In US, Sikhs succeed in push for understanding their unique


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -
In US, Sikhs succeed in push for understanding their unique culture

WASHINGTON: Sikh, Muslim, and Black witnesses will be testifying on the issue of racial profiling before the US Congress on Thursday in an unprecedented hearing on a subject that has caused much heartburn among minorities.

The hearing, on ''Racial Profiling and the Use of Suspect Classifications in Law Enforcement Policy'' has been called by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties amid complaints of incessant and increasing marking in the US of minorities and colored people, particularly at airports.

While Muslims claim to be familiar targets during airport security screening, Sikhs, who are often mistaken for Islamists because of their distinctive turban, are also victims of the process. The fact that the more religious Sikhs are required to carry articles which security folks deem to be dangerous (viz kirpan) also puts them at odds with the screening process.

All these matters will come up for discussion when Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the advocacy group Sikh Coalition, steps forward to testify before the House Panel. Coalition representatives said it is the first time a Sikh organization has ever testified before the United States Congress on an issue of national significance and the subject of the testimony will be the Sikh experience at airports across the United States.

Also listed to testify before the panel are Farhana Khera of the Muslim Advocates organization and Hillary Shelton of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), while the law enforcement perspective will come from Christopher Burbank, chief of police in Salt Lake City and two law school professors.

The Obama administration has generally been more sensitive to minority concerns -- certainly more than some European nations -- and has stepped up its outreach to them.

Last November, the White House for the first time hosted a reception commemorating the 540th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, an event President Obama mentioned to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they met.

While the election of a minority Sikh as India’s Prime Minister has ennobled the Indian people and their liberal spirit, and raised the profile of the community in the U.S and across the world, no less a contribution has come from Sikh advocacy groups in the US which have campaigned vigorously to educate Americans about the religion.

Both the Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs have been tireless in sensitizing US law-makers and law-enforces about facets of Sikhism, including having to wear and carry distinctive articles of faith such as the kada and kirpan. As a result, they have won important concessions from law enforcement officials, including separate private screenings at airports if security personnel feel the need to touch their turbans.

Last month, in another unique first, Sikh advocacy groups succeeded getting the Texas public school system, with 4.8 million students, to prescribe mandatory teaching in schools about Sikhism. ''What does this mean for our community?'' the Sikh Coalition asked, and explained, after that victory. It means that Maneera Kaur (Dallas, TX) will not have to make Sikh presentations in her classroom every year, because now her teachers are making them. It means that Tejinder Singh's (Austin, TX) teacher will no longer ask him to take his patka off because she will understand the significance of our articles of faith. This means that students like Jaspreet Singh (Houston, TX), who were constantly bullied, will have a more respectful and understanding environment in school

Source : TimesOfIndia