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The Sikh Coalition Avaaz
June 14, 2014
  • Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the Vice President

    On June 4, 2014, Sikh Coalition Executive Director Sapreet Kaur and Programs Director Amardeep Singh were invited by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden to join a celebration to honor Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. During his remarks, the Vice President lauded the community’s achievements in the business, education, and military sectors and he emphasized the growing importance of Asian and Pacific countries for the growth of the world and economy. As the Vice President acknowledged the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders past and present, the Sikh Coalition was able to raise the issue of Sikh service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    Click here for pictures from the event.
  • Remembering the Anti-Sikh Violence of 1984

    This June, Sikhs worldwide will remember the Indian Army’s assault on Darbar Sahib and dozens of other Gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) throughout Punjab in 1984. Code-named Operation Bluestar, the assault claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Sikh worshippers and set the stage for a decade of violent state repression that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocents and non-combatants.

    Click here to learn more about the events of June 1984.
  • "Sikh Women in Contemporary America" Panel Discussion

    On June 7, 2014, the Sikh Coalition hosted its second panel in the “Sikh Women in Contemporary America” series. Three talented and accomplished Sikh women offered reflections on their experiences as Kaurs in their professional fields as well as in other spheres of their lives. Manmeet Kaur, Jasmeet K. Ahuja, and Dr. Prem Singh shared their perspectives on various issues including the Kaur identity. They offered valuable insight, inspiring many Kaurs and Singhs in attendance for this special event.

    Click here for photos from the event.
  • Sikh Coalition Joins Advocates in Raising Concerns about 9/11 Museum

    On May 14, 2014, the Interfaith Center of New York hosted a press conference of New York community leaders, including the Sikh Coalition, to address controversy over a 9/11 Memorial Museum film. The film conflates turbans and beards with terrorism, thereby perpetuating negative stereotypes that lead to hate crimes and school bullying of Sikhs. The Sikh Coalition's Programs Director, Amardeep Singh, delivered powerful remarks at the press conference stating that the Museum and film must "be about us standing together."

    Click here to view the Sikh Coalition's remarks.
  • Sikh Coalition Raises NYPD's Refusal to Accommodate Observant Sikh Police Officers with Commissioner Agarwal

    On June 4, 2014, the Sikh Coalition met with Commissioner Nisha Agarwal with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, along with other Asian American organizations, in a dialogue to address problems faced by our communities. Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur spoke to the attendees about the discrimination faced by Sikhs when attempting to enlist in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The NYPD's current uniform and grooming policies, which prohibit certain types of religious headwear and facial hair, are a barrier to observant Sikhs who maintain religiously-mandated unshorn hair (including beards) and wear turbans. The NYPD's policies, which deny the Sikh community an equal opportunity to serve in the nation's largest police force, also run counter to law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the Milpitas Police Department in California, all of whom do accommodate Sikh articles of faith. The Sikh Coalition thanks Commissioner Agarwal for her efforts, the Asian American Federation for hosting the event, and will continue to advocate with New York City government on this critical issue.

    If you are interested in joining the NYPD, please contact the Sikh Coalition's Legal Program.
  • Sikh Coalition Protects Rights of Sikh Harassed by Police

    On March 19, 2014, the Sikh Coalition conducted a Sikh Awareness presentation, for the first time, with the Santa Fe Police Department (SFPD) in New Mexico. The presentation was conducted after a kirpan-wearing Sikh was denied entry to the Zozobra Festival. A few blocks later, the Sikh was also stopped by multiple police officers from the Santa Fe Police Department, man-handled, had his kirpan removed and thrown to the ground, was accused of carrying a deadly weapon, and was finally released after being hassled and threatened.

    Click here to read more.
  • 1984 Living History Project

    The 1984 Living History Project is working to capture the stories of anti-Sikh violence in India during 1984, while recognizing the survival and resilience of a people. This project seeks to build awareness of state-sponsored human rights violations, suppression of information and social trauma.

    Take some time to listen to the stories of individuals from across the world recount their memories of 1984. Further, we encourage you to submit a video, or set up a recording studio to capture the history of 1984 in our own voices. For details on how to submit a video, please read through the story guidelines.
  • The Becket Fund Annual Gala and National Religious Liberty Roundtable

    On May 15, 2014, the Becket Fund, the nation's premier public interest law firm working to protect religious liberty, held its annual gala, the Canterbury Medal Dinner. Before the Dinner, the Sikh Coalition's Programs Director, Amardeep Singh, participated in an inaugural Religious Liberty Roundtable. The Roundtable was a two hour facilitated discussion among thirty of the nation's most prominent lawyers, journalists, and academics concerned with religious liberty. Participants discussed current threats to the law and religious liberty and the best means to overcome them. Of the day, the New York Post wrote, "Perhaps only the Becket Fund could pull off such an event, a glittering evening where men and women of strong (and conflicting) beliefs find common ground without watering down their principles."
  • Sikh Coalition Speaks at American Councils for International Education

    On June 9, 2014, the Sikh Coalition was invited to present to recipients of the Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship. Western Region Director, Simran Kaur, spoke about our civil rights work with the Punjabi-speaking community across the nation. The Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarships Program was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical languages overseas. In 2014, the Department of State is awarding  scholarships to approximately 550 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students for the study of languages, including Punjabi. Participants in the Punjabi language program will spend the summer in an intensive language institute in Chandigarh, India. The CLS Program is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical languages.
  • Sikh Coalition Participates in Alcohol and Violence Symposium

    On June 3, 2014, the Sikh Coalition's Staff Attorney, Gurjot Kaur, participated in a Alcohol and Violence Symposium at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, in New York City. Gurjot explained that a number of hate crimes or incidents against the Sikh community have been perpetrated by offenders who use or abuse alcohol, or have occurred in places where alcohol is served or imbibed. For instance, Sikhs at concerts, sporting events, restaurants, on public transportation, or Sikhs employed as taxi cab drivers, gas station attendants, or bodega/store workers are especially vulnerable to alcohol-induced abuse, ranging from verbal assaults to actual physical violence.

    Gurjot shared numerous examples, including that of Mr. Kashmira Hothi, a Washington Sikh taxi cab driver who was attacked by passenger Jamie Larson in 2012. Mr. Larson called Mr. Hothi "Bin Laden," told him to "go back to his country," tore out chunks of his beard, loosened his teeth, punched and stomped all over his body and head, causing kidney damage. Mr. Larson later identified alcohol as the key reason he committed the hate crime, saying that he "wasn't even aware of the full extent of his actions until he read the brief given to him by his attorney." Mr. Larson was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

    The SIkh Coalition would like to thank the Partnership for a Healthier New York City for raising critical awareness on these important and often unaddressed intersections between alcohol and hate.
  • Hate Crime Presentation at Queensborough Community College

    On May 15, 2014, Harjeet Kaur, Legal Fellow, gave a hate crimes presentation to Queensborough Community College students at the campus’ Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center. Harjeet engaged with the students in a discussion about core Sikh beliefs, the Five Ks, and common misconceptions that lead to the perpetration of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in America. She provided examples of hate crimes committed against the community and how Sikhi has played a large role in the victims' non-violent response to the hate or discrimination they have faced.
  • Sikh Coalition Files Amici with Supreme Court in Prisoners’ Rights Cases

    The Sikh Coalition, represented by the Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic, filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision in Knight v. Thompson; the Sikh Coalition, represented by Sidley Austin, LLP, filed a similar brief in Holt v. Hobbs, a case already under review by the Supreme Court. Both cases involve rigid grooming policies that restrict the religious practice of prisoners from minority faiths.

    In Knight, an Alabama prison, citing “safety concerns,” refused to accommodate a Native American prisoner's religious request to maintain unshorn hair. In Holt, an Arkansas prison similarly denied a prisoner’s request to grow a beard in accordance with his Muslim faith. The Sikh Coalition’s briefs argued that: (1) these policies will adversely impact the religious rights of Sikh prisoners; (2) both Alabama and Arkansas had failed to consider religious grooming accommodations provided to Sikh or other minority prisoners across the country that actually promoted safety and well-being; and (3) inflexible grooming policies will only serve to exacerbate misunderstanding and discrimination against Sikhs and other minority prisoners.

    Click here to read the Knight brief.
    Click here to read the Holt brief.
  • Sikh Coalition Attends Seattle Vaisakhi Events

    Sikh Coalition Community Development Manager, Harjit Kaur, participated in Vaisakhi celebrations hosted by the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Renton, WA. Over 5,000 people attended the event. The Sikh Coalition disseminated information to parents about preventing bullying in schools, along with a myriad of information regarding other civil rights issues. Special thanks to the committee members of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Renton for honoring the Sikh Coalition with a plaque for its leadership in community service.
  • Harvard Graduate Students Participate in Discussion on California Sikh Issues

    On May 16, 2014, Social Justice Fellow Winty Singh met with public policy graduate students from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government who were touring California to learn about race and poverty issues in California's Central Valley. Among the topics discussed, the students were briefed on issues that the Sikh community has faced in California and across the country, particularly those related to hate crimes, school bullying, employment discrimination and racial profiling, as well as the work that the Sikh Coalition has engaged in to address these issues. The meeting also included a brief overview of the Sikh faith and a tour of the Gurdwara Sahib West Sacramento. The Sikh Coalition looks forward to fostering a relationship with the Kennedy School as the students complete policy projects during their program. The Sikh Coalition thanks the Gurdwara Sahib West Sacramento for hosting the meeting.
  • “Khalsa Kids Empowerment Workshop” Hosted at the Kaur and Singh Academy

    Volunteers from New Jersey, Gurjote Sethi and Harleen Kaur, presented the Sikh Coaliton’s “Khalsa Kids Empowerment Workshop” to young children at the Kaur and Singh Academy, located in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Children participated in an interactive workshop and left empowered and informed about their rights to be treated with dignity. Children learned what it means to be bullied and how to act in said situations, following powerful examples given by the Gurus. Young Kaurs and Singhs were provided a safe space to speak about their own experiences with bullying and were offered support from both the Sikh Coalition volunteers and their own sangat members. This experience helped open a conversation about bullying in all forms and helped develop comfortable a support system for the youth in their own sangat. If you are interested in having a similar presentation at your local Khalsa School or Gurudwara, please email education@sikhcoalition.org.
  • Sikh Coalition Offers Prayer at Interfaith Dinner

    On May 5, 2014, the Sikh Coalition was invited to the 2014 James Parks Morton Interfaith Awards Dinner to offer a Sikh prayer and blessing for the dinner. Operations Manager, Balbir Singh, recited an ardaas in front of the packed room. The Sikh Coalition was one of many faith communities who attended the awards dinner that recognized the contributions of civil and human rights leaders. This year’s honorees included the Honorable Al Gore, Peter L. Zimroth, Mrs. Gaetana Enders (posthumous), and His Holiness Sri Swami Satchidananda (posthumous).
  • Apply to the Junior Sikh Coalition!

    Are you a high school or college student interested in becoming a recognized youth leader in your community? After two successful years of its youth leadership program, the Sikh Coalition is recruiting youth members for a third year of the Junior Sikh Coalition. The Junior Sikh Coalition is a robust year-long program that trains Sikh youth in leadership skills that are transferable to their community relationships, academic work, and careers. Participating in this program enables youth to gain valuable hands-on experience in leadership and advocacy, while creating noticeable change in their communities.

    Through this program, high school and college youth have the opportunity to work closely with the Sikh Coalition staff to transform into fearless Sikh leaders and to work to promote the message of Nirbhau Nirvair – without fear and without hate.

    The application deadline is June 30, 2014. If you have a strong passion for social justice, don’t miss this opportunity! To learn more, please visit our website and click here to apply.
  • Sikh Coalition Welcomes 2014 Summer Interns

    The Sikh Coalition is pleased to welcome its 2014 summer interns! We are looking forward to a productive summer with this high caliber group of energetic and diverse students!

    New York Office
    • Dr. Bajwa Legal Fellow: Kiranjot Gill (Fordham Law School)
    • Video and Media Intern: Rebecca Galin (Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary)
    • Development Intern: Kirenjyot Kaur (Penn. State University)
    • Communications and Development Intern: Harleen Kaur (Barnard College)

    The Internship Program allows students pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies to gain hands-on experience in promoting the civil and human rights of all individuals. For more information about our internship program, please click here.

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