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Post-9/11 hatred rages on near Ground Zero

Guestblogged by Brooklynwala

Yesterday morning I was reading the ubiquitous, free AM New York newspaper on the subway on the way to a cordoba_house.jpgmeeting and was disturbed and saddened to learn about a protest of 1,000 people in lower Manhattan against an Islamic Center being built near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks. Holding signs with slogans like, No 9/11 Mega Mosque and Dont dishonor my sons grave, these protestors represent the growing backlash against the 13-story community center and mosque being built by the Cordoba Initiative.

According to their website, Cordoba aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago. The Cordoba Initiatives proposed Cordoba House located two blocks from Ground Zero is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by universal values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.

A few weeks ago, Tea Party leader Mark Williams, a frequent guest on CNN, stated that the monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.

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The Base Disgrace that is Jake Knotts – Jon Stewart and Ragheads

The issue was discussed last week, with many of our readers unable to differentiate the difference between private conversation and public discourse. On Sepiamutiny, my brother Ennis Singh Mutinywale also had some great analysis, here, here, here, and here.

On a sidenote, a pagh salute to our brothers and sisters at SALDEF for hearing the calls and giving a statement.

Here you can see Jon Stewart’s take on South Carolina’s politics – The Race to Replace Disgrace (starts 3:23) For those faint of heart, do not go below the fold to watch the video link due to its ‘adult’ humor and language. This may be the first time Jon Stewart mentioned the word ‘Sikh’ (4:35)on his show, unfortunately not under the best circumstance.

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Raghead, really? Enough is Enough. Time to Mobilize

jakie.jpgI don’t believe I agree with much of anything when it comes to Nikki Haley’s politics. Nimrata Randhawa (her name before marriage) is currently a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the South Carolina. Again, I don’t care for her political positions, endorsements, that she converted to Christianity, or even if allegations are true that she had an illicit affair. Despite this, recent comments made by a Republic state senator – Jake Knotts – has me standing together with her about the problem with South Carolina politics in particular, but the general direction of American political discourse.

I have been called a ‘raghead’ for so long that I can’t remember. Now Jake Knotts felt it was okay to bring that type of hateful rhetoric in the public sphere. During the 2008 presidential elections, I wrote repeatedly about why Americans of all stripes, but especially Sikhs must stand together against the Muslimophobia (wrongly called Islamophobia) that was entering American political discourse. Now we see the effects for those that remain silent.

Although Jake Knotts has backtracked from the comments, it is not enough:

Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts later apologized for the slur, saying the remarks about President Barack Obama and state Rep. Nikki Haley were meant as a joke.

They came on Internet political talk show, Pub Politics. Co-host Phil Bailey said Knotts said, “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”

No audio was available because of a technical problem, Bailey said.

“If it had been recorded, the public would be able to hear firsthand that my ‘raghead’ comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest,” Knotts said in his statement. “Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It’s like local political version of Saturday Night Live, which is actually where the joke came from.”[link]

Such ‘jokes’ have no place in the American public discourse and should be condemned by all. South Carolina Republicans have already moved to distance themselves from the comments. I hope that ALL Sikh groups (Saldef, Sikh Coalition, are you listening??? Get on this), South Asian groups, Muslim groups, and just like-minded people come together to call for a real apology from Jake Knotts and not just some justification that it was just a joke.

You can email Jake Knotts a message directly here. Keep it clean AND professional!

Handled well, this may just be one of those ‘teaching moments’ beneficial for the whole country.

Below the fold, you will find the email that I sent. Feel free to use it, edit it, or right your own. Just make sure you do it!

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Another United States is Necessary: The US Social Forum in Detroit this June

Guest blogged by Brooklynwala

clip_image002.jpgTheres no shortage of reasons why progressives and people who believe in social justice should be gathering together in the US now more than ever. With US wars raging on in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the financial meltdown taking its toll working and poor Americans, and one of the most catastrophic ecological crises in the history of humanity currently destroying Gulf coast, we have a lot of work to do.

This June 22-26th, thousands of grassroots activists from around the country will be convening in Detroit, MI for the second United States Social Forum. Building off the World Social Forum process that began in 2001 in Porto Alegre Brazil, the US Social Forum was created with the assumption that in order to change the world, we must change the United States (the belly of the beast, as may of us often refer to our home).

Here is a clip of poet/actor Jessica Care Moore plugging the gathering:

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Top Job at MasterCard Goes to Ajay Singh Banga

MI_BD656_BANGA_DV_20100528165127.jpgHere on TLH we’ve often highlighted the accomplishments of Sikhs in various sectors of the community. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses incoming MasterCard CEO, Ajay Banga. As of July 1st, Mr. Banga will be heading the second-largest credit- and debit-card processor. His job won’t be easy, particularly during these tumultuous times. Earlier this month, the Senate approved the financial-overhaul bill which includes provisions that could encourage consumers to use cash and checks over electronic payments. If the legislation is signed into law, it also could drain billions of dollars in annual revenue from the banks that issue cards branded with the MasterCard logo.

For the past few months, Mr. Banga has been on a whirlwind tour to promote MasterCard to bankers in Asia, Europe and South America. He is encouraging company executives to follow his lead by getting out of their offices to spend time with customers around the world. About 55% of the company’s revenue comes from outside the U.S.

When he isn’t traveling, Mr. Banga slips into his silver Lexus on the Upper East Side of Manhattan each morning and drives about 45 minutes to MasterCard’s suburban campus in Westchester County. He listens to local radio news for the first 15 minutes and then mentally prepares for his day by switching to Sikh devotional music. [link]

Mr. Banga is known to be a “front-line” executive, and is referred to as being “energetic, open and engaging”. Indian-born Banga graduated with a BA in Economics Honors from Delhi University and is also a graduate of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Before arriving at MasterCard, Mr. Banga worked at Citigroup Inc. for 13 years, including some time in charge of the bank’s global credit-card business. Mr. Banga has an interest in social development issues, and over the period from 2005 to 2009, he spearheaded Citi’s strategy in the microfinance sector across the world.He has undoubtedly accomplished much in his professional career and hopefully will inspire young Sikhs to reach similar heights!

Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month (APAHM), celebrating the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US. [link] Hopefully your schools, employers or communities have been celebrating. The White House joined in the celebration recently and Sikhs got a mention.

“We draw strength from the rich tradition that everybody can call America home because we all came from somewhere else except for the first Americans. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one. And there’s no better example of this than the communities that are represented in this room,” Obama said. “Your role in America’s story has not always been given its due. Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have known tremendous unfairness and injustice during our history,” Obama said. The US President said generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders helped to build this country, defend this country, and make America what it is today… “And for this reason, we are here today to celebrate these contributions. But we’re also holding this event because I want to make sure that we are hearing from you so that the government does its part on your behalf, just as you’re doing your part on America’s behalf,” he said. “That’s why we’re always welcoming your input: from meetings with Sikh Americans to Native Hawaiians. [link]

Enjoy the rest of the celebrations!

Pyrrhic Victory? Sikhs and the Texas Board of Education

Late last week I received an email from the Sikh Coalition titled “Victory in Texas!!! 4.8 Million Students to Learn About Sikhi”. The email stated the following:

(May 21, 2010) Today, the Texas Board of Education voted to include information on Sikhs andSikhpractices in the state mandated curriculum for public school students. This marks a significant victory for theSikhcommunity as Sikhs and Sikhi has never before been included in the state-wide curriculum.

In 2011, Texas students will learn about Sikhs at three points during their public school education. Sixth graders will learn about Vaisakhi when they learn about Christmas, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, and Diwali. High school students taking World History will learn about the origin of Sikhism and its basic beliefs. Finally, high school students will also learn locations of largeSikhpopulations in their World Geography classes.

The email continues in its excitement:

Texas Greatly Impacts the Rest of America

Texas is a very influential state for textbook manufacturers. State curriculum standards determine the content that will be included in new editions. Experts estimate that the decisions made by the Texas Board of Education affect the textbooks used in 46 other states because it is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the nation. In effect, Texas curriculum standards shape the content students will learn across the entire nation.

In all the exuberance, should we take a breath for the possible ramifications?

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California’s First South Asian Federal Judge

Vijay “Jay” Chand Gandhi was sworn in as California’s first South Asian federal judge on April 14th. He is only the second Indian American federal judge in the country. Gandhi will be a magistrate judge for the U.S. District CouJudge_Gandhi.gifrt in Californias Central District. This district serves Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

India-West reports, “The duties of magistrate judges include conducting preliminary proceedings in criminal cases, trying and disposing of misdemeanor cases, ruling on discovery disputes in civil cases, issuing reports in habeas corpus and civil rights cases, trying civil cases and other assigned matters.”

Kiran Jain, president of the South Asian Bar Association in Northern California, told India-West, As the first South Asian federal judge in California, Judge Gandhis appointment is not only an historic advancement in increasing diversity in our judiciary, but a testament to the South Asian American legal community’s progress in advancing our bar to the highest levels of our profession.”

Congratulations Vijay Gandhi! It will be interesting to see if and how Gandhi utilizes his experience as a South Asian American in his work as judge. It is one thing to have a South Asian name and another to actually use your cultural experiences to help the community. I hope he views being a federal judge as an opportunity to shed light on the issues impacting the South Asian community while helping create larger policy changes.

As far as I know, there are no Sikh U.S. federal judges. Do you know of any? If not, I await the day we have Sikh U.S. federal judges. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer. Being a lawyer is one of the top 3 professions many Sikhs pursue any ways.

A Vaisakhi Call to Action: Standing up for Immigrant Rights

Guest blogged by Brooklynwala

While many of us were celebrating 311 years of the Khalsa at Sikh Day Parades and Nagar Kirtans this weekend, thousands of immigrants and their allies gathered in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday to protest what is being called the AZ_law_immigration.jpgmost anti-immigrant legislation in the United States, Senate Bill1070. Signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23rd, this measure allows local law enforcement authorities to question individuals based solely upon the suspicion that they may be undocumented.

According to the New York Times, The lawwould make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

President Obama stated that the law threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.

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Young Sikh Girl Hopes to Audition for Glee

By now, everyoneshould haveheard of Glee – a musical comedy-drama television series focusing on a high-school glee club. A glee club is a musical group which traditionally specializes in the singing of short songs. Before writing this blog post, i didn’t quite know howbig this phenomenon was… but apparently it’s big and there is a large following of gleeks and gleemania.

A young Sikh girl by the name of Raveena is hoping to audition and land a role on the show. There is a Facebook page dedicated to helping “Raveena get on the show”.

n113429498682986_3996.jpgI am auditioning for this TV show called Glee, I trust that you have heard of it and I need your help. As a Sikh, its been really hard for me to land roles in a more professional environment because there are very few roles available for Indians. With the nationwide casting call for Glee, I can hopefully show everyone what I’ve got and get a call back for a show that is looking for people who don’t quite fit the mold.

Here on TLH, we love to highlight Sikhs who are pursuing their passions. Watch Raveena’s video and if you like it – take a few moments torate/comment on her video so that she has a chance to audition for the show.

Vaisakhi-A National Holiday

Sikhs will be celebrating Vaisakhi world wide next week on April 14th. Sikhs in Malayasia are requesting that Vaisakhi be made a national holiday.

Tan Sri Darshan Singh, the President of Malaysia National Sikhs Movement president, said, “The Sikhs who arrived earlier in this country served in the security forces and have contributed towards the economic development of Malaysia”. Karpal Singh of DAP believes that Vaisakhi should be given consideration as a national holiday because of its considerable significance to Sikhs. However, Malaysian Sikhs have not gotten a positive response from the government.

A common saying is a community knows when its contributions are being viewed as an important part of a “host” country’s fabric of life when the entire nation gets a day off on a day that is significant to that community. In a nutshell, it means you have really “made it”.

I look forward to the day that non-Sikhs will be taking Vaisakhi off in Malaysia and America. We have “made it” in these countries in many ways although we are often treated like “resident aliens”. I wish it wouldn’t take a national holiday to break that mold, but may be it would help?

Fauji Singhs

Last week, many in US Sikhdom celebrated the triumphs of Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Dr. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi. For why you may ask? See previous coverage.

The NY Times Printed this short brief:

Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, in a turban and full beard, graduated Monday at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the first Sikh in a generation allowed to complete Army basic training without sacrificing the articles of his faith. The Army made an exemption to a uniform policy that has effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting since 1984. Im feeling very humbled, said Captain Rattan, 31, a dentist. Im a soldier. He had to get a waiver from the Army to be allowed to serve without sacrificing the unshorn hair mandated by his faith. An immigrant from India who arrived in New York as a teenager, Captain Rattan said it was important for him to serve a country that has given him so many opportunities. Captain Rattan and Dr. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who will attend basic training this summer, are the first Sikhs to receive exemptions in more than 25 years. [link]

Sikhs should absolutely have the opportunity to enter the military if they so choose; I will leave my opinion on the imperial adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan for another time. Still from talking to other Sikh friends in the military, I wonder about Sikh Coalition’s press release stating “First Sikh US Army Officer Successfully Completes Basic Training” does some disservice to others in the military. That non-keshadhari Sikhs have served in the US army in the past is well known, especially the case of Uday Singh. Although the Coalition deserves kudos for their success for creating an opening for keshadhari Sikhs to also serve, does it also play up on a class factor by celebrating only officers, rather than the many nameless ground troopers?

When Common Sense Isn’t So Common

Earlier this month a congressional hearing reviewing the Transportation Security Administration’s 2011 Fiscal budget occurred in committee. Representative, John Culberson (Republican from Texas) demanded to know why the US government refuses to engage in racial and religious profiling, when screening at airports.

The Representative stated:

It is disturbing [the TSA policy against profiling]. I mean it is something that needs to change. It just defies common sense.

SALDEF responded by issuing a letter a to the Congressman reminding him it is against the US Constitution to profile based on religion. In a rising climate of gross Muslimophobia, Sikhs are ‘racialized Muslims’. We must stand in solidarity against such practices. I am glad that Sikh groups are paying attention.

UPDATED: Gender Neutral Teaching: A Sikh Context

Due to unforseen circumstances, we were notified that the webinar has been postponed until Saturday, March 27, 2010. Register at the link provided below.

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A few months ago, RP Singh wrote a wonderful review of a new children’s book called A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur.The book takes young readers on a journey to cultures around the globe to explore the meaning of the dastaar. The book does an excellent job at celebrating diversity and encouraging inquisition in young readers. While the main character in the book is a young Sikh boy, the author and illustrator worked hard to create a story that was accessible to both young boys and young girls.

Educators are now asking – how can we create gender neutral curriculum and cultivate an environment of bias-free learning? In a webinar titled, “Gender Neutral Teaching: A Sikh Context,” theSikh Research Institute will be opening this topic up for discussion and looking at gender neutral teaching from a Sikh context. We have an important role as a community to help to facilitate these discussions and ensure that our children and their children have the opportunity to learn in an environment that celebrates diversity. Below you will find information on how to register for this webinar. It sounds like an enlightening and much needed conversation!

Gender Neutral Teaching: A Sikh Context

Presenter: Jasmine Kaur, Director of Education at the Sikh Research Institute

Register here.

Arundhati Roy In San Francisco

Arundhati_Roy__c__Sanjay_Kak_0.gifArundhati Roy, the author of “God of Small Things”, will be in San Francisco on March 26th at Mission High School Auditorium. The event will start at 7pm.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Roy will be reading from her latest collection of essays, “Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers”.

This reading is a charity event for the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK). The proceeds will be used to institute the Peace and Justice Grant For Scholarship and the Arts In Indian-Administered Kashmir for those residing in Indian-administered Kashmir. The grant will be housed at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

America’s Wealthiest Religions?

An interestinginfographic circulating the Web has many people talking about the relationship between wealth and religion. The graphic, titled The Almighty Dollar, was created byGOOD and Column Five Media and breaks down income levels in the U.S. by religion.Datais based on information from the Pew Forum and it compares the income level of each religion to the national average. From the website: It’s no secret that the distribution of wealth is inequitable in the United States across racial, regional, and socio-economic groups. But there is a distinct variance among and within America’s faiths as well.

header_GOOD_ALMIGHTY_DOLLAR_R3.jpg

If you click on the image above, it will enlarge and you’ll see information broken down by several religious groups such as Jewish, Christian (divided into several groups), Buddhist, Mormon, Muslim etc. You’ll notice that Sikhism is not one of them (not sure why?). There are five income brackets (Less than $30,000 to $100,000+) listed and numbers signifying what percentage of each religious group falling into which income bracket.

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Expanding medical schools in the U.S.- finally!

We’ve occasionally touched upon the choice that today’s youth make in choosing a career or path. Enough of our peers are already in, or heading towards medicine, and no encouragement is needed in that direction. But good news- now you pre-md.jpgmed students have more options in the U.S.!

There has long been an imbalance in the demand for seats in medical schools, and the supply of seats available. Bright students have had to travel internationally to study, sometimes learning to study without reliable electricity. However, during the 80s and 90s, only one new medical school was established. This is finally changing. Nearly two dozen medical schools are opening, or might open in the near future. [NYT]

The proliferation of new schools is also a market response to a rare convergence of forces: a growing population; the aging of the health-conscious baby-boom generation; the impending retirement of, by some counts, as many as a third of current doctors; and the expectation that, the present political climate notwithstanding, changes in health care policy will eventually bring a tide of newly insured patients into the American health care system. [NYT]

The interesting aspect of this growth is that many of the creators of these new programs aim to create doctors different from today’s. They claim they will produce doctors who aim to serve immigrant and underserved communities.

Many of the developing medical schools are well aware of such arguments, and are billing themselves as different from traditional medical schools, more focused on serving primary care needs in immigrant and disadvantaged communities. Administrators say that they expect that approach to be buttressed by a shift in state and federal reimbursements from specialists to primary care doctors. [NYT]

In any case, they’ll be closer to home!

Elite 8 Bhangra- an invitational

College bhangra competitions used to be rare. Now, every region is home to multiple competitions.elite_8.jpg

It’s great to see bhangra, as an artform, thriving. Though as a competition, it sometimes feels as though the art is lost amongst the flips and pyramids. However, the last few years have seen a movement going back to the basics of the traditional art form, which has been wonderful to see.

In the crowd of competitions, it is natural to try to distinguish oneself. This year, DC will play host to an invitational bhangra competition called the “Elite 8.” It won’t change bhangra competitions, but it may heighten the profiles of the teams who were invited.

Check out more info for the competition and teams competing, here.

Female Ice Cream Truck Driver Shot In Bay Area

Amarjit Kaur, 39, was critically shot on Wednesday afternoon in Vallejo, California as she sold ice cream out of an ice cream truck near a school. The Bay Area television news reported last night that police believe the reason for the shooting was two fold. First it was a robbery by a 15-year male. Secondly, Kaur’s inability to understand that the English-speaking 15-year old was asking for money caused him to shoot her out of frustration and anger.

As a widowed mother of three and a recent immigrant to the United States, Kaur’s case highlights the struggle that immigrant woman go through to support their families. Her strength to sell ice cream out of a truck while not completely understanding English shows perseverance during adversity but also highlights the risk new immigrants take to build lives for themselves and their families in the United States.

You would imagine that selling ice cream to primarily children would not be high risk. However, Harish Joshi reported that he was held-up twice while operating an ice cream truck in Richmond (California Bay Area).

Kuldeep Malhan, Kaur’s brother-in-law said a fund has been set-up to help support the family at Bank of America, account No. 488019845001. Please donate to help with Kaur’s medical bills and other living expenses while she is unable to work because of her injuries.

Combating Hunger…One Meal at a Time

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. “ – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last week, in celebration of Dr. King’s legacy, the DC Metro satellite of Kid’s Against Hunger drew volunteers all across the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area for a hugely successful meal packaging event.

Kid’s Against Hunger (KAH) is a non-profit organization with the mission to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the United States and to feed starving children throughout the world. This is accomplished through partnering with satellite organizations who raise funds, organize volunteers, and arrange events where meal packets (consisting of soy, rice, vegetable blend, and flavored vitamin powder) are filled, sealed, and packed for a population in need. Meals are then transported through KAH’s broad network of humanitarian organizations.

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