Afghanistan: 10 years of war, 10 years of occupation

Occupation has come to carry a different connotation of late as the #OccupyWallStreet movement quickly spreads throughout the country. But for millions in Afghanistan it still means U.S. militarism. It still means war. It still means injustice. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, originally deemed “Operation Enduring Freedom” by then president George W Bush.

Based on my mother’s last name, I know I have roots in Afghanistan, as do many of us Sikhs. Hundreds of thousands of our Afghan sisters and brothers have lost their lives in this war, which has escalated under the Obama Administration. Rather than making my arguments for a complete and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, I am instead posting this message from human rights activist and former Afghan MP Malalai Joya on the 10th anniversary of this seemingly endless war.

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Quiet and Loud Revolutions, Street Theater, and the Death of Sardar Gursharan Singh
Sardar Gursharan Singh

Gursharan Singh at his home Guru Khalsa Niwas in Putli Ghar Amritsar. 1986 (photo by Amarjit Chandan)

During my last year of graduate school, we were reading Lyrical Ballads, for a seminar on British Poetry written by Wordsworth and Coleridge. This collection published in 1798 challenged the basic principles of English thought at the time. Instead of using obscure and complicated vocabulary in their poetry to show how clever and refined they were, these writers used simple, everyday language; instead of resisting the use of sentimental language to explore the feelings of the human heart, they fully embraced it during a time when it was immensely unpopular to do so. Wordsworth famously defined poetry as a spontaneous flow of powerful feelings.

When we think of revolutionaries, we think of people like Malcolm X, Bhagat Singh, and Che Guevara, who advocated the use of violence to achieve justice. We tend to forget that three hundred years before Wordsworth, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was embarking on a much more important mission using the idea of making his message accessible to all, but on a much more profound and deeper level. We forget that all of the Sikh Gurus were revolutionaries, working towards the same goal, but using very different methods. Some refused to use violence, even under dire circumstances, while others believed the use of violence as a last resort was necessary to obtain justice for the downtrodden. You would think that these would be competing philosophies, but they merged as one, and form the core of Sikh philosophy: Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier).

Many believe that Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution” that involved many reforms wasn’t really a revolution because violence or protests weren’t heavily involved. Interestingly enough, Che Guevara started first with reforms before overthrowing the U.S. backed Batista regime. The Khalistan Movement had its roots in non-violence (contrary to what the media tells us), as did many great revolutions. The Southall and Brixton riots are popularized as “the” civil rights movement in England, but the name of Paul Stephenson, who initiated a 60 day boycott of a racist bus company in England that refused employment to Blacks and Asians, is rarely mentioned. And we’ve all heard about how Gandhi singlehandedly made the British “quit” India through his non-violent philosophy. No mention of the much needed violent struggle and sacrifices of the Ghadarites or people like Bhagat Singh.

One such quiet revolutionary who made plenty of noise in his fifty years in theater died last week, on September 27, 2011, at the age of 82. Sardar Gursharan Singh was affectionately called Bhaaji, Baba Bohr, and even Bhai Manna Singh after a character he created. Although classically trained in theater, he decided to dedicate his life to bringing street theater thada in Punjabi, meaning platform to the masses, specifically in Punjab, performing at villages where he thought the real India resided.

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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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Shield of Faith Movie

While Breakaway/SpeedySinghs seems to be the talk of the town, earlier this week, a friend (pagh salute: download!) pointed this new movie to me. It seems it is still in production and is a labor of love for Sikh-Australian, Rupinder Singh. On the internet there are few details about the movie.

Here is their description:

Visionary film by Rupinder Singh creating an original epic docu-feature based on some prominent events in Sikh history. The film takes the audiences to a thrilling journey where they learn about the difficult time on the Sikh community and about how they still came out victorious in spite of being tested by the time.

Labeled as a “docu-drama” the breath-taking views and professional camera pans seem like a quality production. Although I have some reservations with the period costumes, despite claims on the website for a “special emphasis” [note the contemporary Nihang weaponry and costume and contrast with the historical reconstruction - though it has been alleged to be Afghan - at the London exhibit], I will definitely go out and watch it. In fact, I just made a contribution!

Make a contribution, “like” their facebook page, check out their website, or just watch their trailer.

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2011 SGPC Election (Mis)Results

The results are in and much to no ones surprise Badal and his cronies won.

If you ran against the don, hesent his goons.

If your supporters were going to come out and vote, they captured the booth and made sure your supporters were turned away.

If they thought it was going to be close they stuffed ballots and created Sikhs (man-pagh, pagh-man, voila! Sikh or at least one that was eligible to vote).

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If they thought you even had a chance to win, they shot off a couple of rounds in the air and had the balloting canceled and postponed.

The worst part was this happened in full view of the media and in front of the world. Are we that apathetic?

This is how the Panths resources are kept safe to line Badal and his cronies pockets. Only the Government of India (GOI) can call for the elections and only the GOI’s police can make sure they are “secure” and “safe” (for Badal to win). This is how we are kept enslaved.


Sikh Women: Making History

Each year, SikhNet hosts an online youth film festival – to cultivate interest from Sikh filmmakers from around the globe. The online film festival is an excellent way for individuals to dialogue about issues affecting us personally and as a community. One of the films, titled Khalsa Has No Gender, is made by a group of young teen-aged Sikh women living in England and the goal of the film is to address gender [in]equality within our community. The film was striking to me for several reasons. Firstly, that these young women chose to use the medium of film to discuss this very important issue and secondly, that the concept of gender discrimination and inequality is prevalent in the conscience of very young Sikhs – Sikhs who are perhaps even 3rd and 4th generational living in the disapora.

305476_10150286660628170_515193169_7933261_1234383439_n.jpgWhile on one hand it’s disheartening to acknowledge that perhaps change is slower than we have hoped it to be (displayed by the film), there is – on the other hand – reason to be optimistic. In just over a week, scholars and community members from across the globe are gathering in Toronto for the very first Sikh Feminist Conference, “Our Journeys”, hosted by the Sikh Feminist Research Institute (SAFAR).

[Our Journeys is] an opportunity for scholars and community members alike to openly connect, converse and engage in a dialogue and critical thinking about gender related issues that demand to be voiced, and heard, in order to be addressed.

The line up of topics and speakers is remarkable. The keynote speaker, Professor Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is well known for introducing the term Sikh feminism and will share a Panel with Geetanjali Singh Chanda and Mallika Kaur toexplore how Sikh feminism is defined, its origins, the present-day reality and how it can be an impetus for social change.

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Updated: Because it’s a matter of life and death

UPDATED ON 9/22/11 at 11:00am (after the fold)

On Wednesday, September 21st at 7pm, the state of Georgia plans to end the life of Troy Davis. Davis’s only hope at this point may be if prison staff refuse to carry out the execution, if they courageously stand up for what is right, rather than blindly follow orders. He has stated many times, They can take my body but not my spirit, because I have given my spirit to God.

No, Troy Davis is not a Sikh nor does he or his case have any direct connection to the Sikh community. But I am writing this tonight, after his final attempt for clemency denied by the state, to ask you to keep Troy Davis in your thoughts and prayers and to take action in whatever way you see fit. You can immediately sign this petition, you can call or emailJudge Penny Freesemann at 912-652-7252/[email protected] and urge the halt of the execution, you can attend a local rally, you can include Troy in your ardas.

Why?

Because since Davis’s conviction for the murder of a police officer in 1989, seven of the nine witnesses that testified against him have recanted their testimonies.

Because no murder weapon was ever found, and no DNA evidence exists connecting Davis to the crime.

Because some witnesses say another man committed the crime, a witness who testified against Davis.

Because many witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying against Troy Davis.

Because Troy Davis is a 42-year-old man who should have many more years to live on this planet.

Because as Sikhs, it is our duty to stand up for what is right. The planned execution of Davis is a tragic symptom of a broken and inhumane criminal justice system (which I’ve discussed before here and here). This is a Sikh issue. Indeed, Harinder Singh of the Sikh Research institute states,

As a Sikh, I must fight for criminal justice reforms, as the founders of my faith set the precedent when confronting the Mughal dynasty in South Asia. Guru Nanak confronted Emperor Babar over mass incarcerations, and Guru Hargobind championed prisoners rights by challenging Emperor Jahangir; both Gurus, founders of Sikhi, were imprisoned for doing so.

What are we willing to do for Troy Davis and the Troy Davises of the world?

It’s a matter of life and death.

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Nishaan – The Sikh Society Network

Guest blogged byNaujawani Sardar

321314_116006055172592_115613338545197_82003_1811328298_n.jpgThere has been a lot of talk about the SGPC elections recently, even over on our blog. And it got me thinking about a whole range of things from ‘selection vs. election’ to Sikh bodies outside of Punjab. My life in Sikh circles has been positively fascinating for over two decades now, but one of the things I have found most difficult to deal with has been the tension that arises around Sikh representative bodies. Before you stop reading, I’m not going to write about the SGPC – although what I’m writing about could quite easily fit the world of any organisation that represents Sikhs, and specifically those who have had to face false accusations.

“Nishaan is a new organisation consisting of university Sikh Societies across London and the South East of England. It is created on the principle of for the students by the students.”

That is taken directly from the biography of ‘Nishaan‘ – a body of university students at institutions in London who have been collaborating and working closely together for the last year. In actual fact some amongst this group of students and this movement itself began in earnest four years ago when one particular University Sikh society at Imperial College London established an annual meal and gathering of Sikh socs from around the capital; they called the event ‘Collaborations’. Following that, students looked to ‘collaborate’ more often, but in reality it didn’t work efficiently because communication was poor, organisation was overly dependent on single individuals and the age-old division of jatha-affiliation reared its head.

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UPDATED: Darbar Sahib Exhibit in London

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Although far from my home (hopefully @blighty and @joo kay singh can share), is an intriguing exhibit celebrating our beloved Darbar Sahib (erroneously called the Golden Temple) at Amritsar.

Nearly 80 artefacts from the past 200 years have been collected for this exhibit on display in central London. Most of the items are said to be from private collections and this will be the first time they have been publicly displayed. The entire exhibit is being organized by the UK Punjab Heritage Association and there is indication that it may travel.

Until then, enjoy the art through this BBC Video on the exhibit (unfortunately the BBC does not allow you to embed, so you’ll have to follow the link).

In conjunction, it seems Sathnam Sanghera of A Boy With a Top Knotfame will be chairing a panel at the upcoming DSC South Asian Literature Festival (Oct 7-24) titled: The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Paston October 14. The panel will highlight the Muslim rababi tradition of kirtan from one of the descendants of Bhai Mardana – Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand. Unfortunately, it will also feature that most media-astute of the neo-Nihangs and pedlar of neo-Sanatan nonsense – Nidar Singh – who now claims himself to be the “Last Sikh Warrior” (I wonder if he could take on Tom Cruise, who we all know is the Last Samurai). Regardless, the event is free and definitely worth a visit.

Our UK readers, let us know your thoughts!

 

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Why September 11 Didnt Matter – part 1

sikh_holding_flags.jpgI waited a few days. The title may be sacrilegious, but bear with me and let me explain.

Undoubtedly, for the lives lost in the World Trade Center, for victims such as Balbir Singh Sodhi, for the innocents and collateral damage dehumanized and murdered in the hundreds of thousands (and rising) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the regime that invokes the War on Terror that has led to unethical detention, the promotion of anti-humanist values such as torture (whether conducted in the US or contracted out to other governments), the erosion of that most American of constitutional values (i.e. civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights) September 11, 2011 mattered and will continue to matter. Although, some analysts are even now wondering if it will matter to the future of America.

What I am writing about are the experiences of a Sikh-American.

The narrative in our community goes as following. The world changed on September 11, 2011 (again, that most American quality – to believe that the world changed for an event that only occurred in the US). Then, we as Sikhs were attacked twice double victims, because as one Sikh civil rights group, SALDEF, writes [first we were attacked] as Americans and again by those who wished to divide our country based on religion and ethnicity.

I understand the storyline and it makes sense. But there is something that rankles me here. It is the arrogance of the younger generation.

I write this to try to bring out the actual continuities of the Sikh-American experience and why with a proper scope beyond now-ism, we can see that while an exacerbation may have occurred, much still remained the same.

I focus on the two most important continuities, despite claims of revolution hate-influenced violence and our institutions.

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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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A Sikh Voice on Post-9/11 Torture

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon approaches, I am filled with a whole mess of thoughts and emotions. 9/11 was a turning point in the United States–and the world–in so many ways. I need not explain what it has meant for us Sikhs in the United States and beyond, but in the coming days and weeks we will try to highlight some of the important initiatives taking place in commemoration of the 10th anniversary that go beyond jingoistic patriotism and provide opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and moving toward healing and justice.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to read a compelling, heartfelt column in the Huffington Post about post-9/11 torture practices by the US government — written by a Sikh. In the piece, Satpal Singh, of the World Sikh Council, states:

I must shed the tears that I have been holding back for seven years. It was 1 a.m. on April 29, 2004, and I could not sleep. The beacon that I had always looked up to had gone dark.

I had just heard about Abu Ghraib. It shook my faith in my country’s ability to uphold its values. Admittedly, it takes the strongest of the strong to face the evil that we were facing, and the highest of morality to face it without losing one’s own morality. But now, even America, the mightiest of the mighty, the champion of human rights, the unquestioned upholder of morality, had blinked in the face of evil. The terror had seized us. Faced with evil, we had abandoned our own values.

One of the many tragedies of the American post-9/11 era is that torture has become a routine tactic in the treatment of terrorism suspects. While these policies began during the Bush Administration (see a new report by Human Rights Watch on the subject here), there seems to be much less protest of their continuation under Obama’s presidency. While Obama promised to closed down the infamous Guantanamo detention center during his presidential campaign, it still remains as do Bush/Cheney era interrogation tactics.

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Fair & Lovely for Sikh Youth?

Embracing my new role as a proud Chacha, I recently bought some Sikhi-related children’s books for my niece for her first birthday. I was especially excited about this new book and CD of Sikh nursery rhymes called Ik Chota Bacha. The book/CD is a great way to teach basic Sikh values to kids and help develop their Punjabi skills (all the nursery rhymes are in Punjabi) in a fun way. I played the CD for my niece on the daily when I was visiting for her birthday, and by the end of the week, the whole family was singing along to some of the catchy (and rather cheesy) tunes. (See a full review of the book here.)

My excitement about the release Ik Chota Bacha quickly became muddied with disappointment and frustration once I saw the book’s illustrations. Every single Sikh child and adult depicted in the book looks WHITE. I don’t just mean they’re all fair-skinned on the spectrum of brownness. I mean peachy, rosey-cheeked, white.

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If England were like a langar hall thered be no riots

Guest blogged byEren Londonwala

Each day I walk down Ferry Lanein Tottenham to my workplace. On Friday 5 August a police cordon blocked my usual route. I learned later that police had shot dead 29 year-old alleged gang-member Mark Duggan the night before. The precise facts remain unclear but early reports suggesting an exchange of fire between police and the dead man have been undermined Duggans gun wasnt discharged. This was a tragedy I thought and perhaps another instance of excessive force by police in a poor London borough with a large black population. Few anticipated what was to come.

On the next day members of Duggans family who by then had still not been contacted by police and other locals went to Tottenham Police Station for answers and to stage a peaceful vigil. Senior police ignored the group and around this time a young female, remonstrating, was apparently set upon by police with their batons. Unlike a previous contributor to this blog, who described this incident as relatively minor, given the understandably heightened passions live then in Tottenham, I feel the police action was heavy-handed and incendiary. I invite readers to view the evidence and make up their own minds. It was after these events that Tottenham, and in subsequent days other areas in London and England, erupted into the worst civil unrest for a generation.

Then, the causes were unmistakeable racist policing of ethnic minority communities and social deprivation. So, like some others, I viewed the outbreak of recent violence as a reaction to the continuation of unresolved problems, sparked by the suspicious killing of Duggan an understandable, and even legitimate, rebellion in other words. The fact that police cars were among the first targets of the Molotov bombs seemed to confirm this. Yet, as the days unfolded, and disorder spread throughout the capital and country, a distinction between the two eras became apparent: 2011 was marked, to a far greater degree than 1981, by opportunist looting which came to devastate as many small independent businesses as insured corporate chains and, amid the chaos, most tragically, led to further loss of life with Duggans death being all but forgotten.

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Trying to Create a New Path Between Chitta-Neela

I have shared my views on Manpreet Badal and the PPP in the past. I still stand by my analysis, but as the election draws nearer, the youth of Punjab are making their voices heard.

Recently Manpreet Badal has been visiting the US this month and gaining more and more popularity among the non-voting NRPs (Non-Resident Punjabis), but if this show of support can be capitalized in Punjab is yet to be seen. His campaign has had a few major hiccups recently, with supporters suchas Rajya Sabha member, Varinder Singh Bajwa, being re-wooed by Punjab’s greatest snake-oil seller, Parkash Badal. This loss comes soon after Manpreet had lost the support of his former “right-hand man”, Charanjeet Brar. It has been a long few weeks.

Still amongst a large number of Punjabi youth, they are still showing their support and hope, through creating videos on youtube to help galvanize the youth.

Here is one such example, a parody of rapper Wiz Khalif’a’s celebration of his native Pittsburgh – Black and Yellow. Here the artists – Sugar Cane Records and Jogi – ask who to vote for – Chitta (the color associated with the Congress Party) or Neela (the color associated with the Akali Dal). Both are thieves, the difference only the color.

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The Three Deadliest Words

The issue of sex-selective abortion is not new here in The Langar Hall. A number of our bloggers have commented on this complex issue in the past; and even early community initiatives have been supported as well.

Recently I saw the official trailer of a documentary – It’s A Girl – that promises to look at the issue in China and India.

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls(1) are missing in the world today because of this so-called gendercide.

Shot on location in India and China, Its a Girl! explores the issue. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

Currently in post-production, Its a Girl! is scheduled for an early 2012 release.

I invite our readers to take a look at the trailer and share their comments, as will I.

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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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Remembering Hari Singh Everest

everest.jpgGuestblogged by Mewa Singh.

A young and vibrant community in the diaspora, it is incumbent upon us to remember our trailblazers. Hari Singh Everest was one such person. I remember reading his name during my undergraduate days. Stumbling across the ‘Sikh Review’, when I should have been completing other studies, it was the first time I had read a literate Sikh journal in English. Skimming the names of editors and contributors on the back, I noticed one from my very own California – Yuba City to be exact. Hari Singh Everest. I didn’t know him, but the unusual last name stuck in my head.

It would be years later when I finally met him. Some years ago the Jakara Movement decided to sponsor the efforts of all the collegitate Californian Sikh Students Associations (SSAs) in building a unity float. Since then, the float at the Yuba City Nagar Kirtan has become an annual affair.. The Everest Family graciously opened their home and it was on one such opportunity that I got to sit down with Hari Singh and speak to him. I mentioned that I had read his name on that Sikh Review issue years ago and he smiled. He talked about his experiences in the Sikh community and as being a sort of ambassador during those early years. It is a conversation I cherish.

His life in the United States stretches back to the 1950s (before the ‘Great Society’ immigration policy of LBJ) and his life in Yuba City goes back to 1961.

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