Exclusive Interview: ‘Baptized’ Sikh Football Player
May 23, 2019 (Oklahoma City, OK) – Last week, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to approve new social studies standards, which, for the first time ever, will include Sikhism.
The new standards will give nearly 700,000 students in Oklahoma the opportunity to now accurately learn about the Sikh community. This is another significant victory in the Sikh Coalition’s multi-year campaign to ensure that every public school student in the United States has the chance to learn about Sikhism accurately, so that Sikh awareness continues to grow among our fellow Americans for generations to come.
“Our family has lived in Oklahoma for many years, and our youngest son is still studying in the public school system. These new standards will go a long way in ensuring all Sikh children feel represented and included in the classroom,” said Sikh community member Gurcharan Singh. “I am grateful the Sikh Coalition worked to ensure Sikhism is integrated into Oklahoma’s revised standards.”
Our Persistence Paid Off
The update to Oklahoma’s social studies standards resulted from months of advocacy behind the scenes by the Sikh Coalition. In November 2018, the initial request was made for Sikhism to be included in the new standards. This inclusion was made to the draft and the Sikh Coalition wrote again to the Board to thank them for this revision in order to ensure that it would not be removed.
The new, more inclusive standards will start to be implemented during the 2019-2020 school year. Review of instructional materials, development of curriculum frameworks and provision of professional development opportunities for teachers will occur during this time. It is hoped that full implementation will happen by the 2020-2021 school year.
“The accurate inclusion of Sikhism in more state standards across America is part of the Sikh Coalition’s efforts to ensure that all children feel represented, included and safe when they go to school,” said Pritpal Kaur, Sikh Coalition Education Director.
Oklahoma becomes the 9th in a growing list of states – including Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Tennessee, Idaho and Colorado – that have worked with the Sikh Coalition to include accurate information about Sikhs in their public school social studies standards. These efforts are now positively educating over 15 million public school students.
At present, we are working to make sure Michigan becomes the 10th state in June. We look forward to adding even more states to this list in the months and years ahead.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.
The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) is celebrating a “victory” in its campaign to get a Sikh ethnic tick-box added to the 2021 UK census after Scottish ministers agreed to put a prompt for Sikhs in the “other” part of the ethnicity response options. They also assured to “monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group as well as religion” going forwards.
The SFUK, which claims to have the backing of more than 150 gurdwaras and Sikh organisations, has withdrawn its legal case in Scotland but is still battling ahead with a second judicial review against the Cabinet Office over the lack of a Sikh ethnic tick-box in the proposed census for England and Wales.
On May 7, the Census (Scotland) Regulation 2020 was laid in the Scottish Parliament which included a prompt for Sikhs and Jews in the “Other” response option to the question “What is your ethnic group?”.
“At the top there is a choice of White, Mixed, Asian, African, Caribbean and Other. Sikhs is not within Asian, it is coming under Other,” said Dabinderjit Singh OBE, principle adviser to the SFUK.
The Federation’s tick-box campaign got a further boost in a letter dated June 24 from Scotland’s economy secretary Fiona Hyslop. The letter, which TOI has seen, states she will now “work with the Sikh Federation (UK) to ensure public bodies in Scotland monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group, as well as a religion”.
In the past public bodies have only followed the Census categories for ethnic data collection. “The only reason we wanted a Sikh ethnic tick-box box was to force Scotland to monitor Sikhs,” explained Singh. “We feel we have won the war in Scotland and do not feel there is any point in continuing legal action in the court of session.”
The Federation has also withdrawn its appeal against a December 12, 2019, judgment handed down in a first judicial review the SFUK brought against the Cabinet Office over the England and Wales census after the government objected to there being two cases running simultaneously over the same issue.
On June 11, SFUK submitted an application for a second judicial review to the high court seeking to quash the Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 on the grounds it was unlawful after Mrs Justice Lang ruled the first legal challenge was premature. Bringing the first case cost the Federation just over £1,00,000 in ‘capped’ legal costs for both sides.
If the second judicial review is allowed, the legal costs may not be capped and if the Federation win the case, the UK-wide census scheduled for 21 March 2021, could be delayed.
On June 16, the high court ruled the second judicial review would be “expedited” and put before a high court judge on or before July 3 to make a decision as to whether it can be allowed.
Lord Singh, director, Network of Sikh Organisations, said: “The Sikh Federation UK has already racked up £100,000 in legal costs and continues legal action in the high court in London. They need to be held to account for this, and ordinary members of Britain’s Sikh community, who the evidence suggests are satisfied in being recorded under religion in the census, must inform politicians here and in Scotland that this action is not in our name.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Anyone who chooses to identify as being of Sikh ethnicity in this census will be able to by using the write-in option and the search-as-you type function online.”