Sikhs on NPR – Akal Securities

akal_security.jpgJust before the weekend, NPR featured a story on Akal Securities and the Sikh community in New Mexico. The article discusses the success of a number of businesses that help support the 3HO organization. It is partly due to these generous contributions by community members and leaders of these businesses that as a community we benefit from the inspiring resources such as Sikhnet.com. As an attendee at the annual Los Angeles Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan, I have witnessed the beautiful display of the Sikh community, largely led by members of the 3HO, year after year.

For those familiar with Akal Securities, you can find their ubiquitous khanda symbol everywhere. From airports, to security guards in front of Target, I have had a sense of pride whenever I see their logo. It is a tremendous example of our Sikh brethren being successful and specifically an example of individuals that use their success to contribute to the Sikh community in general. This is not to say that the company has not had its share of problems (and successes), but still I believe it is a model and a successful one and deserves recognition.

The NPR article walks the line of discussing the business and the religion and projects that inspire them. Having been awarded over $1 billion in government contracts over the past 3 years, the executive director, Daya Singh Khalsa states:

“We feel very good about the role we play to keep thousands or hundreds of thousands of people safe when they visit federal facilities,” Singh Khalsa says.[link]

The company takes inspiration from its Sikh roots. On a version of their earliest websites, they wrote:

“When you select Akal Security you are buying a 500 year tradition of service and protection.”[link]

In addition, one of the founders, writing about his frustration about being continually rejected from jobs, despite his qualifications, due to his Sikh appearance, once wrote:

[The Employer] decided that with a beard and turban, I was not qualified to be a police officer. We went ’round and ’round, but I realized that it was a losing battle. I turned in my badge. Then, I went whining to Yogi Bhajan. “Why do you want to say ‘Yes, Sir!’ all your life? Let’s start our own company. Then we will hire the police and the army officers and they will say ‘Yes, Sir!’ to you.” Fortunately, at that time my spiritual brother Daya Singh needed something to do, so Yogi Bhajan put us together. Under his guidance, Daya and I created Akal Security, Inc. Twentyfive years later, our company employs almost fifteen thousand former military and lawenforcement personnel, including two former U.S. Marshals. It is the fifth largest security firm in the U.S. and the second largest provider of security services to the federal government. [link]

The executive directors do mention, despite being Sikh-owned, because of federal guidelines you will not find too many Sikh hires in their 15,000 employee staff. Daya Singh Khalsa admits:

“We’re here to run a business,” he insists. And because federal contracts prohibit guards from wearing headgear, you won’t see any Sikhs manning the metal detectors.[link]

Since the report, I have been following the list of comments on both NPR and on Sikhnet. It is interesting to see the contrast. On NPR some are celebrating the success of this Sikh-American company, while a few nutcases are trying to link a Sikh security company to Indira Gandhis death; on Sikhnet most comments are criticizing Akal Securities for not hiring Sikhs, despite the fact that it is the federal government guidelines that is prohibiting the move.

The article touches upon a possible loosening of such strictures:

Rules that prohibit Sikhs from joining American law enforcement because they don’t cut their hair may be softening. Last year, the Espanola Police Department hired its first bearded, turbaned policeman Officer Khalsa though he has since moved on. [link]

We already know that the Sikh Coalition is working on a campaign to allow turbans into the US Army. A possible great coalition could be formed by the Sikh Coalition or SALDEF with Akal Securities to bring more pressure to push for changes within federal guidelines. Rather than always complaining, let us begin to forge new unions for solutions.

Read and listen to the article when you get a chance. Also take a look at the extensive photo gallery of the New Mexico Sikh community.


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8 Responses to “Sikhs on NPR – Akal Securities”

  1. Hari Singh says:

    I've been told from individuals who've applied for jobs that Akal doesn't hire individuals who wear religious head coverings as security officers. Sikh-owned and managed but they certainly don't have the leadership of a Sikh.

    Akal leadership needs to start taking stand with this and refuse contracts or make them public since they come with conditions (i.e. uniforms). Too bad Akal Security is complicit in this institutional discrimination.

  2. Hari Singh says:

    I’ve been told from individuals who’ve applied for jobs that Akal doesn’t hire individuals who wear religious head coverings as security officers. Sikh-owned and managed but they certainly don’t have the leadership of a Sikh.

    Akal leadership needs to start taking stand with this and refuse contracts or make them public since they come with conditions (i.e. uniforms). Too bad Akal Security is complicit in this institutional discrimination.

  3. Manpreet says:

    Wish much success to Akal Securities. Company run by Sikhs but cannot hire them needs to change fast. Real fast!

  4. Manpreet says:

    Wish much success to Akal Securities. Company run by Sikhs but cannot hire them needs to change fast. Real fast!

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