Military Grants Landmark Accommodations to Four Sikh Soldiers
In just over a week, the U.S. Army granted four observant Sikh American soldiers long-term religious accommodations. On April 8, 2016, Specialist Kanwar Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh and Private Arjan Singh Ghotra received accommodations
, permitting them to serve with their articles of faith intact. This victory came after the March 31st accommodation of decorated Sikh American Army Captain Simratpal Singh
. These mark important and hard-won
victories. However the Sikh Coalition continues to advocate for permanent policy change, since the Department of Defense still bans Sikhs from service.
The Sikh Coalition secured and coordinated media coverage from a diversity of outlets across the country, including the New York Times
, Wall Street Journal
, Fox News
and the Associated Press
. In addition, we worked with a news site for children, News-O-Matic
, which reaches 100K+ daily readers.
Watch U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, endorse the Sikh right to serve.
Raising Awareness for Vaisakhi
This month, the global Sikh community celebrates Vaisakhi, which commemorates the creation of the Khalsa, a fellowship of devout Sikhs, by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. This celebration offers Sikh Americans a vital opportunity to educate
fellow Americans about this special occasion, and in doing so, raise awareness about the Sikh faith, identity and community.
We have worked with volunteers across the country on Vaisakhi proclamations, Sikh Awareness presentations and other events to celebrate and honor Vaisakhi.
Sikh Coalition Testifies Before the CA Department of Education to Ensure Sikhi is Accurately Preserved in Textbooks
Earlier this month, the Sikh Coalition joined the Dalit community to testify before the California Department of Education to ensure that our collective history is accurately preserved
Despite numerous attempts by various non-Sikh organizations to undermine the textbook revisions with inaccurate information, we remain confident that the facts regarding our proud community will prevail. Thank you to the nearly 10,000 community members who signed petitions in this fight. Our shared voice is a powerful one, and it continues to reverberate in these hearings!
Illinois Teenage Hate Crime Attacker Sentenced
A teenager who pled guilty to beating Inderjit S. Mukker in a hate crime in Darien, IL last September will serve 200 hours of community service over a two-year probation
. He also must attend high school every day and undergo anger management, culture awareness and substance abuse counseling, and pay restitution to the victim for his medical bills, a DuPage County Juvenile Court ruled on March 8, 2016.
In September, the Sikh Coalition had advocated for Mr. Mukker to ensure that the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office press hate crime charges against the attacker and prosecute him appropriately. The Sikh Coalition’s goal of obtaining a hate crime conviction is to ensure 1) that the bias aspect of the crime is addressed in the sentencing, and 2) that the government and American public acknowledge the problem of bias crimes so that we can jointly work to combat it.
Executive Director Presents on Race, Religion & National Security
On March 31, 2016, Sikh Coalition Executive Director Sapreet Kaur spoke on a panel entitled "The Perpetual and Sinister Foreigner: How Race, Religion and National Security Collide" at the 2016 Advancing Justice Conference
in Los Angeles. Kaur was joined by Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
; Karen Korematsu of the Korematsu Institute
; and Ted Lieu, a member of Congress
, as they shared thoughts with each other and an audience of more than 800 attendees. The conversation focused on how our communities are “othered” so effectively by the media, popular culture and at times the law itself. The impact of this racial and religious profiling is far-reaching, putting large swaths of our community at risk, even when we're not specifically singled out as the “enemy.” Kaur spoke about specific and tangible steps we as individuals can take to build solidarity with other minority communities. She also shared case studies of successful partnerships between Sikh Americans and others through the work of the Sikh Coalition.
Policy Director Delivers Remarks at Georgetown on Police Profiling
On April 8, 2016, Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh moderated a panel on police profiling at a national symposium at Georgetown University Law Center. The symposium was entitled “The Color of Surveillance,”
and it explored the different ways law enforcement surveils and monitors communities of color and faith-based groups. Arjun discussed the US government's suppression of and intensified surveillance of African American political activism. He also reflected on the current movement for racial justice.
Bullying Education Panels for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month
In advance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May, the Sikh Coalition has presented on panels to help educate communities on bias-based bullying and discrimination. Harjot Kaur, Community Development Manager, worked with the Asian American Federation (AAF) to host a series of panels in March and April that exercised bullying prevention and intervention strategies with parents, educators, students and community members. On April 12, 2016, Harjot also spoke at Syracuse University on AAPI discrimination and microaggressions
on college campuses, helping to kick off their Anti-Asian Hate Crime Exhibit. Harjot will be joining the AAF again in presenting a similar panel at Ramapo College in New Jersey on April 20, 2016.
These events have been instrumental in equipping communities with tangible tactics against bias-based discrimination affecting young people, including how to individually address bullying in their respective day-to-day roles. These events have also sparked key dialogues that are helping create cohesive momentum against bias-based bullying and discrimination.
Sikh Coalition Receives Two DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards from Religion Communicators Council
At its annual convention in New York City, the Religion Communicators Council presented the Sikh Coalition with two DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards
: the “Best of Class” award in “Writing for Publication” and the “Best of Class” award for “Social Media Campaign.” The Sikh Coalition’s Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh accepted the awards on behalf of the organization and offered his gratitude to the council for the honors.
Two Arrested, Charged in Fresno Hate Crime
Following the brutal attack of 68-year-old Amrik Singh Bal in Fresno, CA in December of 2015, two suspects have been arrested and charged with felony assault and a hate crime. 22-year-old Daniel Wilson and 17-year-old Alexis Mendoza, both of Fresno, are being held in custody. The Fresno Bee reports
that Mr. Mendoza, who is a minor, is being tried as an adult because of the seriousness of the crime. During the incident that left Mr. Bal unconscious on the road, the perpetrators beat him with their fists and then hit him with their car before driving away. Footage of the incident was caught on a nearby surveillance camera. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer indicated that Mr. Bal was targeted solely based on his Sikh identity and appearance, which includes a turban and unshorn beard. Mr. Bal was severely injured in the attack and has since been unable to return to work because of his injuries.
Senior Staff Attorney Trains TSA, Federal Law Enforcement Agencies on Respecting Sikh Rights
On April 12, 2016, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur provided trainings to federal law enforcement officials in New York City on understanding and respecting the rights of Sikh Americans. The audience comprised of officers from the Department of Homeland Security, including Transportation Security Officers from LaGuardia Airport and Customs and Border Protection officers, law enforcement officials from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
With the TSA, Gurjot reinforced the rights of Sikh air passengers
, including the right to a self pat-down of religious headwear at security screenings, and urged for policy changes to prevent forced turban removal due to false alarms from the hand swab test. Gurjot also urged for greater kirpan accommodations for Sikhs in all federal facilities.
Senior Religion Fellow Delivers Remarks at Yale University
On March 20, 2016, Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh offered remarks at Yale University in a talk entitled “The Saint-Soldier: What Humanists Can Learn from the Sikh Tradition.” The forum was organized by the Yale Humanist Community, and while conversations touched on a broad range of issues, a majority of the discussion focused on distinctive aspects of the Sikh tradition that offer models for progress in modern America.
Policy Director Delivers Remarks on Diversity in Law Enforcement
On April 7, 2016, Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh offered remarks at a convening organized by the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on diversity in law enforcement. Recent events have placed a renewed focus on the lack of diversity in law enforcement agencies. In jurisdictions across the country, there are significant disparities between the demographics of police departments and the communities they serve. Arjun specifically addressed the barriers that Sikh Americans face in serving in local, state, and national law enforcement, and he called for Sikh Americans to be able to serve freely and unencumbered.
Teacher Appreciation Day at Charlotte Gurdwara
On March 5, 2016, the Charlotte, North Carolina Gurdwara sangat organized and hosted their inaugural Teacher Appreciation Day. Administrators and educators from Charlotte-area schools attended the event and were able to learn about Sikhi and how it is practiced. During a vibrant discussion session, administrators, educators and sangat members discussed the need for inclusive curriculum that addresses minority faiths and cultures and the prevalence of bias-based bullying against Sikh American children. The event was an exciting opportunity for community dialogue which has laid the foundation for future collaborations between the sangat and local school administrators and educators. For ideas on how to host a similar event with educators in your community, please see the Teacher Appreciation Day Toolkit
. Reach out to the Sikh Coalition with any questions, concerns or requests at email@example.com
The Sikh Coalition is Hiring a Staff Attorney!
We’re expanding our powerhouse legal team! The Sikh Coalition seeks a highly motivated staff attorney, based in the organization’s New York City office, to join us on the forefront of our dynamic religious rights and anti-discrimination work.
The staff attorney will work as part of the Sikh Coalition’s Legal Program, which provides legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against or subject to bias based upon their religious beliefs or Sikh identity. Our attorneys have successfully litigated cases against major government and corporate employers alike, and have created opportunities for Sikhs to fearlessly live, work, play, learn and raise our children in America. Our Legal Program is committed to ensuring that no Sikh ever has to choose between their faith and the American dream. For more information, click here
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