Congressional Candidates Asked About Issues Affecting Sikh American Constituents

Co-blogged by Sundari and AmericanTurban

121013020732_Mcnerney_v_gill.jpegOf recent and recurring discussion onThe Langar HallandAmerican Turbanhas been the election race in California’s 9th Congressional District. For Sikh Americans, this district’s race is significant.Located in northern California, the 9th Congressional District contains America’s oldest and one of its largest Sikh American communities. The oldest Gurdwara in the United States (which only a couple of weeks agocelebrated its centennial anniversary) is located in this District in Stockton, California. America’s first Asian American and Sikh American member of Congress, Dalip Singh Saund, once resided in this area, and one of the candidates currently running is himself a Sikh American.Given the unique character of the District, we are interested to know the thoughts of the main candidates of the district on the issues affecting their current and potential Sikh American constituents, many of whom have been active in supporting each of the candidates. It is our plan to publish these answers by each candidate to learn more about their positions on issues affecting Sikh Americans.With election day in the US nearing, we have asked the main candidates — incumbent Representative Jerry McNerney and Republican challenger Ricky Gill — to offer their thoughts on Sikh American issues. We are aware that important concerns of the general public on issues like jobs, healthcare, or social issues are often already asked of the candidates, but that their positions on Sikh American issues are not asked of them. Accordingly, these questions reflect Sikh American concerns that do not get the same attention from mainstream media.

The questions that wehavesent to the campaigns of Jerry McNerney and Ricky Gill are below the fold, and on Tuesday, October 30, we will publish the responses from each campaign.

Questions for Rep. Jerry McNerney and Ricky Gill:

1. Sikh Americans report enduring profiling at airports around the United States by law enforcement.

a. Do you support the proposedfederal End Racial Profiling Act?
b. Do you support adding a prohibition on profiling on the basis of religion to theUnited States Justice Departments 2003 Guidance on Racial Profiling?

2. School bullying acutely affects Sikh American school children. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that up to 3/4s of Sikh school children experience bullying and harassment in schools.

a. Do you support the proposedfederal Safe Schools Improvement Act?

3. In the United States, Sikh Americans are officially barred from service in the US military unless they remove religiously-mandated turban and cut religiously-mandated hair. Over the past three years the United States Army made one-time, individual exemptions for three Sikh soldiers so that they could maintain their religious-mandated turbans and hair. Similarly, the Washington DC Police Department made a change in policy to allow any Sikh police officer to serve with his or her turban and uncut hair.

a. Do you support a change in United States military policy so that any Sikh would be able to serve without having to remove their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair?
b. Would you encourage law enforcement agencies in your Congressional district allowing
Sikhs to serve as police officers without removing their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair?

4. Hate crimes, exemplified by the recent massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a white supremacist entered a Sikh house of worship and murdered six Sikh worships, acutely affects the Sikh community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation however does not presently track hate crimes against Sikhs.

a. Do you believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation should track hate crime against Sikhs?
[co-posted on American Turban]

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27 Responses to “Congressional Candidates Asked About Issues Affecting Sikh American Constituents”

  1. Bostonvala says:

    Not withstanding the fact in your lead to the questions that the 9th Congressional District in CA is of unique importance to the Sikh American experience, all your questions to the reps are relevant to Sikhs across the entire US. Great work and hope for poignant responses. My ask is whether we have a system in place to spread this to other states and districts across the US and target both state reps as well as Senators? For me personally I am quite interested in what Scott Brown(R) and Elizabeth Warren (D) responses are to this. I am sure others in different parts of the country would love to get responses from their district's tough and close races.

    • Bostonvala says:

      BTW – slight clarification. Those that know me will know who I am going to vote for in the MA senate race. I just need a little ammo to help convince others. :-)

  2. Sher says:

    "…religiously-mandated turban and cut religiously-mandated hair"

    Sikhs are supposed to believe in Adi Granth, where does the Granth 'mandate' such rituals as wearing a turban and keeping the unshorn hair"?

    ???? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ?
    ???? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ?
    Kab?r par?? ik si?o k??e ?n ?ubi??? j??e.
    Kabeer, when you are in love with the One Lord, duality and alienation depart.

    ???? ????? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ????
    ???? ????? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ????
    B??vai l??be kes kar b??vai g?arar mud??e. ||25||
    You may have long hair, or you may shave your head bald. ||25||

    ???? ??? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?
    ???? ??? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?
    Kab?r jag k?jal k? ko??r? an?? pare ?is m?hi.
    Kabeer, the world is a room filled with black soot; the blind fall into its trap. " AG page 1365

    Encourage yourself and others to come out of the Kajal ki kothri and ask yourself are you not doing exactly what you accuse others of (i.e. Racial profiling – Ricky Gill is a "Sikh American" )?

    Would it mean no difference to you if Ricky Gill is an incompetent, dishonest nincompoop but contest (and get elected) on a 'Sikh agenda'? Why every time a candidate of Sikh background is fielded, you want him/her to exclusively espouse 'Sikh values' and bog him/her down with baggage borrowed from his/her Sikh background?

    As far as point around 'religious profiling is concerned, that is erroneous too. if Ricky Gill is still called a Sikh (with his 'shorn' hair), are such Sikhs profiled at the airports?

    Even though I am not competent to advise you on such matters but, if I am talking to receptive bloggers, get over your Tat Khalsa biases, obscurantism and sheer ignorance of your own scriptures/theology.

    • Sanehval says:

      Why do you spend so much of your time relentlessly trolling this blog? You're not convincing anyone to change their beliefs. In fact some of the things you are crying about in your comment are directly being addressed in the post, if you take a moment to see the secrets hidden in plain sight. I think you should just stop wasting your time. There are more productive ways to undermine the Sikhs than than commenting here.

      • Sher says:

        Sahnevalji, Why are you wasting YOUR time worrying about mine? This blog has administrators and if they think my posts are 'trolling' or something no other poster is allowed to do, they can simply ban me.

        You are getting personal here and hopefully Admin Singh would fire his 'stick to the topic on hand' warning to stop you from 'hijacking' the thread. I think you should stop worrying about my time and as far as your accusation of undermining the Sikhs is concerned, I do not find it worth wasting my time on :)

  3. harpreet says:

    Yes let Pundit Sher teach the Sikhs about their scriptures, without knowing that Sikhs do not get Rahit from the Guru Granth Sahib. Arya Samaj Zindabad!

    • Sher says:

      this foul-mouthed brat should know the origins of "their scriptures". They come from various poet bhagats and is not copyright of the SGPC certified Sikhs. As far as Rahit is concerned, there are various disparate, contradictory sources. as far as the current Rahit maryada is concerned, the SGPC brand Sikhs should thank the British who saved Khalsa PANTH from oblivion. Talwinder Parmar zindabad

      • harpreet says:

        nuance – of course 2 sides to a story, but you see one, again send my condolences to your mom.

        cher – here pandit ji came out of the closet. of course pandit ji wants to teach sikhs about their religion, create issues of divide amongst the sikhs, and even thinks the british saved the sikhs. jai swami dayananda!

        cher – didn't i see you as one of the background dancers in this video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZljfa2jF6Q

        • Nuance says:

          Sure, sure. Let me know when you stop the momma jokes. Then talk about seeing two sides to story. You really are strange. I will refrain from talking about your family because you seem a little wacky and I don't want to upset a potential wacko. Anytime you want to stop replying to me, feel free.

  4. Nuance says:

    So far a text book example of a Sikh chauvinist. Really discouraging that as a community we seem to contine to tolerate and sometimes glorify this kind of goonery.

  5. Nuance says:

    Basically calling someone who he assumes is Hindu a pandit and trying to write a yo momma joke.

  6. Nuance says:

    Does our community tolerate this level of thought instead of examining communalist bigotry in our community? Maybe do some thinking on how Sikh popular culture has sometimes looked upon Hindus in the places we hold most sway.

  7. Admin Singh says:

    [Harpreet, Nuance, and Sher - this is your only warning. Do not hijack threads. Stick to the topic on hand or you will be banned.]

  8. Nuance says:

    Whatever, banning is fine. This site has lost all credibility for me since one of it's posters accused me on being a hi Durga nationalist. Seriously, I do not respect this site one iota.

  9. Nuance says:

    Hindutva nationalist, but who knows maybe hi Durga too.

  10. Blighty Singh says:

    If this were a series of questions to British parliamentary candidates, all 4 questions and all sub-questions would have been about foreign policy towards human rights abuses by India. The insular isolationism of American politics is actually quite worrying.

    • jodha says:

      @blighty – I think you hit the nail on the head. Your comment speaks volumes of how some Sikhs in the US are willing to sacrifice the aspirations and justice for the Qaum for parochial gains. I think I need to write a post on this. It has been bothering me for some time, but I think you just motivated me to write a post on this. Thank you!

      • Sundari says:

        @jodha – how is asking questions to congressional candidates on issues affecting Sikh Americans somehow sacrificing justice for the Quam? You are making a very elitist comment – can i not care about both national and international issues?

        • jodha says:

          @sundari – not sure about usage of the word 'elitist' and of course you can do the two. But as Blighty pointed out, here you didn't.

          And while this is just a reflective post by you and American Turban, I find that – and American Turban pointed this out is his recent post – more and more whether with the extension of the invitation to GOI officials by SAFF in NY (though since, the gala has been postponed, hopefully due to community-pressure), the GOI speaking at Oak Creek Gurdwara, and GOI presence at recent signing of bills by Governor Brown – Sikhs in the US, contrast to our brethren and sisteren in Canada and UK have become far too comfortable with this. Are issues in Punjab no longer on our 'political' agenda anymore because we may make others feel uncomfortable?

          • I think issues related to Punjab are still the US community's concern — the community's objection to the honoring of GOI representatives appears to be the reason why the Gala was postponed in the first place. Let's also not forget the participation of the US Sikh community during the Rajoana protests.

            However, how and why these GOI representatives are being "honored" by some of our community members is a needed — and separate — discussion. And, let us not forget that certain Indian politicians implicated in the 1984 massacres have been treated the same way in Canada (see Ruby Dhalla).

            In terms of advocacy of Punjab issues to the US government, I agree that Sikhs in the United States have traditionally been more passive compared to our communities in Canada and the UK — in those countries, the Sikh voice is louder and more powerful. That is both a function of those communities and the nature of the politics in those countries.

            In my opinion, the US voice is still in its early stage of development. I also think there has been a gap in this advocacy created partly by our focus on post-9/11.

            We're also operating in an environment where we are trying to get our politicians to even pronounce "Sikh" properly (see Mitt Romney, Herman Cain). If we are still at this level of ignorance in the US, it's hard to advocate about what has been and is going on in Punjab.

            So yes, I acknowledge Blighty's original point about the insular nature of US politics. But, in the UK, the position and history of engagement of Sikhs in that society is different than here. Leveraging the US diaspora voice in support of issues of Punjab is needed. But, I don't think asking questions of a domestic nature necessarily amounts to abandoning that cause.

          • jodha says:

            @American Turban – it may not have been an intentional 'abandoning' of the cause and knowing the two of you personally – I actually know your positions and know that isn't the case. However, that said, it was a 'silence' and reveals something far larger in the discourse than just your blog post. The silence here, though unintentional, is symptomatic of a set of priorities for some Sikh-Americans, especially those with the most loudest voices, that differ from our brethren/sisteren around the world.

            Sikh-American gen-1.5 organizations (and I will return to why I emphasize the gen-1.5 orgs) have to ask these difficult questions. For me, it's a cop-out to raise issues of whether politicians can pronounce Sikh or not. It's a matter of priority.

            For the UK, Canadian, Australian, Belgium, German, Italian, Spanish, French, and other diasporic communities, they have put this issue first and foremost on their agenda (it is also important to recognize that the educational and wealth capital of Sikh-Americans is FAR greater than any of our brethren/sisteren diasporic communities). Their members of Parliament, politicians, and officials of all stripes raise the issue. The fact that most Sikh-Americans do not even know this is the parochialism that Blighty has repeatedly and properly admonished.

            Here in the United States, the Sikh-American 1.5-gen organizations, who are most prominent and have captured the national Sikh space, have decided not to push on these issues. So why is the argument of numbers and pronunciation false, because once upon a time it was not so – and this is why I emphasize it is the 1.5 generation – compare and contrast with gen-1.0 organizations. If we look at the long duree of Sikh activism in the United States, then you’d know people like Dr. Gurmit Aulakh, Dr. Ajrawat, and Dr. Amarjit Singh at one time collected signatures from over 1/4 of the House of Representatives condemning the Indian State for its human rights atrocities, had denouncements placed in the Congressional Records, and did this all on a shoe-string budget. So the fact is – it has been done! If it is not being done today, it is because some are making willful choices not to do it and have chosen other priorities.

          • jodha says:

            @American Turban – The Rajoana rallies are a great case study. Look at the UK and Canadian rallies and ALL were youth-led, attended, and the community came out en masse. The US rallies were far weaker in comparison. The largest rally was at the India Consulate in SF was youth-led (kudos to the Berkeley team), but was hardly youth-attended or driven. It was our parents' generation that came out en masse. The youth went to their jobs, their schools, and continued their quotidien schedule with nothing even remotely comparable to our brethren/sisteren in Canada, UK, Europe, etc. This is the reality of the state of Sikh-American affairs in comparison and we should not be patting ourselves on the back.

  11. Sher says:

    How about a debate on Human rights abuses IN India?

    There are two sides of the story, why not at least acknowledge the abuses by the extremist fringe which continues even today. "Insular isolationism" of supremacists (who probably believe that only radical Sikhs have human rights, others are lesser mortals) is equally appaling.

    • jo says:

      debate human rights? what kind of sickness is this.

      Of course many people died in Punjab. Many innocents were kiled – by some militants that partook in the worst parts of village factionalism and did not maintain their political commitment, by criminal gangs that the government let loose to give a bad name to the movement, and worst by the security forces of the Indian State, whose elected official even went so far in their depravity to pass the 59th Amendment to the Constitution of India suspending in Punjab the “right to life” codifying in law what they had been doing in practice for years. The Amendment later lapsed, unfortunately the policy did not.

  12. [...] to learn more about their positions about Sikh American-related issues (see previous post here). Both candidates responded. However, the nature of the responses received were quite [...]

  13. [...] about a week before the election, in partnership with the blog The Langar Hall, Sikh blogger Sundari Kaur and I sought to give the candidates of California’s 9th [...]

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