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.
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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Letter of Support from a Soldier

April 21, 2009

This letter to the editor appeared in Stars and Stripes from a Specialist currently serving in Iraq:

Support for Sikhs who serve

I feel stimulated to write after reading with horror the plight of U.S. Sikhs serving in the United States military (“Asking to serve,” article, April 15).

To order a Sikh to report for duty with the turban removed and with shorn hair is a great insult, and I find it incredulous that the Army is denying the right of these soldiers to serve their country.

I hear daily quips of “An Army of One” and “All shades of green,” but it would appear that Sikhs are being discriminated against on the basis of their faith, which I find disturbing. Sikh soldiers are allowed to display their faith openly in our allies’ armies, and I am at a loss as to why the Army is holding on to archaic and unjust dress regulations.

I served with Sikhs in the British army and their “articles of faith” were never found to be an issue or a source of contention within the ranks.

I applaud the stance of the Sikh Coalition in filing its complaint with the inspectors general of the Army and the Department of Defense on behalf of Capt. Kamaljeet S. Kalsi and 2nd Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan.

Spc. David Tanner
Balad Air Base, Iraq

Military News Covers the Campaign

April 16, 2009

Sikhs want U.S. Army to waive dress and appearance regulations

ARLINGTON, Va. – Seeing “Integrate the U.S. Army” on a protest sign recalls the civil rights struggles of African-Americans in the mid-20th Century.  But on Tuesday, under a cold wet spring sky, more than a dozen Americans of a different minority, the Sikh faith, stood in front of the iconic Iwo Jima memorial to World War II with one simple request: Let us serve.

Read the rest of this entry » Covers the Army Campaign

April 16, 2009
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Sikhs fight Army over bans on turbans, uncut hair

By Joe Sterling

(CNN) — For Capt. Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, and 2nd Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, this is a hill worth fighting for.

These two U.S. military recruits of the Sikh faith are challenging an Army order that they remove their turbans and cut their unshorn hair and beards when they report for active duty in July.

In Sikhism, which originated in northwestern India, the turban and unshorn hair are articles of faith and can’t be removed.

But the U.S. military says there are times when the military cannot accommodate certain religious practices, “such as when those religious observations would interfere with the wear of proper military headgear or protective clothing or equipment.” Read the rest of this entry »

‘Sikh Right to Serve’ Campaign Launch Slideshow

April 15, 2009

Enjoy a brief photo essay that displays community support of this historic campaign.

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Getting Sikh Voices in the Halls of Congress

April 15, 2009

Moments ago, we met with congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) who is Captain Kalsi’s elected representative. Congressman Frelinghuysen compared Captain Kalsi’s family tradition of serving in the military with his own. The Congressman’s family has served American people for 5 generations while the Kalsi’s have 4 generations of military leadership.

Congressman Frelinghuysen met with Captain Kalsi and senior Coalition staff

Congressman Frelinghuysen met with Captain Kalsi and senior Coalition staff

Congressman Representative Frelinghuysen’s office was adorned with antiques from his family’s politcal campaigns: banners, flags, pictures. The conversation with Captain Kalsi and Senior Coalition staff was productive and robust.

We thank Congressman Frelinghuysen for his time and commitmet to listening to his constitutent’s concerns.