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The Sikh Coalition Avaaz
January 16, 2016
  • LA Bus Driver Assaulted, Called “Terrorist”

    On November 6, 2015, a turbaned Sikh bus operator for the Los Angeles County MTA was brutally attacked by a bus passenger who called him a “terrorist“ and “suicide bomber,” and accused him of hijacking the bus.

    Mr. Balwinder Jit Singh kept his foot on the brake while he was beaten, ensuring the safety of passengers and pedestrians. Two months after the attack, Mr. Singh continues to suffer from head pain, eye pain and blurred vision. The Sikh Coalition’s legal team is working with the local sheriff’s office and the FBI to push for a hate crime investigation and prosecution, and the media team is working to bring public attention to the case.

    Coverage in the LA Times here. Coverage in the Associated Press here.

    During this period of increased anxiety, we urge Sikhs to exercise extra vigilance and caution. Please notify law enforcement of any threats or violence and contact the Sikh Coalition at 212-655-3095 or online here. In addition, we urge community members to review our FAQ guide on hate crimes, hate speech and how to report incidents to the authorities and to the Sikh Coalition.
  • Responding To Hate With Increased Media Scrutiny and Awareness

    While the Sikh Coalition’s Legal team has worked around the clock to respond to hate crimes in the wake of San Bernardino and other terrorist attacks, the Sikh Coalition’s media and communications team has worked to support those efforts.

    In the last month, the Sikh Coalition coordinated and engaged news outlets on hate crime stories that were featured in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, and Indian and Punjabi news outlets.

    This media engagement jointly focused on particular hate crime cases that required additional government action, while raising national awareness to the concerns and challenges that the Sikh community is facing during this period of increased fear and bigotry. The estimated exposure of the Sikh Coalition’s media engagement in December was nearly 30 million Americans.
  • Requesting Vigilance From Law Enforcement Agencies

    In December 2015, the Sikh Coalition sent a letter to approximately 150 law enforcement agencies in all fifty states and in major metropolitan areas to provide general information on Sikhs and Sikhism, and to request vigilance in responding to and investigating possible hate crimes and backlash against Sikhs and other vulnerable communities. The letter explained the rise of hate crimes against the Sikh community and provided additional information on Sikhs and Sikhism.

    To date, the Sikh Coalition has received supportive responses to our letter from the Houston Police Department, Virginia State Police, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff's Department (California), New Hampshire State Police, Minnesota State Patrol, Milwaukee Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. We will continue to coordinate with as many law enforcement agencies as possible to demand that hate crimes against our community continue to be prioritized, investigated and prosecuted appropriately.
  • Groundbreaking Military Case Applies New Pressure for Change

    In mid-December, a decorated Sikh American was granted a temporary religious accommodation to serve in the U.S. military while maintaining his Sikh articles of faith. This landmark accommodation, which will be confirmed or reversed by March 31, 2016, represents the first accommodation for an active duty Sikh requesting to maintain his articles of faith while in service.

    Captain Singh’s story was featured in the New York Times.

    The Sikh Coalition, which represents the three Sikh clients who have obtained previous religious accommodations along with the law firm of McDermott Will and Emery LLP, is heartened by this preliminary decision for Captain Singh, but continues to call on the U.S. military to end its presumptive ban on service by observant Sikhs. The Becket Fund, which also co-counseled in Captain Singh’s accommodation case, has joined the demand for full inclusion of observant Sikhs in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Fresno Attack Being Investigated as a Hate Crime

    On the morning of December 26, 2015, two men yelled at and beat Amrik Singh Bal and hit him with their car. The car’s impact knocked Mr. Bal unconscious. Mr. Bal sustained a broken collarbone, cuts that required stitches and bruising on his hands.

    The Sikh Coalition is representing Mr. Bal in the case and the Fresno Police Department is investigating this as a hate crime. Through the leadership of the local sangat, the Fresno community has rallied around Mr. Bal and his family and at least $14,000 has been raised for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.

    In addition, on January 1, 2016, a Sikh man, Gurcharan Singh Gill, was stabbed to death at a convenience store where he worked in Fresno, California. The Sikh Coalition has also communicated with local police about this case. The Fresno Police Department has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. The Fresno police and the local community have raised $10,000 for any information to help solve the Gill murder.
  • Meeting with Special Assistant to President Obama

    On December 14, 2015, Sikh Coalition Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh met with Cecilia Munoz, Special Assistant to President Obama and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, to discuss recent hate violence against Sikh Americans. Arjun encouraged the White House to investigate and prosecute all incidents of hate violence and promulgate better anti-bullying policies for America's schools. He also requested President Obama and senior governmental officials to visit a gurdwara and stand alongside the Sikh American community during this difficult time.
  • Sikh Coalition Thanks Gurdwara in Buena Park for their Leadership and Support

    On December 31, 2015, Inderjot Singh, President of Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Buena Park, CA, and members of the sangat presented the Sikh Coalition with a plaque in appreciation of the legal and media support provided after the gurdwara was vandalized with racist graffiti. In addition to presenting the plaque, the gurdwara also held a fundraiser in support of the Sikh Coalition.
    The gurdwara was vandalized during the night of December 5, 2015, and a suspect was arrested days later. During the next weekend, the gurdwara invited the perpetrator to apologize to the sangat. You can view the video of his apology here.
    The Sikh Coalition is humbled by the Gurdwara Singh Sabha sangat's warm gesture and support, and thanks them for their courage and leadership during their experience. The perpetrator of the vandalism is now facing criminal charges, including vandalism of religious property, a felony.
  • Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh Speaks at White House Panel

    On December 17, 2015, Sikh Coalition Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh participated in a White House Panel on interfaith diversity and awareness. The panel was convened in connection with the Know Your Neighbor campaign, which seeks to foster a nationwide dialogue on the country’s various faith traditions. Arjun addressed both the history of Sikhism as well as Sikh immigration to the United States. He concluded his remarks by challenging all Americans to speak out against bigotry and hate violence.
  • Potential Hate Crime Against Sikh Grandfather

    In early December, a 78-year-old Sikh man was assaulted while he waited to pick up his grandson from middle school in Bakersfield, California. An unknown assailant in a truck threw an apple with great force at Mr. Gian Singh, hitting his turban. The force split the apple, stained Mr. Singh’s turban, and left him with head pain and dizziness for days.

    The Sikh Coalition's legal team advocated for the Bakersfield Police Department to investigate the matter as a hate crime, given that Mr. Singh’s religiously-mandated turban was targeted.

    Click here to read more.
  • Thank You Supporters!

    We are excited to share that together we met our year-end budget and raised $1,102,156. Thank you! The collective sangat's support allows us to continue our work into 2016.

    Highlights include:
    • Raised $172,514 on December 1, 2015, for #GivingTuesday, including an • incredibly generous matching fund of $55,000.
    • Raised $106,268 at the 6th annual NYC Bowl-a-thon. [Click to see photos]
    • Raised $35,446 at the 5th annual Bay Area 5K for the 5Ks. [Click to see photos]
    • Individual donations ranged from $1 - $75,000.
    • Median donation was $101.

    In addition to support from the United States sangat, we also received support from Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

    Thank you! Your support both inspires and humbles us.
  • Now Accepting Spring and Summer Internship Applications

    Students, we need you! The Sikh Coalition is currently accepting applications for spring and summer internships. We are hiring talented and engaged students to serve as interns for our Development, Community Development, Media and Communications, and Legal teams. The Sikh Coalition's interns have the opportunity to do meaningful and impactful work while gaining hands-on experience in the civil rights space. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at internships@sikhcoalition.org.

    Applications for both spring and summer are being accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, click here.

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