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Wall Street Sikhs, Corporate Tyranny, and the 99%

By now I imagine most of you have heard about Occupy Wall Street in New York City and the growing “Occupy” movement all over the country. Inspired by the mass uprisings of the Arab Spring, the movement is uniting under the banner, “We are the 99%”, in its protest of unprecedented economic inequality and Wall Street and corporate power and influence in the United States.

The official declaration of #OccupyWallStreet, released last week (as a working document), states:

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human racerequires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, andupon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights,and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power fromthe people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people andthe Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined byeconomic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit overpeople, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. Wehave peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

The mainstream media coverage of the protest, now in its 18th consecutive day, has largely downplayed its significance or remained silent all together. Some in the movement, thus, raised $12,000 on Kickstarter in 3 days (now over $40K) and published 50,000 copies of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal,” grassroots media at its best. This says a lot about what is going on at Liberty Square (what protesters call the park they are occupying). People, many with little background in activism, are taking matters into their own hands, and building a democratic movement against corporate tyranny.

I have been participating in the growing protests regularly for the last week, and generally feel inspired and hopeful about what is happening in downtown Manhattan, despite some frustrations, some of which Sepia Mutiny just blogged about today. My time at Liberty Square–sometimes spent attending the nightly General Assemblies (where decisions are made by consensus, not unlike the Sikh Sarbat Khalsa process), sometimes participating in marches, sometimes playing a musical instrument–leaves me thinking about how this movement relates to Sikhs and Sikhi.

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Fighting for our right to oppress: Gays, Sikhs & the Military

Last week the US military officially ended Dont Ask Dont Tell (DADT) after President Obama signed a repeal of the 18-year-old anti-gay policy last December. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members (note the absence of transgender people, who are still not allowed to serve openly) and advocates of gay rights have been celebrating the repeal as a civil rights victory.

The day the repeal went into effect, President Obama stated:

Patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. Our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

Captain Tejdeep Rattan at his graduation from the US Army basic training

This issue hits close to home for the US Sikh community, since the Pentagons uniform policy has not allowed Sikhs to serve with their kesh and dastaar since 1981. Similar to DADT, this is blatant discrimination and is an unacceptable policy for any employer, especially the federal government, which sets a powerful precedent for the rest of society.

Just as rights advocates have been fighting to end DADT for years (and finally succeeded), Sikhs launched a Right to Serve campaign in 2009, led by the Sikh Coalition and a Sikh doctor and dentist who were told by the Army to cut their hair when they report for basic training. The impressive efforts of Sikh cadets fighting for their rights and the tireless work of their advocates have resulted in the Army granting accommodations to three Sikhs, who are now serving with their turbans and unshorn hair in tact. The overall policy of the military nevertheless remains discriminatory.

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Democracy Now Features Sikh Voices

The daily news program Democracy Now has long been a trusted source of information and analysis for progressives in the US and around the world. Their coverage of the attacks of 9/11/01 and the aftermath has been crucial for so many of us. You can check out an impressive and thorough timeline of their post-9/11 coverage here.

On today’s broadcast, Democracy Now correspondent Jaisal Noor highlighted the plight of the Sikh American community after 9/11, which you can see below.

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Amplifying the Unheard Voices of 9/11

Today, I want to highlight an important initiative that amplifies the unheard, and often undocumented, stories of post-9/11 bigotry, harassment, and discrimination. Launched last week by the Sikh Coalition and co-sponsored by a host of organizations including the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Muslim Advocates, CAIR-California, and more, Unheard Voices of 9/11 is an interactive website that allows users to upload homemade videos of themselves sharing their experience(s) of post-9/11 injustice.

The site, which has been generating a lot of media attention in the last few days, states:

Members of the Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab American communities were twice victims of 9/11. Like all Americans we endured a horrific attack on our country by terrorists. We also continue to endure troubling attacks from fellow Americans in the form of hate crimes, employment discrimination, school bullying, profiling and other forms of discrimination.

These stories of discrimination have largely been unheard. This website is meant to give these unheard voices a voice. These are the stories of our community members unfiltered, in their own words. These are the unheard voices of 9/11.

As we are inundated with news about the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this week, it’s refreshing to see a powerful initiative like this one focusing on sharing our stories. It is a courageous, and often painful, act to tell one’s story. But it is necessary, both for the healing process of someone who has experienced injustice, and also for everyone who hears that story, reflects upon it, learns from it, and is moved by it.

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Faith groups file lawsuit over Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law

I was listening to NPR a few nights ago while cooking dinner and was excited to hear about a group of Christian and Catholic clergy in Alabama taking action against a new anti-immigrant law in their state.

A few months ago, Alabama followed in Arizona’s footsteps in passing a bill that many are calling the most sweeping anti-immigrant law in the country, going even farther than Arizona’s highly controversial SB 1070.

Alabama’s new bill, H.B. 56, includes similar provisions to Arizona’s SB 1070, including one that authorizes local police to ask anyone they stop about their immigration status based on “reasonable suspicion,” amounting to the legalization of racial profiling.

[H.B. 56] bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school. It obliges public schools to determine the immigration status of all students, requiring parents of foreign-born students to report the immigration status of their children.

The bill…also makes it a crime to knowingly rent housing to an illegal immigrant. It bars businesses from taking tax deductions on wages paid to unauthorized immigrants. (link)

The law also makes it illegal to enter into a contract with, harbor, or transport undocumented immigrants.

Alabama’s Methodist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches have sued the state of Alabama over this law, saying it violates their religious freedom. Melissa Patrick of the United Methodist Church of Alabama states, “This new legislation goes against the tenets of our Christian faith to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality to anyone.”

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NYC Passes Law to Ban Workplace Religious Discrimination

NYC Sikhs speak out against the Transit Authority's religious discrimination in 2009

This morning, the New York City Council voted unanimously to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (Int. 632-A), a bill that will strengthen the city’s human rights law that protects employees from religious discrimination at their jobs.

According to the City Council,

This law will provide greater protection to workers by strengthening the law that requires employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations for religious observance.

Employers that are found to have engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices against its workers may be liable for a civil penalty of as much as $125,000 and/or be required to pay compensatory damages, award back pay, reinstate employees and extend full and equal accommodations to employees.

The law is of particular significance to turban-wearing Sikhs and hijab-wearing Muslims who have faced a great deal of discrimination in their workplaces in NYC, particularly since 9/11. Advocates including the Sikh Coalition (who played a lead role in pushing for the legislation) hope that the law will make it much harder for employers in both the public and private sectors to discriminate against potential or current Sikh employees. Notably, the New York Police Department still does not allow turban-wearing Sikhs to serve as officers. (There was a case years back involving a Sikh traffic cop, however, who ended up winning and serves with his turban).

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Proud Sikh at Pride Parade

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A friend sent me this photo yesterday from this past weekend’s annual LGBT Pride Parade in New York City, which was attended by about a million people. I’ve seen this Singh around NYC before. He happens to be one of the transit workers standing up to the NYC Transit Authority’s discriminatory “turban-branding” policy and now is also standing up for LGBT rights. Sikh solidarity seems to be in full swing lately.

The Pride festivities in NYC were a little different this year since they came just after state lawmakers voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage in New York last week. While some Sikhs (and Sikh institutions) have been outspoken about their opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, many others of us are celebrating this milestone civil rights victory in New York, seeing the fight for justice for LGBT people as no different as justice for women, people of color, or any other oppressed group.

Despite my previously alluded to reservations about the state sanctioning the way we structure our romantic relationships, households, and/or families, I believe that legalizing gay marriage is nevertheless a much needed blow to the deeply ingrained homophobia and heterosexism in our society. A lot more than marriage equality is needed to create the sort of radical transformation our Gurus envisioned for our world, but it is, at least today, a reason to say fateh!

Celebrating Cpl. Gurpreet “Gopi” Singh

gopi.jpgWriting a post such as this can be difficult. A war has gone on for far too long. I do not believe there can be an end-game, other than the action that President Obama is beginning to take. American soldiers must leave Afghanistan. This post is about one that did not.

I don’t know much about Cpl. Gurpreet Singh. The Sacramento Bee provides a few brief notes about his military career:

A Marine from the Sacramento area has died in combat while fighting in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Gurpreet Singh, 21, of Antelope, died June 22 from wounds suffered in combat operations in Helmand province, the Department of Defense announced today.

Singh, an infantryman, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton.

The Marines said Singh enlisted on Nov. 5, 2007. He served two combat deployments.

His service awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

“The Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Division mourn the loss of Cpl. Singh,” stated a Camp Pendleton press release. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.” [link]

I spent the night trying to read and learn about one of our fallen brothers. What was he like? What were his dreams? I learned he was an only son. I learned Gopi loved the Marines. I learned that he loved his family.

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Assessing Victories – Arizona Governor Rightfully Vetoes Anti-Sikh Legislation

Guest blogged by Dilpreet Kaur

Mere days before Osama bin Ladens capture and death, the Arizona state legislature had set into motion legislative steps to remove a 9/11 hate crime victims name from the states memorial in Phoenix. At the time, the bills original sponsor, Rep. John Kavanaugh (R), claimed that Mr. Balbir Singh Sodhi was not a victim of 9/11. Adding insult to injury, along with stripping the late Mr. Sodhis name from the memorial, the legislation even enumerated that the removed plaque to be sold to a scrap metal dealer.

Like many others who stumbled across the news of this puzzling piece of legislation, I instantly wondered how and why something so insensitive and outrageous could pass. Four days after 9/11, on September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American, was brutally murdered outside of his Chevron gas station in Mesa, Arizona by Frank Roque, a man who wanted to kill a Muslim in retaliation for the terrorist attacks. He had selected Mr. Sodhi simply because he had a beard and wore a turban in accordance with his Sikh faith. An Arizona jury later found Frank Roque guilty of first-degree murder for his hate crime murder of Mr. Sodhi, along with five other charges, including attempted murder and reckless endangerment related to drive-by shootings at other individuals he perceived to be Middle Eastern that same day in 2001.

Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first of hundreds of hate-crimes against Sikh Americans and other minorities related to post-9/11 hate violence. His death as a Sikh American brought national attention to the issue of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab violence following 9/11. At the time, many Arizona state representatives and citizens of all backgrounds rallied around the Sodhi family and the Sikh American community in support, with over 3,000 people attending Mr. Sodhis memorial service.

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UPDATED: On BC Bud, Cocaine, and Balbir Dhami

UPDATED 5/23/11: This post has garnered renewed attention after the recent murder of Balbir Dhami. The Sacramento police does not believe it is a hate-crime and do to the circumstances, most in the community do not believe so either. I won’t make speculations, but will leave it to the law enforcement officials to sort out the case.

Earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sent their agents to capture an Elk Grove man.

Balbir Dhami truckers.jpg[click on the link to see the news video], the owner of Dhami Trucking Plaza on Stockton Blvd in Elk Grove, was arrested and is accused of being at the center of a drug running business, moving marijuana and cocaine, between Canada, Elk Grove, and Los Angeles.

The news describes Dhami as a prominent Elk Grove business man and leader in the Sikh community. While I dont know if he was a prominent business man or even a leader in the Sikh community, from internet searches, he does seem to have made political overtures as campaign finance records show that he donated to Democrat Dick Gephardts presidential campaign in early 2004.

 

 

His family has denied his involvement:

I know my dad. What he’s being blamed for in the allegations it’s totally against our religion. It’s something he’s against and wouldn’t recommend anyone else to do something like that, explains Aman Dhami [Balbirs son]. [link]

While I cannot speak on Dhamis specific case, I can speak about this being a common problem within the Punjabi Sikh community.

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The Death of Bin Laden & the Soul of the USA

It’s been over a week now. I’ve been wanting to write, but have been on the road, my head spinning with newspa240076_868074799191_21011576_45621412_1578982_o.jpgper headlines and the voices of cable news pundits. Navdeep posted some thoughtful reflections and questions here, and in the meantime, we’ve had the opportunity to see the response to bin Laden’s death throughout the country and world. By now, we are all probably well aware of the spontaneous celebrations of thousands at Ground Zero and Time Square in New York City and at the White House, with victorious chants of “USA! USA!”, the night President Obama made the announcement of bin Laden’s death.

I was traveling in New Orleans when the news hit, and the mood there was similar. God Bless Americas were being yelled in bars of the touristy French Quarter, people running down the streets (drunkly) yelling “We killed him! We killed him!” with a disturbingly rage-filled glee.

I happened to be exploring the city on my own that night, and was immediately nervous when I heard the news. Within a few minutes, several strangers made snide and/or aggressive comments about bin Laden’s death directly to me, as if to imply that I was related to him. Throughout my week of time in New Orleans and Texas thereafter, strangers heckled me with taunts of “Osama” almost every day. One day, a young kid leaving school (maybe 10 years old) asked me, seemingly earnestly, if I was a terrorist. And I was even pulled out of a night club in Houston by security because I was carrying a bag (which had an instrument in it).

Indeed, the death of bin Laden does not appear to mean the death of bigotry. Colorlines reports:

A mosque in Maine was vandalized with the messages Osama today, Islam tomorrow and Go Home. In Houston, a schoolteacher was disciplined for racially profiling a Muslim ninth-grader by asking if she was grieving her uncles death on Monday.Also this week, Mohamed Kotbi, an Arab waiter who is suing his employer, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, for religious and racial discrimination following the 9/11 attacks, has reported more taunts from co-workers following bin Ladens death.

I am curious if other Sikhs have experienced a similar rise in harassment. What does it mean that when the US claims victory over Enemy #1, the general public vilifies Muslims and turban-wearing Sikhs even more? Sometimes it seems we’ve made little progress since the hateful aftermath of 9/11, and perhaps are even moving backwards.

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Turban Warfare or Racist Warfare (courtesy of the NY Post)?

This past Sunday, violence erupted in an ongoing conflict between rival factions at the Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana in Richmond Hill, Queens, the heart of New York’s Sikh community. Large kirpans as well as cricket bats and balls were used in the fighting. Dozens of community members and “leaders” were injured, and seven men were arrested.

Sunday was the escalation of an ongoing power struggle between leadership factions in the Richmond Hill Sikh community. There have been many violent incidents in the last several months at this Gurdwara (which itself was born out a violent conflict at the original Richmond Hill Gurdwara, the Sikh Cultural Society), resulting in a regular police presence there.

I don’t claim to understand the reasons behind the conflict at this Gurdwara, nor do I really care. This type of behavior is inexcusable and unjustifiable. And it is far too common in our community, and in particular, in our houses of worship. Much deeper discussions and interventions are needed about violence in our Gurdwaras than I will go into here.

That being said, as a follow up to Navdeep’s post about Sikhs and the Media yesterday, I want to focus on the news coverage of this incident in Richmond Hill. The New York Post* (one of NYC’s biggest newspapers with over 525,000 print copies sold daily) broke the story with this headline on Monday: Queens Turban Warfare: Sword-Wielding Sikhs attack praying rivals.

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The Roar of a Lioness: Sikh Women in the Diaspora

Our mothers and grandmothers would be proud. If we take a moment to pause, we’ll see the amazing mobilization that is occurring in the diaspora around Sikh women’s issues, particularly by youth. I’m not quite sure if it is a legit rise in websites or events or whether we are simply paying more attention to the topic. Regardless, it is clear that there are now more forums and platforms for discussion cultivating the need for women (and men!) to come together and address issues affecting Half the Sky. This post will give a round-up of some amazing work that is happening in our community, bringing together our qaum to discuss important issues affecting Sikh women.

logo300.jpg{Kaurista} It is clear that Sikh women, like all women around the world, value an open space to discuss issues that directly impact us. Whether it is conversations about clothes, hair, identity or our activism – there needs to exist a space that is catered to providing Sikh girls and women with a sense of unity. This type of comraderie cannot be understated – it impacts an individual’s self esteem and confidence in a substantial way. With the launch of Kaurista.com and the immediate posting of the link all over Facebook, it is hard not to notice how much support there is for this type of forum. Kaurista provides conversations on six different topics including, Lifestyle, Style & Beauty, Family, Inspiration and Health & Wellness. One of my favourite sections of the website is “Ask Kaurista” where questions related to wanting to marry a sardar, going to prom, or overcoming alcohol abuse are answered. The site is not only aimed at Sikh girls. In fact, it actively includes Sikh men in discussions – and perhaps the hope is that through these types of discussions, Sikh men will value how truly dynamic Sikh women are!

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RIP Gurmej Singh Atwal

While Sikhs around the world were celebrating Vaisakhi last week, 78-year-old Gurmej Singh Atwal, one of the two men who were shot in what was likely a hate attack in Elk Grove, California in March, died on Friday. The Sacramento Bee reports:

“He’s no more,” his son said. “First the kidneys went off, then the lungs and then brain. … He was shot in the upper right chest, one bullet went straight to his lungs and the other to his pancreas, liver and intestines.”

A grief-stricken Atwal said, “My dad was going to be a key witness” in the shooting. Also shot was Surinder Singh, 65, who died at the scene.

This tragic loss came two days after California’s “Sikh Solidarity Day,” initiated by State Senator Darrell Steinberg and California Sikhs to raise awareness about the Sikh identity in light of the horrific March 4th attack on Atwal and Singh in Elk Grove.

“Let us pick a day together when we are all Sikh Americans, we are all Californians and we all stand together,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said before several hundred members of the Sikh Temple of Sacramento in West Sacramento.

“Any attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” the Sacramento Democrat said. He suggested that on a chosen day which was quickly decided as April 13 civic leaders and community members could wear either a man’s turban or a woman’s Punjabi suit with chunni, or headwear, as a symbol of support.

No arrests of suspects have been made thus far. The reward offered by the police department and Sikh and Muslim community groups for information leading to arrests is now $43,000.

Mourning the loss of Gurmej Singh Atwal and Surinder Singh (who died immediately after the shooting), we hope and pray for a day when the Sikh identity will no longer be under attack, when we can walk down the street with our dastars without fear.

Gay Marriage, Sikhi, and the Repeal of DOMA

Advocates of gay rights celebrated after the Obama administration in late February said that it would no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

The Obama administration, however, believes DOMA is unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” (link)

Although I take issue with the state having a role in defining what is and isn’t a legitimate relationship in general (and one’s romantic relationship defining whether or not they get access to certain benefits and privileges), I applaud the administration taking this strong stance against homophobic bigotry. So, I was disappointed (though not terribly surprised) to hear that the World Sikh Council, a “representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions in the US,” has been lobbying the Obama administration to uphold DOMA and went so far as to co-sign a letter of protest to President Obama denouncing his decision to reverse DOMA. The letter states:

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Community Advisory: Turbans to Always be Searched at US Airports

This morning the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF and United Sikhsissued Alerts advising the communitythat Sikhs should now expect turbansto be searched 100% of the time at American airports. The alert has beencopied below so that community members are aware of thisprior to arriving at airports around the country.

(Washington, DC) October 22, 2010 Earlier this month, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials told representatives of the Sikh Coalition, UNITED SIKHS, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), that Sikhs should now expect turbans to always be searched at American airports.

While procedures which allow Sikhs to pat down their own turbans and have their hands swabbed by a TSA screener shall remain in place, what has changed is that Sikhs must go through an additional hand wand of the turban as an additional screening procedure 100% of the time. This is true even for Sikh travelers who voluntarily choose to be screened by going through the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. The AIT machines (otherwise know as whole body imaging machines) are being placed in airports nationwide over the coming years.

SALDEF, Sikh Coalition and UNITED SIKHS oppose this policy and question its necessity. Targeting turbans for additional scrutiny sends a message to other passengers that Sikhs and their articles of faith are to be viewed with suspicion by fellow travelers. The policy is a serious infringement on our civil rights and liberties.

What to Expect at the Airport

Air travel checkpoints in the United States employ different screening technologies.

While most checkpoints only have metal detectors, many airports are now installing AIT machines. The AIT machines are new whole body imaging devices that will be installed in every airport in the United States over the coming years.

According to the TSA, regardless of whether a Sikh clears the metal detector or the new AIT machines, they will still have to go through an additional procedure in which their turban will be checked for non-metallic items. During this second screening procedure, a Sikh will have a choice of either:

  • a pat-down of their turban by a TSA screener;
  • patting down their own turban and having their hand swabbed for traces of chemical explosives; or
  • requesting a private screening (in a room outside of public view) of their turban.
    In addition, after this extra screening of the turban, a third screening procedure (under AIT screening policies) will subject Sikhs to a metal detecting wand that will be scanned over the turban.

Please remember, that under current procedures, a Sikh can always ask that they pat down their own turban rather than have a screener pat it down.

If a Sikh traveler opts out of the AIT screening, they will immediately be subjected to a full body (rigorous) pat-down by a TSA official plus a hand wand screening. If you are asked to undergo a full-body pat down, you have the right to ask for this screening to occur in a private room or other setting away from the rest of the traveling public.

The TSAs Rationale
The TSA says that because a turban is non form-fitting, it is more capable of concealing dangerous items than other forms of clothing. The TSA also says that its new AIT machines cannot see through the folds of a turban to determine if it is concealing a dangerous item.

Our organizations vigorously question these rationales. First, the Department of Homeland Securitys own website states that the AIT machines are capable of screening threat items concealed under layers of clothing. Second, on Christmas Day 2009, a person was able to smuggle explosives onto a plane headed to the United States in his undergarments. If explosives can be concealed in undergarments, all garments should be targeted for extra scrutiny, not just turbans.

Going Forward
Each one of our organizations will continue to oppose this unjust policy. We will call upon Sikhs in the coming weeks to communicate directly with the TSA and their members of Congress.

Each one of our organizations are also aware that the Sikh American community is as invested in the national security of the United States as any other community.
Nevertheless, the TSA cannot target turbans for extra scrutiny without cause. We will continue to vigorously question the necessity of this policy given the weak rationales presented for it.

Coordination Amongst Sikh Organizations

Our three organizations would like the community and government to know that it is our intention to work hand-in-hand to combat unlawful profiling of Sikhs by the TSA. We will jointly strategize and communicate with both the government and the Sikh community about our work on this issue.

Gaining Gian

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Guest blog by: Satinderpal Kaur

This August the 12th annual Camp Gian, in which approximately 150 youth ages 3 to 20 partook, was held. In its twelfth year, Camp Gian had a new home, the Khalsa Care Foundation, but still had the same mission. Youth attended the overnight camp from August 8th through August 13th and spent five days being instilled with gianknowledgein various forms. While learning about the history of the period from 1740 to 1850, the youth also learned about discipline, spiritual growth, being part of a sangat (congregation/ community), and leadership through various activities throughout the week.

Every morning, campers would be woken up as early as 4:00 a.m. in order to get the day started on time. All of the campers would join each other in the main hall for yoga exercises in order to get their bodies ready for the day. The exercises were followed by recitation of the morning prayers, Jap Ji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, and Savaiye, as well as singing of kirtan. During the morning, as well as the evening, divaans all of the activities are facilitated by campers so that they learn how to perform the services that occur at gurdwara. The campers are responsible for making the prashaad, doing ardaas, taking hukam, and handing out prashaad. The theme shabad for this year was Darshan Har Dekhan Kai Taaee and the theme song was entitled I Cant Wait to See You. Every year a shabad is chosen to go hand in hand with the history lessons and a theme, or take-home message, is developed. Waking up in the morning and participating in the morning divaan instilled values of self-discipline and personal, spiritual growth in the campers.

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The Best-Dressed Life of Waris Ahluwalia

Waris_3.jpgHaving just been named as one of the international best-dressed honorees by Vanity Fair, Waris Ahluwalia is getting noticed not only for his dynamic sense of style but for his versatile portfolio. Best known for being a unique jewelry designer, Waris is also an actor (having starred in Wes Anderson and Spike Lee films) and recently co-wrote a book, To India with Love.

I never get tired of talking about Waris Ahluwalia by the way, but apparently i’m not alone. Blogs and articles are abuzz discussing his jewelry company, House of Waris, his sartorial taste and even his interest in Bollywood.

Waris.jpgWait, Bollywood… really?

…Despite his turban and beard look, Waris says that he has never been stereotyped in Hollywood. “Everyone likes to put people in categories, whether its Hollywood, Bollywood or the media in general. Whenever I meet agents their big concern is that I’ll be stereotyped. Well, I haven’t been stereotyped yet. “Some of the roles I’ve played; camera man, a bank hostage, a Republican, a hypo-chondriac, none of these roles called for an Indian.” [link]

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The Turban and The Crown: Hoodini & KinG!

37921_138174189545669_120944144602007_277614_3529312_n.jpgHere on TLH, we’ve covered a variety of talented musicians includingSikh Knowledge, Mandeep Sethi and Humble the Poet. We’ve been following these individuals, their music, new collaborations and of course new albums. I am a huge believer that youth (yes, we have a particular interest in Sikh youth here in TLH) should be encouraged to pursue their talents regardless of what may be expected of us. These musicians are doing just that – and they are creating incredible music that speaks to the masses.

This post is for Hoodini & KinG. I have to say Hoodini is one my favourites. Not only is he extremely talented (listen to track 6/Keep it Rollin’ and track 10/Til I’m Through of the mixtape) but he’s a nice guy (a really nice guy)… and the kid has serious style. It’s like he knows he’s going to make a mark on the world, and is dressed for the occasion…

So i didn’t mean to just mention this mixtape in passing – you really have to download and listen to it yourself. It is a really dynamic piece of work. Hoodini & KinG! Present: A California Classic, is available here. While Hoodini is the emcee, the album was produced by KinG! nKeith Rice – a 21 year old producer from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles (he’s really really talented). Even though the two went to different high schools, their mutual love of hip-hop was destined to bring their forces together so that they could make music that would “make people fall in love again.”

I asked Hoodini what inspires him and what he told me was this,

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Amritdharis Banned from Gurdwara in Rochester

Throughout the weekend, numerousreports have been circulating throughout the Punjabi language press of a ban being enforced by the management committee of a Gurdwara in Rochester, NY. We have received a large number of emails with regards to the matter (Pagh Salute: Balmeet Singh). Various press reports suggest a local power dispute was largely the cause, where one group suggested that the Gurdwara was their ‘private property.’ Subsequently they have rejected that the Sangat is supreme and have thus attempted to gain a court-order ban on attendance by Amritdhari Singhs and Singhnis. Details are still rather sketchy, hopefully locals can give us some perspective.

Numerous commentaries can be viewed on youtube. The topic has been the discussion on various Punjabi language radio shows. A vigorous conversation within the community is occurring. One video has pictures that suggested there was a protest last week.

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Looking for historical parallels, many groups are calling this group of so-called ‘owners’ – ‘mahants’ recalling the vocabulary during the Gurdwara Morcha movement in the early part of the 20th century. What do our Langar-readers suggest as the correct course of action? Granted, the Gurdwara in question (that of Rochester, NY) is not a historical Gurdwara. Should Singhs and Kaurs in the community attempt to press the committee to rescind its decision or would it be better to open another Gurdwara in the area, one where the Sangat truly is supreme? Are there other options?

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