.” (Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all).1
We must transform the question of “Who am I as a Sikh?” into “Who am I as an eco-Sikh?” Many of us will be surprised to find direct references to ecology in the Gurbani. But it is through the Gurbani where we will understand what our role as an ‘eco-Sikh” entails.

The Gurbani equates respect for every hair on one’s body to respecting all areas that God permeates, including forests, “O Nanak, He is pervading and permeating all places, the forests and the meadows, the three worlds, and every hair.” 2 If we, as Sikhs, are committed to maintaining our external and internal appearance as the gurus required, how can we ignore our duty to also maintain the environment? Caring for the earth is a not just a value that we must uphold, but is also a direct Hukam that aligns with the “Gurmukh’s path,” 3 “If someone is going to teach me something, let it be that the Lord is pervading the forests and fields.” 4 In aligning ourselves to this Hukam here are some steps that we can take to be responsible, environmentally conscious eco-Sikhs:

1. Planting Trees, replacing lawns with your own home-grown vegetables, and replacing your gardens with native plants and habitats. The Guru Granth Sahib states, “we shall reap the results of the seeds which we sow.” 5 We must engage in actions that promote sustainability for the whole planet. For more information on “food not lawns” please visit http://www.foodnotlawns.com

2. Use bio-degradable and recyclable plates, knives, forks, and napkins. Composting is a great way to minimize the amount of trash thrown out, and to enrich the soil for your gardens. For more information on composting, please visit http://www.epa.gov/compost/

3. Biking, walking, or taking public transportation instead of using a car is a great way to reduce carbon emissions in a healthy way.

4. If you cannot grow your own vegetables or fruits, as a consumer, you should choose to buy organic food from local farmers. Not only do you avoid exposing your family and the environment to the harmful effects of pesticides, but you also invest in local farmers and businesses.

5. Educate yourself and promote research in sustainable organic farming techniques.

The lasting effects of the Green Revolution that occurred in Punjab has unfortunately driven the “green” out of the revolution and has caused farmers in Punjab to look for alternative farming techniques. Heavy pressure for more food grain crops forced many of these farmers to focus on mono-cropping with the use of pesticides and insecticides. Increased dependence on pesticide use has drained the soil of its alkalinity and salinity; thus causing the soil to be unfit for growing crops, and further pressuring farmers to be dependent on chemicals to support the growth. This has resulted in irreparable damage to the farmers in Punjab and consumers. In addition to negatively impacting the environment, the use of pesticides and the depletion of the soil has caused many consumers to suffer from rare types of cancer at an alarming rate. By promoting research in sustainable organic farming techniques, areas such as Punjab and our own local farms will be able to farm organically, in an economically sustainable fashion. This will also maintain healthy soil, environment, and nutritious crops.

It is our responsibility to treat our sacred environment with as much respect as we treat our bodies and appearance as Sikhs. This is not a change that we make on one day of the year, but a lifelong commitment that we make with the environment and with God.

1. Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Pg. 8, line 10.
2. Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Pg. 133,, line 13.
3. Singh, Jagtaran. “Sikhism the Green Religion.” SikhNet | Sharing the Sikh Experience. N.p., 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <http://fateh.sikhnet.com//sikhnet/news.nsf/
4. Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Pg. 92, line 12.
5. ” Saving Environment” WaheguruNet Sikhism info – WaheguruNet. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <http://www.wahegurunet.com/saving-environment>.
Amitoj Singh
Coordinator, UNITED SIKHS India
E: unitedsikhs-india@unitedsikhs.org

 

 

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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
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