Hate Crime Charges Filed in California Case
On October 14, 2016, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed hate crime charges
against the attackers of Sikh American Maan Singh Khalsa. Mr. Khalsa was brutally assaulted and his Sikh articles of faith were violently desecrated on September 25, 2016. Prior to the charges, the Sikh Coalition
, community leaders, and a coalition of civil rights organizations
advocated vigorously on behalf of Mr. Khalsa, urging for a hate crime investigation and prosecution.
We worked to secure media coverage before
the charges were filed to apply public pressure on local officials to do the right thing, and afterwards
to educate the public on Sikhism and challenges faced by Sikh Americans. Please notify law enforcement of any threats of violence, and contact the Sikh Coalition at 212-655-3095 or online here
Sikh Coalition Supports Sikh Who Helped Catch Bombing Suspect
“My faith teaches me justice and tolerance for all and I know that I'm lucky to live in a community that shares this view. I want to remind Americans that after an attack, we should target people based on evidence, not their faith or their country of origin or their accent." -Harinder Singh Bains
The Sikh Coalition provided direct rapid response communications support to Harinder Singh Bains, who helped catch the suspect in the September NY/NJ bombings. Mr. Bains recognized the suspect, Ahmad Rahami, from previous media coverage and called the police. When the police arrived, Mr. Rahami shot one of the officers, and after a shootout with police, was loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher.
Mr. Bains has been interviewed by CNN
, NBC News
, Huffington Post
and other local and national outlets.
Sikh Project Exhibition Leverages Art to Share Sikh American Stories
In collaboration with British photographers Amit and Naroop, the Sikh Coalition launched the groundbreaking Sikh Project photo exhibition for the first time in the US in New York City this September. We wanted to show the collective strength, beauty and enduring resilience of the Sikh American community to the public in a way that had never been proactively orchestrated before.
Over the course of eight days, we had nearly 6,500 visitors, with at least 20 million Americans and countless more across the world learning about the project through our media engagement. Some of the highlights: This BBC World News America
segment aired in 300 million households worldwide, this Associated Press
story ran in nearly 200 U.S. news outlets, and local stories
were published in media markets throughout the country. We hope to continue the project by taking the exhibition to other American cities.
Our Prominent Essays Bring Sikh Civil Rights into the National Conversation
Recently we have been busy writing and placing op-eds and essays in prominent media outlets, sparking national conversations and educating millions about Sikhism and Sikh civil rights issues. Legal Director Harsimran Kaur’s piece for the Chicago Tribune examines bigotry Muslims and Sikhs face
. Law and Policy Director Arjun Singh’s essay in the Guardian looks at why many of us feel less safe 15 years after 9/11
, and his USA Today column argues hate crime laws aren’t strong enough
. Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh shows how Sikh hero Harinder Singh Bains' help in identifying a terror suspect further debunks racial profiling
. Social Justice Fellow Winty Singh tells the story of facing his childhood bully
in Mashup Americans, and his breezy Upworthy piece offers 11 things you wanted to know about the Sikh turban but were too afraid to ask
. Finally, we were honored to work with Rana Sodhi -- brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi who was murdered in the first hate crime after 9/11 -- to place a CNN commentary about how love is the best tool for combating hate
Governor Signs CA Anti-Bullying Law
California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2845, a bill intended to combat bullying and discrimination in California public schools
, into law on September 25, 2016. AB 2845, otherwise known as the Safe Place to Learn Act
, was authored by California Assembly Member Das Williams, to address the growing epidemic of bullying and discrimination against Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian students in California classrooms.
AB 2845 provides teachers, staff, and administrators with school and community resources to help prevent, identify, and remedy bullying and discrimination in the classroom. The Sikh Coalition, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-California all collaborated in helping draft and promulgate this bill. We are grateful to the hundreds of community members who signed our petition asking lawmakers to pass this important legislation.
Sikh Coalition 7th Annual NYC Bowl-a-thon
The Sikh Coalition’s 7th Annual New York City Bowl-a-thon
will be held on October 23, 2016 at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers. Join us as we bowl a strike for Sikh rights! There's still time to register as a cheerleader and/or to play laser tag. Register online
by Sunday at noon to receive the discounted rate!
Letter Urges FIBA to Lift Restriction on Religious Rights
The Sikh Coalition joined 50+ organizations in a new letter urging the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to stop depriving Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish athletes of their religious rights. The letter calls on FIBA to lift restrictions on Sikhs and others whose beliefs require them to wear a head covering.
No one should have to choose between their faith and playing professional sports. We urge FIBA to end its discriminatory ban and allow all athletes to compete at the highest level. See the full letter here
Please Use and Share our Back-to-School Resources
As the school year kicks off, the Sikh Coalition reminds you to consult our educational resources to better protect your children. These resources can educate non-Sikh teachers and classmates about Sikhism over the course of the upcoming school year and help prevent bullying.
For full access to all of our school resources click here.
Fresno, California Recognizes "1984 Sikh Genocide"
In 1984, tens of thousands of Sikhs were murdered in India in largely government-sanctioned violence. On September 1, 2016, the Fresno City Council voted to formally recognize the killings as genocide. We commend the many Sikh leaders and organizations that have worked hard to make this possible. We hope other communities and municipalities will follow their example to shed light on these atrocities.
Click here to read a local news story on Fresno’s resolution.
Promoting Religious Pluralism in Macedonia
On September 19, 2016, Sikh Coalition advisory board member Rajdeep Singh participated in a three-day conference in Skopje, Macedonia to discuss ways that government and civil society organizations can work together to promote religious pluralism. The conference was the latest in a series of international gatherings to implement UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 and the fourth one attended by the Sikh Coalition. Representatives of the U.S. and Macedonian governments, as well as community organizations, discussed both countries’ civil rights laws and ways these laws can be strengthened. As we did at similar conferences in Indonesia, Greece, and Spain, the Sikh Coalition emphasized the importance of interfaith coalition building and the critical role that community organizations have in promoting government accountability to prevent hate crimes and discrimination.
Updates in Military Campaign to #LetSikhsServe
The Sikh Coalition and McDermott Will & Emery sought and received a religious accommodation for Specialist Gurpreet Singh Cheema from the U.S. Army on August 12, 2016. He now joins Captain Simratpal Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh, Specialist Kanwar Bir Singh, Private Arjan Singh Ghotra, and Cadet Jaspreet Singh Gill, as the sixth Sikh soldier in 2016 to be granted a religious accommodation to serve in the U.S. Army. Most recently, Specialist Kanwar Bir Singh completed Basic Combat Training
at Fort Jackson, SC on August 11, 2016, and Private Arjan Singh Ghotra completed One Station Unit Training
at Fort Benning, GA on September 9, 2016.
Working with the Sikh Coalition and Councilman Ravinder Singh Bhalla, Hoboken unanimously passed a resolution
both honoring Major Kamal S. Kalsi and officially joining the campaign to #LetSikhsServe in the U.S. Army. We will continue to advocate
on behalf of the recently accommodated soldiers to remove discriminatory monitoring and reevaluation provisions that leave open the possibility that the accommodations could be rescinded at any time.
National Day of Seva Commemorates Oak Creek
Inspired by the Oak Creek sangat’s Chardhi Kala 6K Memorial Walk/Run
, the Sikh Coalition organized our 4th annual National Day of Seva
, in remembrance of and solidarity with those who were injured and killed on August 5, 2012 in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Service projects included food distribution, park cleanups, and book donation drives. Thank you to the amazing sevadaars who dedicated numerous hours to organize and lead selfless service in California (Bakersfield, Bay Area, Central Valley, Fremont, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Jose); Orlando, FL; Atlanta, GA; Massachusetts (Boston and Waltham); New York, NY; Cincinnati, OH; Houston, TX; Seattle, WA; and Vancouver, Canada. Your time and effort inspires us all.
Please click here to see pictures
from the seva events across the United States and Canada.
Sikh Coalition Participates in Anti-Bullying Panel at the Department of Education
Sikh Coalition Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur, participated in a panel at the annual bullying prevention summit at the Department of Education on August 12, 2016. She shared information about the Sikh American community with educators and administrators, spoke about bullying of Sikh American youth and discussed the importance of education in curbing bullying and discrimination in the classroom.
Sikh Coalition’s Multi-Faceted Engagement in California
On August 11, 2016, the Sikh Coalition participated in the Department of Homeland Security's Southern California Community Engagement Roundtable -- a meeting of community representatives and local, regional and federal law enforcement agencies. Winty Singh, the Sikh Coalition's Social Justice Fellow, discussed issues such as racial profiling while traveling, securing places of worship, and increasing the diversity of law enforcement workforce. On August 22, 2016 Winty Singh participated in the American Sikh Public Affairs Association's Seminar on Sikh Americans held at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, where he provided an educational presentation on Sikh Americans to California state legislators and their staffs. On October 1, 2016, Harjit Kaur, the Sikh Coalition's Community Development Manager participated on a panel with Zahra Biloo (Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Bay Area) and Priya Murthy (Policy and Advocacy Director of the Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network) to discuss the intersection of domestic violence and social justice issues in the South Asian community.
Sikh Coalition Presents at North Carolina Educators Conference
As part of the ongoing initiative
to combat anti-Sikh prejudice through education in the nation's public schools, Sikh Coalition representatives Damanpreet Singh and Maggie Lloyd attended a Social Studies Leadership Conference in North Carolina in September. They distributed educational materials about Sikhism and engaged with educators and state policymakers in one-on-one conversations, and Damanpreet presented in a panel of experts titled, “Teaching Sensitive and Controversial Issues.” North Carolina teachers and district representatives left the conference with accurate knowledge about Sikhs and resources specific to North Carolina’s state social studies standards. The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with educators and policy makers to enrich the state curriculum and improve teaching, with the long-term goal of getting Sikhism explicitly included in the curriculum.
Sikh Coalition Engagement with #SolidarityIs
The Sikh Coalition joined an alliance of national social justice leaders centering solidarity as a strategy to build power among marginalized communities. The #SolidarityIs campaign identifies shared points of unity, amplifies ongoing solidarity practices, creates a learning space for inquiry and exploration, and encourages transformative actions of multiracial and cross-community solidarity.
As part of this initiative, we anchored a Twitter Town Hall
moderated by Deepa Iyer to discuss solidarity in the face of hate violence.
Join Us: Combat Hate With Love This September
In a time of escalating hate and division in the United States, Divided We Fall (90 minutes) tells a story of how to combat hate with love and relentless optimism. Fifteen years after 9/11, we are collaborating with award-winning filmmaker Valarie Kaur to bring this message to campuses and communities across the country.
The award-winning film Divided We Fall (2008) chronicles the heart-wrenching stories of Sikh and Muslim Americans who have responded to hate and violence with love since 9/11. It provides context to the current escalation of hate and is also a source of hope. The Sikh Coalition has joined in support of the new Revolutionary Love Project to put the film and dialogue tools in your hands for free.
Join us! Host a screening and dialogue
in your school or community this fall.
Sikh Coalition Participates in Civil Rights & Religious Freedom Panels
On September 4, 2016, Director of Law & Policy Arjun Singh participated in a panel at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention in Chicago, Illinois. Arjun was joined by other prominent civil rights leaders, and discussed law enforcement abuse and rising hate violence against religious minorities.
On October 4, 2016 Arjun participated in a panel hosted by the State Department on religious freedom and identity in the U.S. The panel was produced by Share America and streamed live for U.S. embassies worldwide.
Remembering 9/11 Through Seva
On September 11, 2016, the Sikh Coalition participated in this year’s September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance effort in New York City. September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is an annual effort to honor the victims and survivors of the violence of September 11, 2001, by engaging volunteers across the city in a service project. This year, to commemorate the 15-year anniversary of 9/11, New Yorkers packed meals for families, seniors, veterans and others in need.
As the Sikh American community continues to combat post-9/11 profiling, backlash and hate
, this project allowed the community to demonstrate the core Sikh values of seva (selfless service), vand chakna (selfless sharing) and sangat (community).
Sikh Coalition Trains CBP Officers
On August 25, 2016 Director of Law & Policy, Arjun Singh, met with 50 new Customs and Border Patrol Agents and delivered a presentation on hate violence, profiling, and the Sikh articles of faith. The meeting included a question-and-answer session, and will help curb profiling of Sikh Americans and immigrants at border crossings.
New Letter Expresses Concerns with CVE Program
The Sikh Coalition signed a coalition letter expressing concern about a new Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. The program will inhibit free religious expression, stigmatize Muslim Americans, and could lead to a loss of organizational independence for participating groups.
Click here to read the letter.
Texas School Selects Senior Religion Fellow as Pillar of Character
Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, selected Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow, Simran Jeet Singh, as one of the Pillars of Character
this year. The pillars represent six character traits: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
Simran Jeet holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University, a graduate degree from Harvard University, and an undergraduate degree from Trinity University. He is called to speak on diversity, inclusion, civil rights, religion, and hate violence, and he contributes to media outlets including the Washington Post, the Guardian and the New York Times.
In this Issue