Archive for the ‘Right to Turban’ Category.

U.S. Army Accomodates First Active Duty Religious Beard in Decades

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNITED SIKHS Welcomes Appointment of Melissa Rogers As New White House Faith Based Director

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. Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS Welcomes Appointment of Melissa Rogers As New White House Faith Based Director’ »

Sikhs Ask Canadian PM to Raise France’s Turban Ban at Meeting with French PM

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. Continue reading ‘Sikhs Ask Canadian PM to Raise France’s Turban Ban at Meeting with French PM’ »

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

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. Continue reading ‘First Sikh American Offers Prayers at the 67th United Nations General Assembly Opening Session’ »

Victory in California

Governor Brown Speaks & Signs Legislation Bills AB 1964 & SB 1540 at Capitol Hill

Highlights:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signs the AB 1964(Yamada) SB 1540 (Hancock) today. State Senator – California Senate District 09. The Sikh community is thankful to Governor Brown for upholding the Civil Liberties by signing the bills. 
SB 1540  (Hancock):Introduced by State Senator – California Senate District 09: Introduced by Assembly Member Loni Hancock. This bill will now requires the California State Board of Education to consider the adoption of a revised the history-social science framework. Senator Hancock has spent nearly four decades as a forceful advocate for open government, educational reform, environmental protection, economic development, and social justice. UNITED SIKHS thanks Senator Hancock and her staff and also all indivduals, organizations and especially Dr Onkar Singh Bindra, the pioneer behind the bill
AB 1964 (Yamada) :  Introduced  by  Assembly Member Mariko Yamada- California’s 8th district. Provides reasonable accomodations to Discrimination in Employment. Coauthor(s): Assembly Member Allen, Cedillo, Dickinson, Fong, Bonnie Lowenthal, Senator Corbett, DeSaulnier, La Malfa, Lieu, Rubio, Steinberg, Yee. An act to amend Sections 12926 and 12940 of the Government Code, relating to employment. UNITED SIKHS thanks Assembly Member Yamada and her staff and also thanks sister organization, the Sikh Coalition that pioneered this bill.

Continue reading ‘Victory in California’ »

Action Alert: Support the End Racial Profiling Act

April 17, 2012 – Today, Senator Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Subcommittee in the Senate Judiciary Committee, has convened the first  Senate hearing on racial profiling since September 11th. Over the past ten years, South Asian, Muslim, Sikh and Arab communities living in the United States have been targeted for heightened scrutiny by law enforcement based on their religion, ethnicity, national origin, or nationality. Examples include frequent searches by airport security and border inspection officers, mandatory registration of certain male nationals from predominantly Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, under the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, and targeted surveillance of South Asian places of worship by federal and local law enforcement. In a statement for the record submitted for the Senate hearing,SAALT underscored the ongoing harmful effects of profiling on South Asian community members.  Continue reading ‘Action Alert: Support the End Racial Profiling Act’ »

Victory for Sikhs in South Carolina

A few months ago, UNITED SIKHS was approached by one of our volunteers in South Carolina, Jagmeet Singh, about a problem he was facing at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. He was requested to remove his turban to obtain his driver’s license, and they refused. You can read more about it here. UNITED SIKHS Legal Team wrote a letter to the South Carolina authorities, and we are happy to report that we’ve heard back from Jagmeet Singh. Earlier today, Jagmeet wrote to us, “I went to renew my SC Driver’s license today. I did not face any trouble. It was very smooth process. Last time DMV employees asked me to remove daastar to take picture and then UNITED SIKHS contacted SC authorities.”

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Comments on RTT Cases

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