Posts tagged ‘Sikh’

Bandi Chhor Diwas: A 396-Year-Old Civil Rights Victory

UNITED SIKHS wishes its supporters a prosperous and blessed Bandi Chhor Diwas today, November 11. On this day in 1619, the sixth Sikh prophet Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison. Upon his release, Guru Hargobind Ji requested that 52 Hindu princes who were political prisoners in the same fort be released along with him. The Emperor Jahangir decreed that as many princes that could hold on to the hem of Guru Hargobind Ji’s shirt could be freed. Thus Guru Hargobind Ji had a special shirt with multiple hems made, and every prisoner held on and attained liberation.

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

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

 

USA: Have You Signed the Petition to Protect Sikh Drivers’ Civil Rights?

UNITED SIKHS helped the sangat of Gurdwaras in California and New York sign the UNITED SIKHS hair sampling petition to ensure the protection of commercial drivers of the Sikh faith. Similar events were hosted at Gurudwaras in Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. area, and across the United States.

Hair Sampling Collage

On September 28, you signed the petition to write to your Senators about the detrimental effects bill S.806: Drug Free Commercial Driver Act will have on the Sikh community if passed without a religious accommodation amendment. In the past four weeks, we have received 1,200 signatures, but our work is far from over. The bill is still in the Senate and continues to pose a threat to Sikh commercial drivers across the country. If you haven’t done so already, we ask you to sign the petition to your Senators asking them support the civil rights of the Sikh community, and share it with your friends and family.

Civil Rights Violation

Bill S.806 has the potential to violate the civil rights – the rights of citizens to equality and freedom – of Sikh commercial drivers. It fails to implement the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the right of every citizen to practice his or her faith without fear of persecution or discrimination.

If this bill is enacted, employers will be able to force a Sikh operator to provide a hair sample without offering an alternate form of testing such as urinalysis, thereby preventing Sikhs from seeking employment as operators due to their inability to cut their hair for any purpose.

Once again, Sikhs would have to choose between employment, and their faith.

The bill will affect operators of all commercial vehicles. By signing the petition, you are contacting your Senators directly, and making your voice heard. Only one Senator must object to the bill and propose the amendment on the Senate floor. We are ensuring Senators across the country are aware of the concerns of the Sikh community.

As a civil rights organization, UNITED SIKHS is dedicated to ensuring the rights of all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

It is vital that we as a community rally around our senators – these officials should be informed of the detrimental effect of this bill on the Sikh community, and that overall, it stands in stark contrast to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We thank all of our supporters who have already signed the petition, taking a stand for religious freedom in the United States. Please continue to share it with your friends and family, and encourage others to help us make a positive change.

Keep up to date on this issue and other UNTIED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter |

UNITED SIKHS Launches Food Bank on East Coast, USA

UNITED SIKHS is humbled to announce the initiation of the UNITED SIKHS food bank in New York City, which covers all five boroughs – Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan, as well as the counties of Nassau and Suffolk in Long Island. To donate food cans for the bank, write to foodbank@unitedsikhs.org or to sign up as a volunteer, click here.

One of the pillars of the Sikh faith is the concept of Vhand Chakna, or sharing one’s possessions and blessings with others. Walking on the path of service as laid out in Sikhism, we are devoted to battling extreme hunger all over the world:

In Malaysia, UNITED SIKHS launched the Malaysia Foodbank Organization, raising funds with Good Will Walks in 2014 and 2015. Since its inception, the Malaysia Foodbank organization has provided over 150 tonnes of food to those who need it most, including the Orang Asli community, from which seven children went missing in August.

UNITED SIKHS extended its hunger relief efforts in 2010 by launching “Feed the Hungry” to feed the hungry in Canada:

UNITED SIKHS distributing food to the needy in Toronto, Canada in 2014. Click here to view more pictures.

The Guru Nanak Food Bank inaugurated in 2011 in Kenya continues to serve food to the needy.

Her Excellency, Mrs. Pauline Kalonzo signing the pledge for the Sri Guru Nanak Food Bank, a project of UNITED SIKHS.

 

Historically, Guru Angad Dev Ji’s wife, Mata Khiviji, planned and organized langar when people gathered for spiritual darbar during the times of Guru Nanak and continued the tradition through Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Mata Khivi and community members worked as a team to provide fresh, hot, and healthy food for everyone who gathered. This is how the tradition of langar began.

Langar has always been provided to whoever is in need of a meal, regardless of race, religion, caste, or gender. The Sikh faith teaches us to treat all human beings as equal when carrying out acts of selfless service, or seva. It is a blessing to be able to extend this concept internationally, and provide food to thousands of individuals who would otherwise go hungry. It is thanks to your support that we are able to carry out our mission of providing aid and assistance to the needy. Donate today to help support these programs.

Also needed are volunteers in three areas:

  • Logistics: Volunteers are needed for tracking where food goes, when food is needed in an area, how much is needed, where food donations can come from, etc.
  • Physical Distribution: Volunteers are needed to pick up and transfer food.
  • Operations: Volunteers in this group will execute the delivery remotely and report the status back to the project manager.

If you are interested in volunteering for this initiative, please contact foodbank@unitedsikhs.org, and fill out the join form.

We are excited to take this step in our effort to reduce hunger around the world with the addition of a food bank in New York, where 1.7 million individuals live in poverty. The foodbank will be located at the following address:

UNITED SIKHS Food bank
55 Broadway, Suite – D
Hicksville, NY 11801

Keep up to date on this issue and other UNTIED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

Sikh Community of Seattle Offers Helping Hand to Washington Wildfire Victims

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

CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST KIRPAN-WEARING TEENAGER DROPPED

Criminal charges against 17-year-old Virender Singh were dismissed by the Criminal Court of the City of New York, County of Queens about a week ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get your Census form from libraries if you didnt receive it yet!!!

It has been brought to attention that Census forms will not be mailed to gurdwaras. Therefore, the religious workers and their families who reside at gurdwaras will not receive their form. Also, due to the ongoing situation with vacant housing, chances are that there will be problems in everyone getting their forms.

If you know someone who did not receive a Census form, make sure you inform them to pick one up from a nearby public library or assistance center. For more information, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/.

If you have any questions or need information, you can also mail us law-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

Census Bureau responds to the Sikh Petition

Washington DC, March 13th, 2010: Finally, after a month of waiting, UNITED SIKHS received the first response  from the Census Bureau to the Petition submitted by them to the Office of Management and Budget and the Census Bureau.

In the response, the Bureau said, “With Census Day less than one month away, it is too late to change our procedure for classifying “Sikh” responses to the 2010 Census question on race, without extreme cost and risk to Census Bureau operations. Beyond the 2010 Census, we will consider changes to the processing of the term “Sikh” when it is provided in response to the question on race.” Continue reading ‘Census Bureau responds to the Sikh Petition’ »

Census Official confirms that Sikhs should write “Sikh” in Other Category on the Census form

On March 3, 2010, the Atlanta area Sangat organized a Sikh Complete Count Committee (SCCC) meeting with the Census Bureau. Nigel Rajadurai answered the questions that every Sikh has been asking. Here is a transcript of the Q&A session with the Census Officer:

1 On question 9 – can we write in the word ‘SIKH’ in the “Some other race” category? Yes

2 Will the computer reject the form? No

Continue reading ‘Census Official confirms that Sikhs should write “Sikh” in Other Category on the Census form’ »

Identify yourself as “SIKH” in census 2010

UNITED SIKHS, along with other organizations like Sikh Coalition and the South Asian Coalition of organizations, SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) contacted Karem Humes last year to discuss the coding methodology for Census 2010. The letter sent by Ms. Humes in reply stated that even if a person writes in “Sikh” on the census form, the person would be automatically counted as “Asian Indian.”

However, after receipt of the letter, UNITED SIKHS did not drop the issue. It is important that the Sikh community together join hands to advocate for this cause. And dropping the issue does not help. Continue reading ‘Identify yourself as “SIKH” in census 2010’ »

West Coast Sikhi Camp Held in California

Caruthers, CA – “VAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA, VAHEGURU JI KI FATEH”, said the campers for the last time to each other. Tears, smiles and hugs were abundant among the campers and the organizers. The mood was one of great happiness and joy at the successful camp, but a great sadness that the camp was over. “When is the next camp?” shouted one of the campers, which was met with smiles and cheers from the other campers and organizers.
The West Coast Sikhi Camp, with the limitless blessings of the Almighty, was a great success, above and beyond what the organizers could have hoped for. Seventy five lucky campers experienced 4 days of fun filled learning, activities and of course, the delicious langar. The organizers were very appreciative of the campers’ cooperativeness and enthusiasm over the camp.
The uniqueness of the West Coast Sikhi Camp was its focus on having Sikhs living and working among society provide their remarkable input. Shattering the stereotype that keeping the Sikh physical image and employment are incompatible, the speakers (local as well as international) presented their talks and led discussions on Sikh religion, the faith, its meaning and its experience to the riveted campers, most of which was in English. Rather than being a one sided lecture, the talks from various speakers were followed by an open discussion, which fostered an environment of learning and enthusiasm.
The organizers wish to thank the campers for making the first ever West Coast Sikhi Camp a great success, the parents for their great trust in feeding their children’s spirituality and all of the volunteers that stepped up and made the camp come together. We are greatly indebted to Bhai Manvir Singh and Bhai Ravjeet Singh who joined us from England, along with Dr. Gurtej Singh from Sacramento. The three well renowned speakers led various topics and talks to acquaint the campers with history and beliefs of the Sikh religion.
One last note from the West Coast Sikhi Camp organizers: See you at the next camp and stay tuned to www.WCSikhiCamp.com for announcements.

Caruthers, CA – “VAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA, VAHEGURU JI KI FATEH”, said the campers for the last time to each other. Tears, smiles and hugs were abundant among the campers and the organizers. The mood was one of great happiness and joy at the successful camp, but a great sadness that the camp was over. “When is the next camp?” shouted one of the campers, which was met with smiles and cheers from the other campers and organizers. Continue reading ‘West Coast Sikhi Camp Held in California’ »