Kwok: What Sikhs’ awareness campaign doesn’t say: We’re not Muslim
INDIANA GOVERNOR ERIC HOLCOMB HONORS HOOSIER SIKHS WITH A HISTORIC
PROCLAMATION OF A NATIONAL SIKH HERITAGE MONTH
April 8, 2019: We are thrilled and proud to share this momentous news with the global Sikh community, that Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has joined other similar declarations by cities, states, and nations in inviting their citizens to celebrate April 2019 as a “Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month” and the National Sikh Heritage Month. This news takes a special significance coming at the time of 320th Sikh Baisakhi since the Founding of Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, India on March 30, 1699 and the recent call by “World’s Top Religious Leaders Issue Rare Joint Appeal” with a unifying message: “Our advice is to make friends to followers of all religions.”
We join in celebrating this enlightened message: “Being people of faith and created in God’s Immaculate image: May we imitate God’s boundless compassion, generosity, and forgiveness as an affirmation of spiritual lessons learned; serve Life with humility and joyous gratitude; honor our uncommon universal God-Spirit that showers blessings upon all, without limit and distinction.” – KP Singh The leaders of following Gurdwaras and organizations were present at the Statehouse to receive this historic Proclamation on April 2, 2019:
Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Sikh Educational & Cultural Society, Indianapolis, IN
Gurdwara Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, Greenwood, IN
Gurdwara Gur Nanak Darbar, Indianapolis, IN
Sikh Society of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN
Guru Nanak Sikh Society, Indianapolis, IN
Gurdwara Jot Amrit Parkash, Fishers, IN
Sant Prem Singh Seva Society, Indianapolis, IN
We gratefully acknowledge the initiative and assistance of The Sikh Coalition in the preparation of this historic Proclamation and their coordination with the Indiana Governor’s office in this matter.
The presentation of the historic Proclamation was made by Joe Elsener, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Christopher Creighton, State Legislative Director. During the discussion that preceded the presentation, KP Singh, a longtime Indiana resident and interfaith leader, shared a brief historical perspective about the Hoosier Sikh many contributions, involvements and engagements with civic and cultural, law enforcement and interfaith organizations on multiple projects, fundraising, and educational initiatives. KP also highlighted of Hoosier Sikh concerns regarding Sikh sacred faith-mandated articles, incidents of discrimination, harassment, unprovoked violence, bullying of children in schools, and incidents of frequent targeting due to mistaken identity and wrongful association, some leading to hate crimes against a peaceful hardworking Hoosier community.
KP Singh emphasized the need for continued engagement with the Hoosier Cities and State leaderships, law enforcement organizations, and awareness of special involvement of the Indiana Superintendent of Education to add basic cultural Sikh Studies introduction to the school curriculums at various levels to end the bullying of Sikh children with turbans and Patka (scarves as covers) for their uncut hair. The matter of Indiana Governor visiting the Sikh Gurdwara and joining in a community celebration marking the 550th Birthday of the Founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Devjee was also discussed.
KP also took time with some assistance from other Hoosier Sikh leaders present to share a few thoughts about the founding principles of equality, justice, human dignity, sacred rights, and service of humanity that form the foundation of Sikh faith and its cherished unifying commandments. The Sikh faith Gurus and sacred Scriptures, central precepts and foundations, unifying values and traditions have been a strong advocate and central pillar of this sacred principle. Learning and sharing, living and honoring our sacred commandments; joining hands to serve and uplift humanity.
This historic step of declaration of a “National Sikh Heritage Month” carries a lot of significance for the Hoosier and Sikh American community; beginning of another initiative to learn about neighbors, colleagues, and friends who practice Sikh faith and are proud Americans. This declaration also carries a major responsibility on the part of the Sikh American Community to introduce and showcase their culture, heritage, and traditions; cultural values and faith foundations. Organize special programs, events and exhibits, and special print and internet publications, lectures, and festive celebrations. Be part of and reliable and trusted partners in communities where we live and work. Seek, participate, and create opportunities to mainstream our brilliant ideas and talents, challenges and concerns. Focus on not just ours, but thoughtfully consider how the larger interests of communities that are our home interface and intersect with existing traditions and infrastructure in place. With an open-minded Sikh (disciplined seeker) spirit learn from networking with others and from new and pioneering experiences.
Educating ourselves and others is the first step to create a sense of belonging. The National Sikh Heritage Month and all the days and months that follow should be dedicated to building bridges across cultures, faiths, and communities as our guiding star and tireless endeavor.
Here are some wonderful comments by Hoosier Sikh Sevak-Leaders. They express the sentiments of many with their thoughtful and joyous excitement of the historic significance of this positive gesture:
“The purpose of the Sikh Heritage Month is an opportunity for the Hoosier Sikhs to spread awareness and greater understanding about the Sikh Faith, culture and traditions. This is the first year the Indiana Sikhs have received the Proclamation which also coincides with the 550th GuruPurab (Birthday) celebration of the Founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak DevJee who preached selfless love, peace, equality and dignity of all mankind.” – Chirjeev Kaur Oberoi (Sikh Satsang Program Coordinator; Board Member, Center for Interfaith Cooperation)
“It was a historical moment that the Governor’s Office released this Proclamation and declared the Month of April as the ‘Sikh Awareness & Appreciation Month’, not only because the Sikhs throughout the world are celebrating the 550th GuruPurab (Birthday) of the Founder of Sikhism Guru NanakJee this year and the 320th Vaisakhi (April 14) is being celebrated as the Birth of Khalsa; also because of the presence of the representatives of several major Sikh religious and cultural organizations of Indianapolis who witnessed the moment and participated in the discussion. It is NOT an exaggeration to say, that the entire Sikh Sangat (Hoosier Sikh community) of central Indiana received this proclamation together, which itself is a big achievement. – Baljit Singh Oberoi (Hoosier Sikh-Sevak leader; Board Member, Nationalities Council of Indiana).
CREEK, Wis. — LAST week, the Department of Justice indicted Dylann
Roof, the suspect in the shooting deaths of nine people in
Charleston, S.C., for hate crimes. Officials said they were bringing
this indictment because they were worried that the racial motivation
in the case would not be addressed adequately by a trial in a state
reason for this concern is that South Carolina is one of five states
(the others are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana and Wyoming) that,
according to the Anti-Defamation League, have no laws enhancing
penalties for bias-motivated crimes. The national profile of the
massacre in Charleston has stirred this action, but as a rule federal
hate crime prosecutions are rare.
federal hate crime legislation passed in 2009, the government has
obtained only 29 convictions. Compare this with New York, where
in 2013 alone (the most recent year for which data is available),
state prosecutors reported 149 hate crime convictions.
hate crimes at the local level allows states to better document,
analyze and prevent hate crimes in their jurisdiction. The
A.D.L. cites studies demonstrating that “victims are more
likely to report a hate crime if they know a special reporting system
is in place.”
logic is simple. If I see a crime, I am more likely to call my
neighborhood police department than try to contact an F.B.I. field
most Americans, I rarely interact with federal law enforcement. If I
fear my Sikh community is under threat, I look to state and local
agencies for protection.
is not a hypothetical situation. Three years ago next month, a white
supremacist walked into the Oak Creek gurdwara, a Sikh temple, and
fatally shot my mother, Paramjit Kaur Saini, and five other
18 and just about to start college. My mother never got to see me
her death, I determined to make sure that her status as a victim of a
hate crime would not go unrecorded. I had no experience in public
speaking — at school, I had hardly ever raised my hand — but six
weeks after the Oak Creek massacre, I summoned all my courage and
went totestify before a Senate hearing on hate crimes and
domestic violent extremism.
my home state has a hate crime law, the federal government, I
discovered from investigators in the aftermath of the Oak Creek
shootings, did not record hate crimes against the Sikh community. At
the hearing, I argued that my mother should have the dignity of her
death recorded accurately for what it was.
months later, in 2013, the F.B.I. agreed to change its
policy, and it now tracks hate crimes against Sikhs, as well as
Hindus and Arabs, as it does for other communities that can be
targets of bias-motivated violence.
Michael Page, the neo-Nazi who killed my mother, died at the scene of
his crime by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after being hit by
police gunfire outside the gurdwara. Because of the massacre’s
notoriety — the attorney general at the time, Eric H. Holder Jr.,
described the killings as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a
hate crime” — a federal prosecution might have followed if Mr.
Page had survived to stand trial.
without that intervention, though, he would have faced the more
severe penalties attached to hate crime charges in a Wisconsin court.
That matters because state hate crime laws represent the local public
commitment to protecting communities that may be targeted for their
race, religion or ethnicity.
the June 17 shootings in Charleston, at least eight predominantly
African-American churches in the South have burned down —
incidents that demand hate crime investigations. Many suspect that
these fires were set deliberately in attacks designed to terrorize
the African-American community.
a hate crime law, however, South Carolina would probably file only
arson charges against any culprits. In addition, there is a clear
reluctance on the part of law enforcement and local authorities to
label these church burnings suspected hate crimes.
by the Southern Poverty Law Center has found that South
Carolina alone is home to six neo-Confederate groups, four white
nationalist organizations, two factions of the Ku Klux Klan and three
neo-Nazi groups. It is only a matter of time before a deranged
individual or group influenced by their creed of hate strikes again.
G. Gilliard, who is the state representative for the district where
the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church stands, is a
co-sponsor of a hate crimes bill introduced in the last session of
the South Carolina Legislature. He has vowed to redouble efforts
to pass the law.
is an opportunity for South Carolina to lead, and the other four
states to follow, in enacting laws that could help to deter another
tragedy like the ones in Oak Creek and Charleston. An act of hate
should always be counted and we must have laws in every state to
protect Americans from these heinous acts of violence.
can’t bring back the loved ones, like my mother, whom we have lost
to hate. But we can demand laws to better protect us.