UNITED SIKHS Demands Apology and Action for Communities That Contribute
to Keeping America Free and Prosperous
 
 
Gurinder Singh Khalsa
 
On Thursday, October 19, 2016, UNITED SIKHS wrote to the 2016 U.S. Presidential candidates expressing the concern and indignation of the Sikh community at the divisive and senseless rhetoric that has come out of the 2016 political race. The negative stereotypes that arise from this callous rhetoric has exacerbated racial and religious hostilities in the U.S. The candidates have demonstrated a lack of knowledge and or consideration for the Sikh community and the many distinct ethnicities that makeup the population of the United States and UNITED SIKHS called for these political leaders to issue an apology and desist or act decisively against the negative rhetoric.
 
While hate crimes and bullying threaten the Sikh and other communities, political leaders appear to act unaware of the fact or, through inaction, exacerbate the harm rather than alleviate it.
 
Recently, several American and world newspapers reported that a political campaign advertisement made inaccurate allegations of support and used a Sikh's name and image without his consent. It also played fast and loose with his Sikh identity or ignored that Mr Gurinder Singh Khalsa is an initiated Sikh.
 
This is the most recent of many acts of insensitivity to the struggle of the community. The fact that Gurinder Singh Khalsa is a Sikh was apparent in the picture by his bana (holy religious attire). A quick internet search would easily uncover that a Sikhs' unique religious bana consists of the combination of the unique dastaar (turban), beard and Kara (steel bracelet). Mr. Gurinder Singh Khalsa is also a known Sikh community and political leader. He has been in the news repeatedly since August 2016 due to the fact that he is the Chairman of the newly created SikhPAC. The demonstration of callousness about his uniquely Sikh bana and identity undermines the diversity that made this nation great.
 
While bigoted rage continues unabated against the Sikh community, the 2016 political campaigning continues only to trample on the sacred concept that every community has the right to self-determination and is entitled to ownership and recognition of the uniqueness of their culture and religion.
 
The negative rhetoric spewed by the political camps, or the failure to act decisively against it, has further hurt the Sikh community. It is well known that there have been countless murders perpetrated against Sikhs since 9/11. The first person to die as a result of the political rhetoric that created the islamophobia epidemic was Sikh gas station worker thousands of miles from where the Twin Towers fell; to name only one of the many Sikh victims of the insensitive rhetoric.
 
Today, the violence against the Sikh community continues unabated and is made worse. In the last few months at least three Sikhs have been attacked as a direct result of wearing their religious articles of faith. For example, recently, on September 25, 2016, in Contra Costa County, California, a group of men forcibly grabbed Mr. Mana Singh's turban through his partially open car window and maliciously beat him and sheared his hair off with a knife. On September 30, 2016, a man threw a bottle at and threatened to kill Balmeet Singh, the son of a prominent member of the Sikh and Bakersfield, California community, as he accused him of setting bombs, also out of bigotry and hate. In Illinois last week, Roop Singh, a family man who had gone out for a walk in an otherwise safe suburb, was attacked by men who cowardly and unexpectedly jumped out of a car and beat him while calling him Bin Laden. While the police hesitate to treat these assaults as hate crimes, the community knows all too well that is the case and are fearful that any one of them could be next.
 
Sikhs, like Mr. Mana Singh Khalsa, Mr. Balmeet Singh, Mr. Roop Singh and Mr. Gurinder Singh Khalsa wear a turban (dastaar), unshorn hair and a beard as a symbol of their dedication to the teachings of the Sikh gurus and their Sikh faith and that is a very well known fact. As a true testament to their dedication to the Sikh tenets, these Sikh men who were physically attacked, or used for political gain, were not as outraged by the personal attacks as they were saddened by the helplessness of people who stand by and do nothing.
 
With the daily news articles telling yet another story of a Sikh who has been killed or injured because they wear a turban, it is unreasonable that still American political leaders do not know that the turban depicted in the photo presented in the questionable political campaign advertisement is that unique to the members of the Sikh community. It is unacceptable that the major political camps actively participate in or fail to act against or voice public concern for the hate crimes and bullying that are occurring as a direct result of the stereotypes created by this rhetoric; rhetoric that demonizes people who are Americans too.
 
It is the responsibility of the presidential candidates to lead by example. Leading in this case would require a public statement of apology to Mr. Gurinder Singh Khalsa, Mr, Mana Singh, Mr. Roop Singh, Mr. Balmeet Singh and all those who suffered hate crimes because of this divisive rhetoric. It would call for desisting and for a public denouncement of the harm caused to the Sikh and Muslim communities and to all those who have suffered due to the racial and ethnic insensitivity demonstrated in this 2016 political campaigning.
 
UNITED SIKHS is a nonprofit, advocacy organization with chapters in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, India, Kenya, Malaysia and United Kingdom. The organization was created in the United States in 1999 to help empower Sikhs and underserved, minority communities in the United States and around the world through advocacy, community education and by providing humanitarian aid, in keeping with the tenet of the Sikh faith to serve others. Speaking as leaders in the Sikh community, UNITED SIKHS told the political candidates that the Sikh community well deserves more for their many contributions to keeping America free and prosperous.

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Issued by,
Wanda Sanchez Day, Esq.
Acting National Director, UNITED SIKHS,
International Civil & Human Rights Advocacy
Tel: 1-646-688-3525
E: law-usa@unitedsikhs.org | contact@unitedsikhs.org
 

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