Blogging from the SPC

July 28, 2010

- By Anoop Singh, Education Program Intern, Summer 2010
From the moment my internship with the Sikh Coalition began, to the day after participant evaluations, my top priority was the Sikh Presenter’s Course (which I will, at times, affectionately refer to as the SPC).  After four weeks of planning and three days of execution, I can safely say that the Sikh Presenter’s Course was an experience I won’t soon forget.  My first day as an intern, I compiled a list of restaurants in the area, thinking that it would be a fairly easy task to figure out from where we could get breakfast and lunch catered.

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  However, being a naïve Midwesterner (I hail from small town Ohio), I didn’t account for non-English speaking workers; the first phone call I made was answered by a guy who told me to call back the next day because he couldn’t speak English and the manager wasn’t in.  Similar episodes were repeated throughout the day, leaving me wondering how best to go forward.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-diversity (that would be ironic).  In fact, I’m a big fan.  I would “Like” it on Facebook.  But it wears on you when every other phone call requires questions to be phrased in three different ways to get the gist across. It was truly a New York City experience for me. Needless to say, the process was more difficult than I expected and, when the first day of the SPC came around, I was a little nervous that I might get squid stew instead of Subway sandwiches. Read the rest of this entry »


Banning Burqas in France

July 26, 2010

On June 13 2010, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to introduce a bill to ban Muslim women from wearing burqas or niqabs, despite warnings from France’s highest constitutional body that the ban would infringe constitutional rights.

Under the guise of liberating Muslim women from the full veil, the bill passed in France’s lower house with flying colors; 335 votes were in favor of the ban, while 1 vote was against the ban.  If the bill passes through the Senate in September, which Sarkozy believes will not be a problem, our Muslim sisters will face a 150 Euro fine if seen covering their face in public.

Whether you agree with women wearing full burqas is not the point.  The point is that the government of France is targeting Muslim women and criminalizing them for the way they practice their faith, all in the name of gender equality.  When has revoking women’s basic freedom to choose ever resulted in gender equality?  As Sikhs, we know all too well that being forced to remove an article of our faith from our identities does not lead to liberation.  Imagine the heavy decisions that lay ahead for our Muslim sisters.  What will they feel on the day that the law is implemented and they are forced to decide between the law and their faith? Read the rest of this entry »


Court Invalidates School District Restrictions on Hair Length

July 15, 2010

Sikh students in Texas can confidently practice their faith in schools without interference by their school districts due to a recent federal court decision upholding religious freedom in public schools.  In A.A. v. Needville Independent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a school district violated a Native American kindergartener’s religious rights under Texas state law through its grooming policy.  The policy required boys to keep their hair short enough so that it does not touch their ears or the tops of their collars.  This policy conflicted with the child’s Native American religious belief to keep his hair unshorn and in a braid.  Because the school district’s reasons for the policy did not justify the burden on the child’s fundamental right to practice his faith freely, the court held that the school violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This decision directly impacts the Sikh community in Texas and nationwide.  Sikhs in Texas can freely practice their faith in schools without school district interference.  Sikhs nationwide now have strong precedent to support their argument for religious freedom if they face discrimination because of their Sikh identity.  Recognizing the impact on the Sikh community of the outcome of this decision, the Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs, along with other religious rights organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the Native American child.  The Sikh Coalition applauds the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for upholding religious freedom as envisioned in the U.S. Constitution and Texas state law.

-Manleen Singh, Kaye Scholer Public Interest Associate


24 Hours in DC: A Coalition Intern’s Experience

July 2, 2010

Hello!  My name is Sally Hartman.  I am the Coalition’s Legal Fellow this summer, based out of our New York City office.  I’m writing to share a bit about my experience over the course of the past few weeks with the Coalition.

The staff in the New York office has been nice enough to encourage all the New York interns to experience the Coalition’s DC-based work by going there whenever an opportunity arises. Here, I’d like to discuss my trip to Washington, DC last week!

Ok, here is the run down of my 24 hours in DC:

Wednesday,

June 23, 3:30 PM

Meeting at the law firm Covington & Burling with Coalition staff members Am

ardeep Singh (Amar) and Rajdeep Singh.  Covington & Burling is providing pro bono assistance to the Sikh Coalition on its TSA work.  What a great team they are! They were full of inspired ideas about how to bring our concerns with the TSA to the forefront in the unique political world of DC.

Read the rest of this entry »


Coalition Receives Award from North American South Asian Bar Association

July 1, 2010

The Sikh Coalition received the 2010 Public Service Achievement Award from the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) during its annual convention in Boston, from June 25 to June 27. The award is meant to recognize public interest organizations that excel in serving the South Asian community in North America.

Sa’adiyah Masoud, Vice-President of the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston presented the award to us on behalf of NASABA.  Her remarks cited the Coalition’s work to: obtain a historic accommodations for two Sikh Army doctors; repeal a Oregon law that prevented Sikhs from serving as public schools teachers; and combat discrimination in the workplace as some of the reasons for the award.

This is the second year in a row NASABA has been good enough to honor the Coalition. Last year I was honored to receive NASABA’s Public Interest Achievement Award for my work with the Coalition.

The Coalition thanks NASABA for its leadership and partnership. We truly value its leadership of the South Asian bar in North America.


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