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The Sikh Coalition Avaaz
March 14, 2015
  • Hate Crime Indictment Against Man Who Ran Over a Sikh Last Year

    In February 2015, a Queens County grand jury indicted Long Island resident Joseph Caleca on attempted murder and hate crime charges for the July 31, 2014 attack on Sandeep Singh in Queens, New York. The indictment is a formal accusation that a person has committed a serious crime and represents substantial progress by the District Attorney’s office to prosecute this case to the fullest extent possible. Mr. Caleca is next due in court on April 22, 2015. If convicted, Mr. Caleca could spend up to 25 years in prison for his brutal actions against Sandeep Singh.
  • Hate Crimes v. Hate Speech - Know Your Rights

    Over the past few months, there has been a spike of hate crimes against American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, including Sikh Americans. We ask the Sikh community to come together and stand with diverse communities in combating hate and bigotry in America. We have prepared a FAQ guide to walk you through what constitutes a hate crime, hate speech, and how to report incidents to the authorities and to the Sikh Coalition. 
  • Empowering Georgia Sangat Following Viral School Bullying Video of Sikh Middle-Schooler

    We worked with the local sangat in Georgia to provide a rapid media response in the wake of a viral school bullying video that was recently circulated on the Internet. The video depicts a Sikh middle school student being called a "terrorist" by fellow students on a school bus. While respecting and supporting the privacy of all involved we secured interviews on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox for Shawn Tucker and Aasees Kaur. Shawn is a Sikh Coalition Advocate and Aasees is the older sister of Japjee Singh, a client that the Sikh Coalition represented in a landmark school bullying case. We also worked with Aasees to secure an Op-Ed on the problem of bullying in the Atlanta Journal Constitution - the largest paper in Georgia.
  • Do You Want to Partner with the White House?

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders recently created a Bullying Prevention Task Force. Among other things, the Task Force is organizing a series of “listening sessions” around the United States that allow parents, youth, school officials and representatives from the White House to share information about bullying in our communities and discuss prevention strategies. If you would like to partner with the White House on organizing or attending a listening session in your community – for example, at your local Gurdwara or community center – please contact Rajdeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s Senior Director of Law and Policy, at rajdeep@sikhcoalition.org.
  • CA Congressman Mike Honda Presents New Anti-Bullying Guide

    On March 7, 2015, Congressman Mike Honda, from California's Silicon Valley, presented a bullying prevention guide at the Santa Clara County School Board meeting. The guide was designed to inform district superintendents of the bullying prevention resources available through the Sikh Coalition and other organizations. During the meeting, Congressman Honda encouraged educators to host bullying prevention seminars and staff trainings to appropriately address bullying concerns. Congressman Honda pointed to the Sikh Coalition’s groundbreaking anti-bullying work and educational trainings as a model that requires replicating in his own district.

    We urge all parents and students to learn more about bullying, request bullying prevention seminars, and reach out for help when needed. If you know anyone who is being bullied, please fill out our request legal assistance form or call 212-655-3095. For bullying prevention resources, please visit our resource page.
  • Supreme Court Upholds Religious Rights in Prison Case

    Last year, the Sikh Coalition, represented by Sidley Austin LLP, filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Holt v. Hobbs, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a Muslim prisoner to grow a beard in accordance with his faith. In January 2015, the Supreme Court agreed with the Muslim plaintiff, issuing a unanimous 9-0 decision in support of religious liberties.

    The Supreme Court's ruling allows the prisoner to maintain a 1/2 inch religious beard in an Arkansas prison. The Court found that the Arkansas Department of Correction had substantially burdened the prisoner’s right to exercise his religion by refusing his request to grow a beard. The Court also dismissed the prison’s purported justifications, noting that it could effectively implement less restrictive policies than a complete ban and still ensure prison safety.

    One such alternative measure was proposed by Justice Samuel Alito, who said the prison could simply ask the prisoner to "comb his beard" to see "if there’s a SIM card in there or a revolver or anything else you think can be hidden in a half-inch beard – a tiny revolver – it’ll fall out."

    This case is an important victory for religious rights. Because of this ruling, it will make it much more difficult for prisons to cite unjustifiable safety or other concerns to prevent a Sikh prisoner from maintaining an unshorn beard.
  • Sikh Coalition Weighs in on Abercrombie Religious Discrimination Case

    On March 2, 2015, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur opined on the recent employment religious discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, Inc. In a piece for The Huffington Post, Gurjot compared the issues faced by the plaintiff, Samantha Elauf, to the discrimination encountered by the Sikh community when obtaining employment. In this critical case, the Supreme Court will decide whether an employer requires actual notice that an employee or job applicant needs a religious accommodation to a conflicting workplace policy, or whether constructive notice (i.e. the interviewee wore a turban to the interview) will suffice. Gurjot analyzed the case's potential impact on the rights of other visibly observant religious minorities - including Sikhs - and discussed how a more stringent notice requirement will make it much more difficult for Sikhs to obtain employment.
  • Post 9/11 Discrimination Panel at Columbia Law School

    On February 28, 2015, Simran Jeet Singh, Senior Religion Fellow, spoke on a panel about post-9/11 discrimination at Columbia Law School. His co-panelists were Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU's National Security Project, and Amna Nawaz, an Emmy Award winning investigative journalist and Managing Editor for NBC Asian America. The discussion touched on a broad range of issues, from racial profiling and police surveillance to community building and empowerment.
  • Sikh Coalition Interviews With Americans United for Separation of Church and State

    In February 2015, Americans United for Separation of Church and State interviewed Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur for its monthly magazine on church-state and religious freedom issues in the United States. The article, entitled, "It's Enshrined in the First Amendment, but Religious Freedom is a Principle Some Groups Still Have to Fight For," analyzed the conflicts between minority communities and the mandates of the U.S. Constitution. Gurjot discussed the barriers faced by the Sikh community in obtaining full religious freedom and the discrimination our community continues to experience following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Gurjot noted the legal battles and intervention often required to obtain religious freedom for Sikhs in various contexts, including in prisons, to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and in law enforcement.

    Read the full interview here.
  • "Sikhs in the Media" Lecture at Columbia Journalism School

    On February 23, 2015, Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh gave a presentation at Columbia Journalism School on covering Sikhs in the media. The lecture was for a course called "Covering Religion," which is taught by an award-winning religion reporter for the New York Times, Professor Ari Goldman. Simran introduced the future reporters to the Sikh tradition and also brought attention to the challenges that Sikhs face in the space of media.
  • Survey on Female Participation and Leadership at Gurdwaras

    The Sikh Coalition is conducting a survey on “Sikh Female Participation and Leadership at Gurdwaras" and are encouraging both U.S-based men and women to fill out the survey. If you already filled out this survey, please share it with friends and family. The Sikh Coalition plans to release our survey findings later this year.
  • "American Sniper Does Not Get My Vote"

    On February 22, 2015, Sikh Coalition Social Justice Fellow Winty Singh published a blog post entitled “American Sniper Does Not Get My Vote.” In his blog, Winty shares his thoughts on the Oscar-nominated movie American Sniper, what it exposes about American culture, and how in his view, the film perpetuates biases against religious minorities.

    Click here to read the blog post.
  • "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas

    On February 19, 2015, the Institute of Texan Cultures launched its new exhibit entitled "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab." On February 21, 2015, the Institute hosted the Asian Festival, in which members of Sikh Dharamsal raised awareness about Sikhi by tying turbans on people and writing their names in Gurmukhi. As part of the event, Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh and Lakhpreet Kaur, Editor-in-Chief for Kaur Life, gave an introduction to the Sikh tradition.
  • Sikh Coalition Participates in San Jose Hola Mohalla Event

    On March 7, 2015, San Jose Gurdwara hosted Hola Mohalla in the Bay Area. Thousands of Sikhs and non-Sikhs came together to celebrate the annual event. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji started Hola Mohalla by calling upon Sikhs to learn self defense through the art of Gatka and Shaster Vidhiya while partaking in prayers. To uphold the traditions from this rich history, the community came together to participate in similar activities throughout the event. Sikh Coalition staff, advocates, and community volunteers participated in the events by providing resources for students and parents, and empowering the community on how to address issues like bullying in schools.

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