North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA)

nasmda.gifGuestblogged by Mewa Singh

This past weekend the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) held their 17th annual conference in San Diego, CA. The organizations website provides a brief description:

Started in the summer of 1992 at Poncos, Pennsylvania, NASMDA has grown to an organization of over 1000 Sikh medical and dental professionals spread across North America. NASMDA strives to provide a platform for Sikh medical and dental professionals to network and interact with each other while promoting the ideals and the mission of Guru Nanak. The members of NASMDA have been actively involved with helping out and supporting various Sikh organizations, young medical students and physicians.[link]

NASMDAprovides a platform for Sikhs of various ages to engage in medical exchanges as well as be briefed by various organizations that presented. In all transparency, I made one such presentation, along with other organizations, including Sikh Coalition and more.

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High Unemployment Among Youth Of Color

The bad economy has worried many of us. From losses on investments to lack of jobs, many of us worry about when the economy will turn around. Interestingly, the group most effected by high unemployment is youth. Last week, the Labor Department reported that youth unemployment stands at 18.2%, nearly twice the national average of 9.8%. The percentage of young people without a job is a staggering 53.4 percent, the highest figure since World War II. Those in the age group of 16-24 are most often the demographic who are hired for entry-level positions and groomed to take over high-level positions in the future.

Moreover, youth of color are disportionately effected by high unemployment. Nearly 40% of black youth (ages 16-19) and 30% of Latino youth (16-19) are unemployed versus only 23% of white youth. As youth of color get older, the gap widens-27.1% of black youth between the ages of 20-24 are unemployed versus 13.1% of white youth in the same age rage. This high unemployment rate for young people is startling because without more job opportunities, young people suffer not only in the short-term, but long-term. Their ability to attend college, afford healthcare, purchase homes, and save for retirement leads to long-term problems.

Rinku Sen and Billy Parish suggest in their joint article, that youth of color are the demographic who can most benefit from the new green jobs proposed by the Obama administration. These new jobs are proposed as a solution to both unemployment and saving our environment.

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Sanghera is the Pride of Britain

sanghera.jpgAlthough I can think of one commenter that may be angered, but Jasvinder Sanghera has just honored with the “Pride of Britain” award for her pioneering work.

44-year-old Sanghera was instrumental in forcing the British government to take effective steps against forced marriages. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office now has a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) which receives about 5,000 calls a year from victims. About 65 per cent of the cases the Unit deals with are Pakistani Muslims, 30 per cent are minors and 15 per cent are boys or men. Every year, the Unit helps bring back to Britain about 400 people trapped in forced marriages overseas.[link]

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One Panth

Tragedies have a way of uniting people. As did 1984 for Sikhs. In the 25 years since, divisions have again formed in the panth. But a great new initiative in Toronto is asking people to put aside the differences that keep us apart and unite in remembering 1984. [Hat tip: Mapleleaf Sikh]

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Sikhs in the Spotlight

This past week I came across two videos that are just… cool. The videos are not necessarily Sikhi-related but they show everyday Sikhs in their element. This first video was taken at a U2 concert where a lucky fan [Amp Bains] was invited onstage to sing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Bono. So lucky.

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In this second video Shakira performs her new song Gypsy. One of her musicians in this video is Shamsher Singh, a Sikh from Florida (hat tip: Sikh Swim). The video can be viewed here.


Promoting Multilingualism in the Punjabi Community

A few weeks ago I attended the Sikh Education Conference hosted by theSikh Research Institute that brought together educators from across North America. One of the presentations focused on the importance of language education. The presenter made it quite clear teaching young children multiple languages does not confuse them or hinder their development. In fact, research has shown that bilingualism and multilingualism is advantageous in several aspects. Exposure to two or more languages increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of the mind in young children.

According to neurobiologists, the human brain is hardwired to learn languages as an infant and toddler. Any language learned during this period is stored, literally, in a different part of the brain than language acquired later in life, and in the right environment young children can learn up to four languages without significant slowdown. [link]

It seems, however, than in immigrant communities there is often hesitation around raising children in multilingual homes. The fear is that children will not learn English fast enough which will pose an obstacle to their assimilation into American society. It happens in our own community young Punjabi children not being able to communicate with their older Punjabi grandparents. There is a language gap and if we consider the importance of oral tradition in our history you can just imagine how much information is not being communicated and in fact being lost between generations.

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And Still We Will Fight

Despite tanks rolling into the Gurus Court (Darbar Sahib)
When a Singhs head, becomes hunted as a sport (Delhi 1984)
Despite Kaljug sitting on his throne supreme
When the world trembles from tyrannys regime
And Still We Will Fight

Although hardly a newsflash, last week a Delhi Court acquitted three murderers. Although low-level players in the Government-sponsored pogroms in Delhi and throughout India in November 1984, their acquittal further illustrates that it is Kaljug that reigns supreme in India.

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Every Time We’ve Had Our Babies, People Have Almost… Commiserated
Star reporter Raveena Aulakh, posing as an expectant mother, is handed bags of pills in an industrial area in Mississauga by Kanwar Bains, news editor of a Punjabi-language newspaper.

Toronto Star reporter Raveena Aulakh, posing as an expectant mother, is handed bags of pills in an industrial area in Mississauga by Kanwar Bains, news editor of a Punjabi-language newspaper.

Just in case the rest of the world didn’t know what a sorry state Punjab was in with respect to its gender imbalance, there has been two headline reports from Canada’s biggest newspapers in recent weeks. The first deals with the problem in India and the second talks about how the problem has been exported to Canada.

The first from the Globe and Mail entitled “Land of the Rising Son”, examines how India has responded to the decline of female births. There’s two sad learnings from the article. One is that Punjab is still in the worst position with respect to male-female gender ration and the second is that an individual’s level education has does little to reverse generations of discrimination.

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Missing Punjabi Sikh Girl In Reno, Nevada

All help is needed to locate Karamjit Kaur,16, a Punjabi Sikh teenage girl from Reno, Nevada who went missing on Wednesday evening while rbilde.jpgiding her bike. She had arrived from India eight-months ago and recently started learning how to ride her bike. On a hot Wednesday evening around 6:30pm Karamjit went outside in her black top and blue cotton pajamas to ride her bike and never came back home. The Reno police suspect foul play. Karamjit’s bike was found a quarter of mile away from her house by a skateboarding park.

Karamjit is approximately 57 tall, 140 pounds, with long black hair and brown eyes. She has a scar on her forehead, and her left canine tooth is longer. She was last seen wearing a black v-neck short-sleeve t-shirt, bright blue cotton pajama bottoms and black flip-flops. Her family is devastated and praying that she returns home soon.

The Reno Police Department is asking for the publics assistance in locating her. Anyone with information relating to this incident should contact the Reno Police Department at 775-334-2115, Secret Witness at 775-322-4900, or www.secretwitness.com. All calls to Secret Witness remain anonymous, and Secret Witness pays rewards for information on all crimes.


UPDATE: British Sikh Police Officer Humiliated For Practicing Sikhi

Gurmeal Singh, the British Sikh police officer who was humiliated for practicing Sikhi, will be compensated for indirect harassment and humiliation. Judge Murray Creevy ruled that the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) violagurmeal_singh_2_1482866c.jpgted his dignity.

The BBC reports that the Assistant Chief Officer at GMP, Julia Rogers felt that they had always acted in the best interest of Singh. However, GMP accepts the ruling and has already updated their policies.

After a heated conversation with his Sergeant about his inability to remove his turban while on the job, Singh feared that he would be made to look like a comic character on television by wearing a modified turban.

Ultimately the ruling according to Singhs lawyer:

leaves him in difficulty in relation to his future career but will hopefully open the eyes of Greater Manchester Police. He joined the police because of his values as a Sikh. What is important now is what Greater Manchester Police will do to help him come back.


Just one of those days

Sometimes you don’t have much to post.

I received a link from a friend about the new Yahoo “Anthem” Ad and apparently it is about “you” and I guess at about 10 seconds you get a brief glimpse of “us” (men and women). Well enjoy your Thursday.

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Getting back to Sikhi’s treehugging roots

Nihang_Troop_on_Horseback_By_Canal.jpgEnvironmental issues have taken a backseat for way too long. Even under this administration – which promised to create jobs through new and clean energy initiatives, and rejoin the international community to reduce worldwide carbon emissions – environmental issues have taken a backseat to health care overhaul and reviving our frail economy.

Crisis

We should be especially concerned because the consequences of misusing resources are all too clear in the near-crisis state that Punjab’s ecology is currently in. Those who still have relatives in Punjab know that this past summer, electricity outages were a daily occurrence and lasted 8 hours at a time – the worst in many years. These shortages in electricity occur because the government subsidizes electricity for farmers so that it’s free or nearly so and they can pump water for irrigation to their heart’s content. However, this leads to electricity shortages, overuse of waterpumps, and water wastage. [Forbes-India]

An article in Forbes-India asked yesterday, Is India running out of water? For Punjab, the answer is yes.

And Punjab, as the breadbasket of the most populous nation in the world, may be an indicator of other similarly situated agricultural communities.

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(Dis)honor Killings in Punjab

_46454772_family226.jpgOne of our goals on The Langar Hall is to raise awareness about issues affecting our community around the globe. Whether or not we identify or relate to these specific issues may not be as important as much as the acknowledgement that these issues do occur and that individuals and families and even children are affected. We hope that by raising awareness we can begin, as a community, to stand up against injustice in all its forms.

A recent article from the BBC reports that, according tocampaignersin Punjab, British Asians are hiring contract killers to carry out up to 100 murders in India each year. One of the most well known cases is that of Surjit Athwal, a British Sikh woman whodisappearedin Punjab in 1998. Eventually it was revealed that she had been murdered in a so-called honor killing after her in-laws discovered that she planned to divorce her husband. They had hired criminals in India to kill her. She was strangled and her body dumped in a river. Her brother, Jagdeesh Singh, now campaigns for other victims’ families.

“I think Surjit’s case exposed for the first time in this country overseas outsourced killings. How the Punjabi community, settled in Britain, send their females back to the land of origin, in the full knowledge that they can have them murdered easily, swiftly and efficiently.” [link]

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Sikh Film Haters – and the trashy newspapers that love them

On many occasions, I have noted my dismay at the joke of journalism that calls itself the Times of India. They never cease to provide stupid nonsensical and ill-researched articles. Here is one more example.

It appears that the writer ‘Divya A’ has recently been making his/her rounds at various Sikh film screenings and festivals. Instead of lauding a young community on its tenacity to promote arts and encourage creativity in the community, the author can only wonder:

But how healthy is it for a community to focus on a painful past and present itself to the world as a suffering and wronged people?[link]

Who is the author to decide what is right or wrong for the community?

The author continues to push a nonsensical Khalistani conspiracy theory as the raison detre behind the shift to visual arts. Instead of looking at the broader context of the proliferation of youtube with film and television being the visual media of the masses, the author believes there is something far more sinister.

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Abercrombie & Fitch: Is The Religious Practice Sexy Enough to Protect?

So Abercrombie & Fitch is at it again or I should say has been at it for a abercrombie_hijab_0921.jpgwhile-practicing bias against those who dont look the part of mainstream White American society. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a college age Muslim girl who wears a hijab is filing suit against the retail store for not hiring her because she would violate the Look Policy.

What is Abercrombie & Fitchs Look Policy? The policy jargon aside, the bottom-line for this retail store is that hijabs arent sexy because mainstream White America doesnt view them that way and only sex sells.

Now of course Abercrombie & Fitch will not outright say that; though I am sure they will fight to preserve this status quo through legal, objective and logical means. It also seems like the very legal right that is supposed to protect religious freedom will be used to defend Abercrombies stance. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination. The 197 amendment to Title VII defines religion to,

include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employees or perspective employees religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employers business.

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Where is Ramadan in Sikhi?

Blogged by: Amritpan

hands.jpgThe presence of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and its message of universal fraternity of the human race and ultimate destination of oneness with the Supreme Being imparts an unparalleled serenity and contentment on its disciple. When I listen to the chants of Om-mantar in a Mandir, hear Hamza Yusuf deliver the Friday Kutbah in a nearby Masjid, witness a Jewish Hallel or meditating Buddhist in a park I see each as another form of reverence to the Almighty, but every single of theses experiences leave me searching for more

A few days ago I was invited by a Muslim friend to join her community in a fundraising Fast-A-Thon for Ramadan (participants fast for a day and a local business donates a certain amount of money per fast-er to a charity or Masjid). I acquiesced and signed up, happy to help with their efforts for daan, or as they call it, zakat.

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Breaking the Silence around Punjabi-Sikh Women

Coblogged by Reema and Sundari

There is a deafening silence that surrounds Punjabi-Sikh women. Too often, when discussing challenges that some women may be facing, the conversation is shut down and de-legitimized by one or two angry voices. Interwoven into this is the unrelenting identity debate of labeling actions “Punjabi” versus “Sikh” which often distracts us from the true issue at hand.

focusgroup.jpgFor example, recent posts about issues affecting women turned out to be way more controversial to a few commentors than anything in the original post merited. A post on forced marriages drew virulent ire from a few readers for discussing forced marriages under a title that included the word “Sikh.” A post on a change in asylum law which also included “Sikh” in the title drew the same virulent response. Earlier in the year, a post named “The Rise and Fall of Sikh Girls,” was accused of creating unnecessary attention with it’s title.

This reaction is reminiscent of the treatment that was meted to Harshinder Kaur by an Indian government official when she attempted to talk about female feticide in Geneva.

She said in her talk at Geneva she had pointed that it was very essential to educate the women and girls of Punjab to make them aware of their rights and to alleviate their sufferings. For this, UN must give aid to needy girls in their education directly as it should reach at grass level where the aid is not reaching. She said he is giving monetary help to 300 needy girls for their education through her own trust. This issue was disliked by a participant P. Srivastava and she [sic] threatened her after she finished her talk and came out of hall and advised her not to visit UN ever again if she has to utter any [words against the] government. She clarified repeatedly that said [sic] she has not uttered anything about government but was worried only about education of poor girls of Punjab. [PunjabNewsline ]

Besides the insult felt by readers at the idea of Sikhs not living as Sikhs should and the fear that a negative image of Sikhs was being portrayed, there is another stream of thought shutting down these conversations that I think needs to be addressed.

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Kisaan: A Film About Farmer Suicides?

pun3.jpgWhile I do value the role films play in telling stories, I wonder if at times it can do more harm than good. I recently heard about a new bollywood movie called Kisaan and had the opportunity to watch it last night. I had been told the movie was about farmer suicides in punjab and while i was aware it was a bollywood production, I definitely made time to watch it as it is such an important issue.

The movie touched upon issues such as the roleilliteracyand dowry play in the lives of farmers – the reality of poverty overpowered by the hope of prosperity. These are important issues and should be discussed. Films are an important tool to utilize in order to raise awareness about such issues.

Suffice it to say, Kisaan is a bollywood production and is distracted by it’scommitmentto bollywood requirements. I can’t say i wasn’tdisappointed- this is such an important issue which needs to be explored. While i commend the director forattemptingto raise the issue, i do question if this genre of film was the best vehicle for it. The issue was so entangled in the film, mixed in with songs and awkward jokes, that i can’t imagine how serious the issue will be taken.

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~Happy International Day of Peace~

Today is a global cease-fire day. Since 2001, every September 21st is declared an International Day of Peace- a day of peace_one_day.jpgcease-fire and non-violence by the UN. The unanimous declaration from the UN General Assembly was brought about by the non-profit organization, Peace One Day.

What is the point of a day of peace, and can it even be realized? The video at the end of the post responds to these questions. Plus, if Valentine’s Day can be the monstrosity it’s become, then surely a day of peace is less trivial.

… to have a UN resolution calling for a day of non-violence and to have an actual day where no violence occurs are two radically different things. And when the initial celebrations of Peace Day came and went without any cease-fires or other official humanitarian action, Jeremy’s [founder of Peace One Day] elation began to wane and he grew concerned that the UN resolution might prove itself a Pyrrhic victory. “I could hear the cynics getting louder,” said Jeremy. “Peace Day will never work,’ they said. Nobody will ever stop fighting.’” [POD]

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On Losing a Historic Sikh Space

artificial_grass_putting_green_landing.jpgWhen hallowed grounds make way for fairway greens, you have a lens into contemporary elite culture in Punjab. Tales of the loss of our historical materials and architecture form a common topic here in The Langar Hall as throughout conversations of Sikhdom. Destruction of historic Gurdwaras for the vanilla blandness of marble monstrosities is well known.

Although I am hardly a fan of the Times of India, a recent article did get me to think.

The article describes a hallowed space that will soon become a golfing green. The history of that space is as follows:

Barely 20 km away from Chandigarh, off Kharar-Landran road, lies Chhappar-Chiri village once known for its plentiful ponds and mangroves on the banks of Patiala Ki Rao where in 1710, the brave Banda Singh, anointed general of the Khalsa army by Guru Gobind Singh and sent to stop the tyranny of Mughals, defeated the army of Wazir Khan, the subedar of Sirhind who had ordered the killing of Sahibzada Zoravar Singh and Fateh Singh by bricking them alive. Khan was put to death and his body dragged to Sirhind, about 25 km from the village, before the Khalsa army proceeded to decimate the town.[link]

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