Where Do We Go From Here? A Sikh Response to the Oak Creek Gurduara Massacre

Guest blogged by Santbir Singh

candle.jpgWe are not strangers to random acts of violence and discrimination. Although mass shootings have become far too common in America in recent years, rarely have these horrific crimes been targeted at one community. Today, that changed. Our beautiful gifts, our kesh and dastars, have become easy targets for the ignorant and angry. Since 9/11 that discrimination has only increased. However, with the exception of the senseless killing of Balbir Singh Sodhi, these attacks have never been so deadly. Now Sikh Americans are left confused and uncertain of how to respond.

Our first priority must be the survivors and their friends and family. We are a generous community that is admirable in our response to tragedies. Seva is really nothing more than an act of love, a demonstration of recognizing the spark of the divine in others. Just as Guru Nanak sought to serve those in need wherever he traveled, we must reach out to our sisters and brothers in Oak Creek and demonstrate our support for them in every way conceivable. Whether this means monetary assistance, providing people on the ground, or offering support and understanding for the psychological trauma the Sangat of Oak Creek have suffered, a tragedy such as this provides us a unique opportunity to demonstrate our strength as a community.

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Sikh Shooting in Wisconsin | Information and Resources

ap_sihk_temple_shooting_wisconsin_reax_080512_20120805183641_640_480.jpegOver the past 12 hours#templeshootinghas been covering thetwittersphere. It is a reference to the tragedy that occurred early this morning in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a gunman entered a Gurdwara during Sunday divan and killed six sangat members, wounding many more. Sikhs around the country reacted almost immediately to this event – posting updates on Facebook and Twitter, speaking to news outlets, filling in gaps of misinfomation, supporting Sikh organizations who have been working diligently with local officials and government agencies and community members who started up a fund for the families of the victims. While this has been an incredibly traumatic experience for the Sikh American community, we are inspired by the actions of the police officer who came to the aid of the sangat members – potentially preventing a larger massacre. We are comforted by the support of our friends and colleagues who have reached out to the Sikh community offering their solidarity.

Here we have started a running list of articles, resources and community gatherings. We hope this will be a way for you to learn about the events and about ways for you to stay engaged.

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Sikhs in the City

Sikh comedians like Jus Reign have been gaining popularity through YouTube and social media sites for the last several years. I love being at gatherings of extended family when my little cousins show me the latest viral video, which often is hilarious. Even when it’s not, I find myself wondering what it would have been like to grow up as a Sikh in the diaspora in times like these. While we are still by and large not represented at all in the mainstream media, young Sikhs now create our own media, and many do so with much success. Sometimes the videos are brilliant, and perhaps sometimes they get hits simply because Sikhs in the diaspora, especially young Sikhs, are thirsty for the latest quirky, bizarre, or silly video put out by other Sikhs.

To end this hot and humid summer week in NYC, I thought I’d share this video that has been circulating lately, a trailer for what appears to be a series called “Sikhs in the City,” brought to us by Laughistan. There are some familiar faces in there including Sikh Coalition co-founder Amardeep Singh. I’m eager to see what their series will bring us in the future. Enjoy!

Tom Mulcair Responds: Tells India he wont be bullied and stands firm on 1984 Statement

Guest blogged by ResistSingh

amneet_620x270.pngEvery June and November, Sikhs in Canada (and globally) are curious to see what Canadian politicians will say about the tragedies of 1984.

Will they align themselves with the community and provide support and solidarity with the Sikhs as they come together to remember both the invasion and massacre of innocents inside the Darbar Sahib complex during the hot month of June; and then the senseless targeting, butchering, killing and raping of Sikhs during the November Sikh Genocide?

Although the answer is a no brainer to human rights activists, like many social justice issues they seem to be tough political decisions that attract countless discussions and debates amongst politicians and political parties about vote banks, international cooperation, trade relations, development, foreign policy and much more. That is why we have seen sporadic statements from the Liberals and Conservatives for November, rarely if ever for June and a lack of consistency.

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Indias Foreign Interference: Telling Lies, Spreading Hate

Guest blogged by ResistSingh


As the month of June has passed, Canadian Sikhs, along with human rights activists and their allies, are recovering from yet another campaign of misinformation by the Indian High Commission and a recent wave of visceral and unfounded attacks.

Twenty-eight years after the Indian Army Invasion of the Darbar Sahib Complex during Massacre Bluestar, the Government of India has continued its assault by attempting to deny Canadian citizens an opportunity to engage in the healing and reconciliation process as they deal with the wounds inflicted upon them during the invasion.

With the recent attempts by the Government of India to undermine unity and reconciliation in the Diaspora amongst all South Asians in Canada, it has given rise to some serious questions one must consider: how and why is India interfering in the lives of Canadian citizens and their democracy?; is there any substance to the claims they are making?

While conducting an analysis of Indias response to the Leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcairs statement of solidarity with the Sikh community, a basic review of the Indian High Commissions claims has shown many nuances and problematic statements have been made, lacking independent validation. Additionally, beyond the factually incorrect statements that have been identified, the language of the Indian High Commissioner has unfortunately been mirrored by members of Canadas unelected, patronage-appointed Senate.

Of particular concern, a published article by Conservative Senator Asha Seth titled Building walls, spreading hate contains many sentences that resemble those in a letter written by the Indian High Commissioner, along with claims that are simply, factually incorrect.

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Sikh Book Club – Uncle Swami – Part 1


Co-blogged by Jodha and Mewa.

See introduction here.

In order to give some format to this, Ill attempt to summarize major points of each chapter and then conclude the post with a bit of my own thoughts, analysis, questions, and/or comments. Looking forward to your comments and thoughts! Well see how it goes for this first time and can revisit the format, if need be.

Chapter 1 – Letter to Uncle Swami

Professor Vijay Prasad opens his Uncle Swami with a provoking letter to the Uncle. Uncle Swami may be the same as Uncle Sam or there may be some differences too. Prasad takes stock of the past 10 years since the planes crashed into your buildings.

Written in an anti-imperialist vein, he writes planes crash; people are smashed. The effects of that fateful September day were not limited to New York or Washington, to those nearly 3,000 people that died, or even their families. No, Prasad writes your feet stomped on your own ground, crushing Balbir Singh Sodhi and Gurcharanjeet Singh Anand, Imran Tahir and Ahmed Abualeinen. Nor were these feet only stomping on your own ground they stomped far-off Kabul and Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Herat, later Baghdad and Basra.”

But that obedient servant knows that Uncle Swami isnt just stomping feet and whipping tails, he acknowledges You have been good to me. You have been good to many of us. Still he suffers I have heartburn, Uncle. I will take to drink. I will take to drugs. I will take to watching TV, eating fast food, going into debt.

Contradictions and all this is Uncle Swami.

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Akal Takht, Caste Gurdwaras, and Pledging Begampura

My last post on the issue of Building Begampura: Confronting Caste raised much concerns and a host of opinions. I am personally committed to raise the voice against apartheid, discrimination, and humiliation that continues to occur in our community due to caste.

Since my last post, jathedar Gurbachan Singh and others have spoken out against the issue of caste-based Gurdwaras. While naming of the Gurdwaras is problematic and may be an important move, much more important is to criticize and shake-up the casteism that led many of these “historically-discriminated” groups to move in this direction after facing abuse at the hands of the “privileged” groups. To deny the context and believe that the root is merely ‘naming’ is on one level merely ‘lip-service’ and on other hand is to take a position against the already-victimized groups. It is not ‘naming’ that is the problem – it’s the casteism, stupid.

Again, while the voice of jathedar Gurbachan Singh and others may be notable, as we have seen with hukamnamas against sex-selective abortion, in and of themselves they will not stop the deeper issues. What is needed are social movements by civic groups. One such initiative is the Pledge Begampura initiative by the Jakara Movement. Read the shabad; learn about the issue; and take the pledge!

Also critical is the growing discussion around the subject in Punjab. Day and Night Television had a recent forum on the subject of caste-based Gurdwaras (pagh salute Pukhraj Singh!). Denial of casteism is not the solution. As the recent issue of the inhumane abuses and attempt to create wage slaves by the landlords of village Mahan Singh Wala, the issue of caste is pertinent and tears at the social fabric of Punjab. Change will come; I hope Sikhs reading this will embrace that change and challenge the inhumanity of casteism.

Aamir Khan’s social sensation “Satyamev Jayate” has highlighted the issue of casteism on a national level. See the episode here.

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Below the fold, I have linked a few more recent media discussions on the topic.

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Decision-Making Amongst Sikhs

SarbatKhalsa.jpegGuestblogged by Harinder Singh

Harinder Singh is a co-founder of the Sikh Research Institute and the Panjab Digital Library. He is interested in anything Sikhi, esp. institutional development towards community building. His Twitter handle is @1Force.

I heard as recently as last Sunday at a Baltimore gurduara, that Sikhs dont know how to make their own decisions. True, and false.

For more than a century (1699-1805), Sikhs made tough, controversial, politically incorrect, yet reached consensus-driven, time-sensitive, and decisive conclusions via the institutions of the Sarbat Khalsa and the Gurmata. And this was accomplished during a century that saw half of Sikh population killed in a single genocidal campaign.

It has taken more than 200 years to dismantle these systems of consensus building; it will take a concerted effort for at least 20 years to revive it. This process will require complete openness and inclusivity. It is a risk worth taking and a solemn opportunity to grasp what others deemed worth dying for!

Sikhs worldwide responded to the recent Rajoana phenomenon with stunning solidarity. Governments, politicians, and spiritualists werent sure what was going on. Musicians used the opportunity to wash-off their sins of sycophancy from the last Panjab election promos. People-at-large were excited, but they were not prepared. I felt personally that I failed to convince myself of what matters most, and I failed to convince the activists (both the Tweeting and sloganeering kinds) to do something meaningful in any concerted way. I concluded that we self-deluded panthak folks failed everyday-Sikhs at this historical moment with an engagement policy. There was no mechanism to decide what the Panth must do at the crucial tipping point of actionable potential.

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Turbans on the Runway: What does it mean for Sikhs?

By now, you have surely been inundated with Facebook posts and discussions expressing excitement, amazement, or maybe skepticism about French designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s recent showcase of (non-Sikh) models wearing colorful “Sikh-style” turbans.

Gaultier has a thing for India, it seems. According to a recent news article, “The designer is known to visit the country quite often and owns a vast library of intensely coloured textile swatches here since his first visit to Kolkata in West Bengal and Puri in Orissa, in the 1970s.” In a recent interview, Gaultier said, “In every collection I have done, there is always an Indian inspiration.”

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the buzz about the turbaned models in Sikh circles and have been trying to figure out exactly how I feel about it and if I have anything useful to contribute to the conversation. I can’t promise this will be useful, but here are some thoughts and questions that have been swirling around in my head lately.

First, there is obviously a lot of excitement about this in the Sikh community. And perhaps with good reason. So rarely are we Sikhs represented positively (if at all) in popular culture in the United States (or in India) that even non-Sikh models wearing paghs on the runway seems like a milestone. So often are our turbans the target of discrimination, profiling, and violence that seeing turbans portrayed as aesthetic objects of high fashion feels like redemption.

We Sikh men are not used to being seen as attractive or desirable through the lens of mass media. In Bollywood we are buffoons, in Hollywood we are nonexistent, save the English Patient and the occasional shoutout Waris Ahluwalia gets in the press. So yes, there is something amazing about seeing these models rocking turbans like they are the hottest accessories imaginable, when we, for so long, have received little to no positive reinforcement from the mainstream.

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Sikh Book Club Announcement – Uncle Swami

uncleswami.jpgIt has been nearly four years since we last attempted this. Back then, we attempted TLH’s very first book club, by examining Gurharpal Singh’s and Darshan Singh Tatla’s Sikhs in Britain: The Making of a Community. This round we are suggesting Vijay Prasad’s Uncle Swami.

Although the book is aimed at issues centered around South Asian American experiences, it may be useful and enlightening to see how well they fit, shape, and interest Sikh-American experiences.

The Book:

From the jacket:

Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center, misdirected assaults on Sikhs and other South Asians flared in communities across the nation, serving as harbingers of a more suspicious, less discerning, and increasingly fearful worldview that would drastically change ideas of belonging and acceptance in America.

Weaving together distinct strands of recent South Asian immigration to the United States, Uncle Swami creates a richly textured discussion of a diverse and dynamic people whose identities are all too often lumped together, glossed over, or simply misunderstood. Continuing the conversation sparked by his celebrated work The Karma of Brown Folk, Prashad confronts the experience of migration across an expanse of generations and class divisions, from the birth of political activism among second-generation immigrants and the meteoric rise of South Asian American politicians in Republican circles to migrant workers, who are at the mercy of the vicissitudes of the American free market.

A powerful new indictment of cultural and racial politics in America at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Uncle Swami restores a diasporic community to its full-fledged complexity, beyond both model minorities and the specters of terrorism.

The Author:

For those interested in issues related to South Asian Americans, Professor Vijay Prasad needs little introduction. The author of The Karma of Brown Folkshas been one of the foremost thinkers and scholars on the subject of identity politics and identity formation of South Asians in the Unitd States.

There has been plenty of criticism of his politics, book, and writings. All of these are pertinent and can allow for a more nuanced discussion. Still his voice is important and calls out for discussion.

The Format:

  • Part 1 (Monday, 7/16) – Chapter 1 (Letter to Uncle Swami) and Chapter 2 (The Day Our Probation Ended)
  • Part 2 (Monday, 7/23) – Chapter 3 (The India Lobby) and Chapter 4 (How Hindus Became Jews)
  • Part 3 (Monday, 7/30) – Chapter 5 (Compulsions of Ethnicity) and Chapter 6 (The Honeycomb Comes Apart)

What to do from here:

  • Order the book ASAP. Dont delay as we are going to begin in one week.
  • Invite others and help us spread the word!
  • If you are going to participate, leave a short introduction here in the comment section and let us know that you plan to take part.
  • Be ready in 1 week!

Dreadlocks, Turbans, and Rollercoaster Racism

Living in Brooklyn, New York City as a turban-wearing Sikh, I attract plenty of negative attention from random strangers as well as the cops, which I’ve written about at length. Fortunately, I also get some love and respect from time to time as I walk or ride my bike in my neighborhood in central Brooklyn — especially from Rastafarian men who don uncut dreadlocks, often wrapped up not so differently than the gol pagh I wear, albeit usually much taller.

I don’t mean to make broad generalizations about a whole community, but it is worth mentioning that nearly every time I cross paths with a man who appears to be Rastafarian, without fail I get a shout out. ”Respect, brother,” or “Blessings, brother,” usually accompanied by a hand or fist on his heart. Living in a neighborhood with a large Caribbean population, I encounter this regularly (and reciprocate), which is a breath of fresh air in my day-to-day life, which involves no shortage of street harassment, dirty looks, and sometimes worse. I’m grateful for this genuine, simple act of human connection and solidarity.

I’ve talked to friends about this phenomenon as well as my brother who has had similar interactions with Rastafarians in Atlanta, GA where he lives. The consensus is that the connection might stem from a recognition of a mutual prioritizing of our spirituality, and in particular, our shared spiritual connection to our hair. Indeed, Rastafarians believe in keeping hair in its natural state, and many wrap up and cover their dreadlocks. Without overstating any similarities between two very different spiritual traditions, our shared commitment to keeping our hair (not to mention a shared commitment in fighting for justice) is striking.

Our respective commitments to our hair have been similarly met with discrimination— discrimination that threatens our right to practice our religions or express our identities freely, based on racist notions of what a “professional” hairstyle is.

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Bhujangi Youth Academy 2012 – REGISTER NOW!

Bhujangi_Jakara___Tshirt.JPGLast year the Jakara Movement held the first ever Bhujangi Youth Academy camp, aimed at young at-risk Sikh males, ages 13-17. It was a HUGE success. You can see the previous description and reflections write-up from last year.

This year the camp is happening again.

WHEN: July 15-24, 2012
WHERE: Camp Sierra (central California)
HOW TO REGISTER: Visit www.bhujangi.org
WHO TO CALL: For more information, call 1-408-905-7454 (English and Punjabi)

There will be fun activities such as paintballing, horseback riding, and sports. There will also be classes to instill a sense of pride in our collective Sikh past, but also an opportunity for reflection, emotional growth, and anger management.

The Jakara Movement is willing to work with all families of any means. As the deadline is soon approaching, we need your help and encouragement. Recommend a family member or talk to a friend if they have a young son, nephew, cousin, or brother that may be able to benefit from such an experience.

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Gold Medalist – Man Kaur (95)

mannkaur_1.jpgOlympic season will soon be upon us. This year the Games will be held in London. Hopefully we’ll be able to feature biographies on a number of our Sikh athletes that will be competing.

While Fauja Singh has become a celebrity in our community, he is not alone.

Man Kaur, aged 95, of Chandigarh took up running under the encouragement of her son, 72-year-old Gurdev Singh. Last year in Sacramento she received two gold medals in the 90+ age group in the 100m and 200m events. While not a marathoner, it is still an amazing achievement by an amazing woman.

“My son introduced me to athletics. I was hesitant at first, when the idea of stepping into the competitive. arena was thrown at me. But now, running has become a part of my life,” said Mann Kaur, who donned the track pants for the first time in her life last month during the 32nd national masters meet. She won a gold in both the 100m and 200m races in the 90+ age category.

Some have even argued that track and field athletics is one of the purest forms of sport, because it tests speed, strength, power and endurance. What ‘s more, athletic competition is so obviously and easily quantifiable – after all, the tape measure and the photofinish camera don’t lie. However to run the 100M and 200M at the age of 95 requires more than merely great natural physical ability. Athletes at this age need a systematic and highly effective training programme carefully crafted to achieve physical ability to run a 200M race.

In a recent exchange with her grandson, he shared his inspiration for physical fitness coming from the example set by the Gurus. He sent the note:

Let us start living in Begumpura Sehar and enjoy Guru’s grace. This is meant to encourage youngsters.

Enjoy some more pictures and articles on Man Kaur below the fold.

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Sikhs challenging racial profiling

Photo courtesy of the Sikh Coalition

My Facebook news feed and email inbox have been buzzing with discussion and calls to action to challenge racial profiling and, in particular, the NYPD’s infamous “stop and frisk” policy. I was happy to receive multiple emails today on the issue from Sikh American civil rights organizations, namely SALDEF and the Sikh Coalition. I’ve previously written about my own experiences with racial/religious profiling in NYC and the importance for us Sikhs to make the connection between the profiling we face post-9/11 and the profiling young black and Latinos have been enduring for decades.

Encouraging the NY Sikh community to attend a massive silent march this Sunday (father’s day, not coincidentally), the Sikh Coalition’s email alert stated:

In the post 9/11 era, Sikhs know all too well the consequences of racial profiling. We have felt the violence of profiling at airports; it is humiliating. It is a violation of our civil rights and it severely undermines our liberty and our safety.

As Sikhs, we have an obligation to stand for the human rights of all people. It is important that we uphold this sacred commitment as African American and Latino communities endure the type of unfair scrutiny that leads to hate crimes, workplace discrimination, school bullying, and profiling.

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Sikhs in the White House

Co-blogged by Sundari and American Turban


Courtesy: The Sikh Coalition

Likely unbeknownst to many Sikhs, last Friday marked a historic moment for America’s Sikh community.

Around 7:30am on that day, about 50 people representing Sikh communities from across the country – California, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey – gathered at the East Wing for a special tour of the White House. These members of the community walked through the historic center of the country, seeing with their own eyes notable places such as the room in which President Thomas Jefferson first held cabinet meetings and the Blue Room which remains the reception room of the White House. Following the tour, community members joined White House administrators for the first-ever White House briefing on Sikh civil rights issues.

For those of us in the audience, it was a deeply moving moment – particularly when the briefing started out with Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal. Yes, a jakara in the White House!

There was something symbolic in that moment. Once, a long time ago, Sikhs would have made the jakara call while raising their flag at the Red Fort in Delhi, the symbolic capital of India, as Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was proclaimed Sultan-e-Quam (‘king of the nation’) – a gesture in which Sikhs laid claim to their sovereignty as a people in 19th century India. Now, under certainly different circumstances in a land separated by time and distance, Sikhs were making a similar call to claim to their legitimacy as Americans.

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Building Begampura: Confronting Caste

Caste is one of those dark secrets in our community. Some defend it as culture, others downplay its discriminatory effects, and some go even as far as to blame the victims of the violence itself.

Many have documented the ongoing apartheid that exists in our villages and in our minds.

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Some scholars have recently looked at the issue in light of the commitment to equality bequeathed by our Gurus, but the continued existence of discriminatory practices by many Sikhs. Professor Natasha Behl sheds some light on this topic in her dissertation, titled The Politics of Equality: Caste and Gender Paradoxes in the Sikh Community. She began her research asking the simple questions: How do ordinary Sikhs maintain a belief in equality while also participating in caste- and gender-based discrimination? How do Scheduled Caste Sikhs and Sikh women take political action in a community that engages in discrimination, yet denies its very existence?

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Guest blogged by@NSYF (National Sikh Youth Federation)

1984.jpgThe Sikh community in the UK is once again preparing to mark the anniversary of the June 1984 Indian army invasion of their holiest place of worship. Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple located in Amritsar, was invaded in an unprecedented Indian army action against the civilian population that resulted in massive casualties and wide spread human rights violations.

Every year for the past 27 years the UK Sikhs have been gathering in Hyde Park London for a protest march that ends with a rally in Trafalgar Square. This year is no exception with the rally taking place on the 10th of June. The rally makes vocal the Sikh demands for justice and has been seen as a show of solidarity and remembrance.

As times have changed and the Sikh diaspora have become more educated and media savvy, their methods of protest have also evolved. Young Sikhs have come together to found a charitable NGO and Think Tank called the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF). This organisation, whose motto is ‘To Educate, Inspire and Unite’ has become the platform for an innovative media campaign to highlight the events of June 1984. Utilising both social and physical media NSYF are attempting to create mass awareness. From the 1st to the 10th of June NSYF will be uploading one picture everyday at 0700 GMT via their twitter account @theNSYF centred around the hashtag #10DaysofTerror.

NSYF will be telling the story of June 1984 by recreating the major events of each day with a historic newsfeed, culminating in the release of a video to tie the campaign together.

NYC transit system’s “turban-branding” policy defeated

On the morning September 11, 2001, long time train operator Sat Hari Singh (aka Kevin Harrington) was driving the 4 train towards lower Manhattan when news of the attacks came in. He quickly directed the train in reverse, leading all his morning commuters to safety. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) later honored him as a hero of 9/11 for his efforts.

Soon thereafter, Singh and other Sikh transit workers as well as hijab-wearing Muslim transit workers were transferred to new jobs hidden from the public eye by the MTA, as long as they chose to wear their articles of faith, which apparently looked a little too “suspicious” in the aftermath of 9/11. After an uproar from the Sikh and Muslim communities as well as countless others concerned with civil rights and religious freedom, they were reinstated to their original jobs but with a caveat: their turbans and hijabs were to don the MTA logo.

“They called me a ‘hero of 9/11.’ I didn’t have a corporate logo on my turban on 9/11,” Sat Hari Singh said. “This policy made no sense. It was driven by fear.”

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On being a ‘mansome’ Sikh YouTube Preview Image

“But, when you have a beard, a mustache, it’s like a mask. You can’t see the person’s face. It’s hidden.”

As disagreeable as the words sounded, my friend’s tone was very gentle and civil. It was almost as if he was asking me the question: why bother?

I was a nine-year-old Sikh boy with a little mustache fuzz and a patka (a Sikh boy’s headcovering), speaking with the clean-shaven teenaged Hindu boy next door whom I befriended on this extended trip to India. I would often play games with his younger brother, but with this older brother, our interaction usually took the form of conversations about our different cultures and religions.

His point about hair left me somewhat at a loss. I remember his facial expression after he made his statement – curiously waiting for a response that I would not have.

Later that evening, I presented this argument to my father. “He said people can’t see our true faces because of the hair on our face.”

My father didn’t take a second to respond. “This is my face”, he said very matter-of-factly, “this is how a man’s face naturally looks.”

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Challenging Misinformation about Sikhi on BBC Radio

Guest blogged by Naujawani Sardar

bbcAsianNetwork.jpgSikhs in the UK celebrated a victory of sorts today with the news that the national broadcaster, the BBC, ‘regretted’ comments made by a presenter on their digital radio station, the BBC Asian Network. On 13 March, DJ Nihal Arthanayake had suggested on his daily call-in show that Sikhi was “made up from other religions i.e. Islam and Hinduism” [see related article]. When corrected by a listener who texted in to challenge the presenter’s comments, Nihal showed shocking arrogance in asserting that he himself was correct and replied that he knew “more about your religion than you do”. But today’s news is only a victory of sorts with Lord Inderjit Singh of the Network of Sikh Organisations describing it as “not a very good sorry” and in this writer’s humble opinion, a mere bone to keep us from tackling the real problem.

The daily call-in show on the BBC Asian Network has been steadily gaining in notoriety over the last 18 months fuelled largely by an increasing move towards discussions that court controversy. From 1pm-3pm, Monday to Friday, listeners tune in to hear the presenter, callers and occasionally guests debate a topical issue that is usually relating to a section of the South Asian community, followed by a sparse selection of music and further, more light-hearted discussion. Sometimes the initial debates have been incredibly engaging and informative, on other occasions they are needlessly provocative and disparaging.

In recent months, I have been called upon as a contributor to the show a handful of times, speaking live on air as a Sikh voice and I have publicly commended the production team of the show on two separate occasions for talking about challenging issues that are otherwise ignored by mainstream media. Following a discussion show about the recent Immortal Productions release ‘Jaago’ , a show to which I contributed by a pre-arranged telephone call, I took to Twitter to voice how fair I thought the production team had been in allowing Sikhs such as myself to make our voices heard about the rife corruption, inequality and poverty prevalent in the Indian State of Punjab over the last sixty years. Having been in Sikh political circles for over two decades now, I was unsurprised by the immediate level of hate I received from fellow Sikhs for being seen to ‘support’ Nihal and the BBC Asian Network on that occasion, but it did make me realise that Nihal in particular seemed to be drawing much of the ire. Whilst this is to some extent deserved, it would be foolish to reason that replacing the presenter might provide scope to change direction. But this is a difficult reality to impart upon a very unforgiving Sikh diaspora. I made the mistake of trying to explain to a young Sikh female on Facebook that a presenter of a call-in show usually acts in accordance with the briefing given to them by the production team, who in-turn are loosely guided by the direction given to them from the station controller or management, and that if she did have any complaints here they ought best be directed towards the BBC as well as the individual. She proceeded to reply that I must be a blind fan of Nihal’s and was planning on giving him a siropa. Oh the joys of ‘debating’ on social media(!)

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