September 21, 2010
This week, the Coalition convinced someecards.com, a popular website for free greeting cards, to remove a greeting card from its pages that misidentified Sikhs as members of the Taliban. The card showed an image of a Sikh and a non-Sikh shaking hands, with the caption “Sex & the City 2 could be the first occurrence in history to equally mortify Americans and the Taliban.”
In our letter to the website’s investors and co-founder, we wrote,
“By wrongly associating Sikhs with the Taliban, the message this greeting card sends is that those who wear turbans are America’s enemies. This has very real consequences for Sikh Americans…In fact, since 9/11 our organization has received over 600 complaints of hate crimes, employment discrimination, profiling, and other forms of discrimination perpetrated by people who have animus against Sikhs, based only on their outward appearance with beards and turbans… The connection between demeaning turbans and discrimination is sadly very real – and very dangerous – for our community.” Read the rest of this entry »
September 17, 2010
It is with much excitement and pride that we celebrate the appointment of Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s Director of Programs, to serve on the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders!
The White House Initiative was launched earlier this year in the Department of Education, and it will serve as a way to connect government agencies with the AAPI community’s needs. The director of the Initiative is Kiran Ahuja, who comes from the non-profit sector herself. The Initiative is guided by a 20-person voluntary, presidentially-appointed Commission made up of community leaders from the business, non-profit, and professional sectors. There will be a reception, including a swearing-in ceremony, this upcoming Tuesday September 21st.
You can read more about the Initiative here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/16/president-obama-announces-more-key-administration-posts
To our knowledge this is the first appointment of a Sikh to a commission of this sort (President Clinton had an AAPI Commission as well).
Needless-to-say this is a huge milestone for the Sikh American community and an exceptionally notable professional accomplishment for Amar. I know that I speak on behalf of the entire Sikh Coalition family and greater Sikh community when I say that we are unbelievably appreciative and proud of the work Amar has done on behalf of the Sikh American community for nearly a decade now. History will no doubt note his many significant contributions in the fight for Sikh and non-Sikh civil rights. And those of us who have privilege of working with Amar closely these years know that he has approached this important work with a combination of passion, tenacity and humor that is uniquely Amar.
The Commission will no doubt benefit from Amar’s expertise and insight to the betterment of the entire AAPI community.
Executive Director, Sikh Coalition
September 9, 2010
By now, you have heard about the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ in New York and plans by a misguided Florida preacher to burn copies of the Quran. The media is saturated with endless points and counterpoints about these proposals, and many Sikhs wonder whether they have an obligation to support or distance themselves from Muslims in these turbulent times.
The Sikh Gurus, in their infinite wisdom, gave practical expression to their belief in interfaith harmony: during his travels, Guru Nanak was accompanied by a Muslim minstrel known as Bhai Mardana; during the life of Guru Arjan, the foundation stone of Darbar Sahib in Amritsar was laid by a Muslim saint known as Mian Mir; in the fullness of time, the writings of Baba Sheik Farid were enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs.
It is no secret that Sikhs experienced brutal persecution in the name of Islam in the course of history, but our forbears did not blame all Muslims for the acts of tyrants. Unlike the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb, who preached religious exclusivity, both Banda Singh Bahadur and Maharaja Ranjit Singh guaranteed religious freedom to all people—including Muslims—during the two periods of Sikh sovereignty in Punjab during the 18th and 19th centuries. These guarantees were made despite the fact that countless thousands of Sikhs had been killed in the intervening years by invading armies and tyrants for refusing to convert to Islam.
As Sikh Americans in the 21st century, are we prepared to insult the memory of Bhai Mardana, Mian Mir, and Sheik Farid by blaming all Muslims for the acts of terrorists? Are we prepared to follow in the footsteps of Aurangzeb by denying Muslims their Constitutional rights? Or would we rather overcome bigotry and terrorism by living up to our Sikh tenets and defending our Muslim friends and neighbors?