Guest Blog: Ravitej Singh (A Victory in Oregon)

February 11, 2010

On Wednesday, February 10, 2010, the Oregon House of Representatives honored Oregon’s dedication to inclusion and diversity.

Since 1923, a KKK-sponsored law prohibiting religious clothing worn by school teachers has been part of Oregon law. In the mid 1980s, a Sikh teacher was terminated and discredited because of this law for wearing a turban to her school.   In 2009, the law was upheld after the Oregon legislature carved out an exclusion for public schools under the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act.

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Writing to Secretary Napolitano on Profiling

January 9, 2010

The past 24 hours has seen a flurry of letters from social justice organizations to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the subject of profiling.

In all, the Coalition has authored or joined in submitting three letters or statements directed at Secretary Napolitano over the last day:

1) National Sikh Organizations Letter- The Sikh Coalition authored and asked SALDEF and United Sikhs to join it in submitting a letter the Secretary Napolitano yesterday focused on the concerns of Sikh air travelers;

2) National South Asian Organizations Letter – The Coalition signed on to a statement initiated by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) as part of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, also sent yesterday; and

3) Muslim, South Asian, Arab, Sikh Organizations Letter – The Coalition finally signed a letter to Secretary Napolitano from a large group of Muslim, South Asian, Arab, and Sikh organizations.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will continue to engage the Obama administration on the issue of profling in the nation’s airports.

Capitol Hill Briefing on Profiling at Airports

January 8, 2010

If you live in the DC Metro Area, you are encouraged to attend the following briefing on profiling. The Sikh Coalition will be participating:


Targeting Needles or Adding More Hay?:

Airport Profiling, ‘Countries of Interest’, and American Security

Monday, January 11, 2010
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Room 1334 Longworth HOB

Perspectives and recommendations from experts on national security, civil liberties, and the ethnic American experience, featuring:

  • Michael German, Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Jumana Musa, Policy Director, Rights Working Group (RWG)
  • Amardeep Singh, Director of Programs, Sikh Coalition

Moderated by Dr. James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

To RSVP for this event, please contact Samia Makhlouf, AAI Government Relations and Policy Analyst, at

Is Technology the Solution to Profiling?

January 8, 2010

As the debate over profiling post-Christmas 2009 rages on, could technology be the solution?

The Washington Post today issued an editorial yesterday endorsing the use of full- body scanners as a means of airport screening. In fact, some countries plan to increase their use of full-body imaging as a method of screening in the future.

What impact will these machines have on the profiling debate? Well it depends… Read the rest of this entry »

Hello, Profiling

January 5, 2010

The federal government has announced that it will now require nationals of 14 countries to undergo enhanced screening when flying into the United States.

The announcement effectively means that was once a de facto policy of profiling has now become an official policy of profiling.

Despite TSA pronouncements that is does not engage in profiling, Sikhs knew that a de facto policy of profiling existed because at certain airports around the country, Sikhs experienced a 100% rate of secondary screening. However the announcement that certain nationals will always be subjected to extra law enforcement scrutiny based solely on their nationality, turns what was once a de facto policy of profiling into the official policy of the TSA. Read the rest of this entry »

Coalition Gala: Paving the Way

August 13, 2009

On Saturday August 8th, the Sikh coalition held it’s first-ever gala. The glamorous night was held in Gotham Hall. Music, comedy and awards helped to celebrate the Sikh community’s forward progress. The night also showcased the Sikh Coalition’s work to end discrimination against Sikhs and the Sikh identity.

Corporate, nonprofit and government leaders attended to honor community activists, sewadars and Sikh supporters for their work over the last year.  View the slideshow below for some insight to the nights events. More to come!

Knock! Knock! Who’s There?

July 22, 2009

The Sikh Coalition. The Sikh Coalition Who? The Sikh Coalition is a civil rights advocacy and educational non-profit group currently representing, in partner with McDermott WIll and Emory LLP, Captains Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Tejdeep Singh Rattan…

Not a very funny joke, I’ll admit, but I gave this speech an innumerable amount of times as I meandered the halls of Congress this week in Washington, DC. My goal – alongside a dozen colleagues from the Coalition and volunteers who defiantly braved the unbearable DC heat – to lobby in support of a general congressional sign-on letter. To date, approximately 10 Congressional representatives have taken a firm stance and exclaimed, through their commitment to civil rights, that those Americans who wish to heroically serve their country while simultaneously keeping in accord with their faith need not chose between the two. Rather, this letter and those representatives who sign-on stand for a cause which will effect not only Sikhs, but Muslims, Jews, and any other individual or group who wish to adhere to the tenets of their faith and honorably protect the freedoms that we, as an American community, enjoy daily.

The exercise of browsing the House office buildings, making connections with legislative staffers and the interns who serve as the media through which we gain those meetings and phone calls, is no easy task. It’s a lot of leg work. And let me tell you, my legs are tired. However, as one of the few individuals participating in a grassroots effort to effectuate change for my community and beyond, it’s quite exhilarating. The thought of leaving my impression on history through the direct actions I take today requires a few moments to grasp, but when this concept does take hold, it fervently invigorates my legs to push on to the next door and advocate for a cause I know is worthwhile.

In all honesty, if I take a mental step back from this exercise, I realize that what I’m doing is not so difficult after all. All that is required is dedication. Dedication to civil rights, dedication to community, and dedication to Seva (selfless service). If a few individuals can wander the halls of Congress and make a paramount change, just think of what 50, or 100, or 1000 bodies could accomplish. The possibilites are limitless. However, as each community must, the Sikh community is currently in the process of growing pains. Without those bodies to help lobby for the causes which affect us, both directly and indirectly, those growing pains will remain present and we cannot mature into the community of leaders we were born to become. It is through dedication to campaigns such as this where the Sikh community can flourish and blaze a trail for our future generations to follow and to continue on their own.

Overall, this experience was great. Our efforts are not without reward. But most importantly, our efforts are not without a lesson: only through dedication to the cause can our community mature and meet its goals.

This post was authored by Aman Singh, a Sikh Coalition legal intern this summer.

MTA “Turban Branding” Press Conference

June 18, 2009

By Amandeep Singh

Amandeep Singh is the Sikh Coalition’s Development Intern for Summer 2009 in New York. This press conference was his first day at work.

Read the letter from the New York City Council here.

On June 16th 2009, the Sikh Coalition mobilized members of the press, the New York City Council and Sikh employees of the Metropolitan Transit Authority for a press conference against the MTA policy of requiring Sikh and Muslim workers to sow the MTA logo on their respective religious head wear. This “turban branding” policy was loudly rebuked by the majority of New York City Council Members and Sikh MTA workers, declaring the policy discriminatory and anti-American. Twenty-seven members of the City Council pleaded with the President of the MTA in a letter to discontinue this discriminatory policy, sending a strong message of support for the Sikh community.

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The Spirit of Sewa

April 30, 2009

I came across an enthusiastic email in which a community member requested pamphlets to distribute at her Gurdwara for an ‘event’. I was shocked by what unfolded.

Principal Surjeet Singh and the Khalsa School in of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Glen Rock, New Jersey organized a sewa opportunity for their students. The concept was brilliant and simple – a shoe shine! Youth gathered to shine shoes for Gurdwara attendees. But they didn’t stop with this valuable lesson in giving, labor and humility. Youth asked for donations to give to the Coalition. They also asked that folks sign the petition to allow the Sikh identity in the U.S. Army.

At the end of the day, the group gathered hundreds of dollars from small donations and hundreds of signatures which I added to our total petition count of 8,543 (2,245 were mailed in) to date.

We encourage community members to engage their local sangats!

If you’re interested in fundraising, please download this form. If you would like to help gather signatures for the U.S. Army campaign, please use this form. The rest is up to your creativity and perseverance.

UVA Stands Up for Sikh Rights

April 22, 2009

I love hearing stories about grassroots efforts by individuals to stand up for the civil rights of themselves and others. After an exhausting week in DC knocking on the doors of Congress asking for the right for Sikhs to serve in the US Army, I was pleased to hear about resolution of an incident in Charlottesville, VA in which a Sikh UVA student was barred from entering a local restaurant because of his turban.

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