Tag Archives: Sikh

The light of love

Satpal Singh, chairperson of the World Sikh Council – American Region, recently published a reflection in response to the September 21 attack on Dr. Prabhjot Singh. His article, entitled, “Our Resolve in the Face of Terror and Hate,” tells of the work of Dr. Singh for a better community and analyzes the nature of hate crimes.

Such crimes are attacks against a person or a particular place. They are also attacks against a whole community. Satpal Singh puts it this way:

Beyond the death of innocents, their ‘victory’ lies in shaking the foundation of a free society. It manifests in a sense of fear in the society, with everyone looking over his or her shoulders. It manifests in a sense of suspicion of others, including neighbors, especially of those who look different. And even more perniciously, the terrorist victory lies in creating hate among people, and heightening the divisions within a society.

We deny hate its victory when we control our suspicions, build community, and overcome fear with love. Dr. Singh demonstrates this in his response to the attack he endured as reported by The Times of India:

“If I could speak to my attackers, I would ask them if they had any questions, if they knew what they were doing. May be invite them to the gurdwara where we worship, get to know who we are… Make sure they have an opportunity to move past this as well.”

Satpal Singh expresses a similar resolve and vision:

May God enlighten the attackers and bring peace and understanding to their mind. Let the light of love pierce through the clouds of hate and illuminate our hearts with universal love and harmony.

God made this world a wonderful place for all of us to live in peace and happiness. Let us not allow the terrorists to undermine the house of God.

Amen.

See you along the Trail.

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Signs on W. 110th call to action

The signs, posted by the NYPD, dot West 110th Street (also known as Central Park North) between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (also known as Frederick Douglass Boulevard).

They offer a modest reward for information leading to the arrest of individuals involved in an attack that took place in that area on September 21. But the signs serve as a larger call to action as well. They call us to address the discrimination and hate that apparently fuel this particular incident and related violence.

The signs include a photo and note that more than one person may have participated in the attack. But they give few other details. Other sources do. The Huffington Post fills in details:

Dr. Prabhjot Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban and a beard, was attacked at 8:15 p.m. while walking along 110th Street near Lenox Avenue in upper Manhattan. An unknown suspect or suspects shouted anti-Muslim statements, knocked the professor down and punched him numerous times in the face.

The Gothamist provides more information:

Dr. Singh has a Sikh beard and was wearing a turban. He described the attack: “I heard ‘Get Osama’ and then ‘terrorists,’ and then the next thing I felt was someone moving past me, ripping at my beard and then hitting me in the chin.”

Dr. Singh added that he tried to run away but was punched in the face and other parts of his body. Even when he was on the ground, he was punched and kicked. His jaw was fractured, but Dr. Singh credits a passerby for helping him. He said, “There’s no doubt in my mind it was a bias-related event.” The police are investigating the crime.

, a friend and colleague of Dr. Singh notes that the police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

In the aftermath of the August 5, 2012 shooting at the Sikh Gurdwara at Oak Creek, Wisconsin that claimed seven lives, including that of the gunman, Simran Jeet Singh and Dr. Prabhjot Singh wrote an op-ed about hate crimes directed against Sikhs for The New York Times.

They raised two important points about Sikhs and hate crimes.  They note a lack of data about the extent of anti-Sikh hatred:

The F.B.I. currently classifies nearly all hate violence against American Sikhs as instances of anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim hate crimes. As a result, we do not have official statistics on the extent of hate crimes in which Sikhs are targeted, despite a long history of such violence.

They also note that “mistaken identity” factors in many of the attacks on Sikhs. As happened in the case of Dr Singh, Sikhs are targeted as Muslims. A recent study by “researchers at SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Stanford University found that 70% of Americans misidentify turban-wearers as Muslim (48%), Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto. In fact, almost all men in the U.S. who wear turbans are Sikh Americans, whose faith originated in India.”

The Huffington Post reports an outrage endured by another Sikh, Jagjeet Singh. It did not involve overt physical violence. But it was cruel and demeaning and rooted in prejudice and ignorance:

The ACLU wrote a letter on Wednesday to decry the shocking treatment of Jagjeet Singh, a practicing Sikh, at the hands of the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Pike County Justice Court.

Singh was pulled over in January for a flat tire, and was harassed by the state’s Department of Transportation officers who wrongly assumed that his kirpan, a small spiritual sword that is a religious article for Sikhs, was illegal. They taunted him as a “terrorist” and arrested him for refusing to obey “an officer’s lawful command,”reports the ACLU.

On his March 26th court date, Judge Aubrey Rimes of the Pike County Justice Court ejected him from the courtroom stating that Singh would not be allowed to re-enter unless he removed “that rag” from his head.

Singh’s attorney confirmed that Rimes expelled him due to his turban.

Physical attacks. Shootings. Harassment. Discrimination. All based on who a person is or who a person is perceived to be.

Such acts of hate and bigotry have no place in the United States of America. They violate our sisters and brothers most directly. But they also violate our values and in so doing, they violate  who we want to be. 

There are steps we can take as a society and as individuals to address this situation.

As a society, we can urge law enforcement to track violence against our Sikh brothers and sisters. We can further urge law enforcement to enforce existing laws. We can also also hold events to meet one another, learn from one another, and build community.

Each of us will need to decide what steps we will take. I plan to learn more about the Sikh faith and to meet more Sikhs. I have asked my colleague Christine Hong to introduce me to Simran Jeet Singh. I will share what I learn. I will speak out about discrimination and violence against my sisters and brothers. I will work to break the hold of violence on human hearts. I will remain open to see where this journey leads.

The signs along W. 110th Street call us to action. How will you respond?

See you along the Trail.

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It’s not fluff

It started with a post by my colleague Christine Hong who does interfaith work for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She wrote a profound reflection on how important that work is following a hate crime attack on Dr. Prabjhot Singh in New York. I reprint her post with her permission.

Interfaith work is not fluffy. It is advocacy on the deepest level. The more authentically we engage in conversation and life with our neighbors of different faith traditions the more we become aware that interfaith work saves lives. Interfaith education and service not only bridges communities but it also prevents hate crimes and tackles the felt needs of humankind. The interfaith community works to seek justice, not selectively, but holistically. It is a community holding onto one another in order to thrive and survive in a world that often seems to be quickly unraveling.

This past weekend the PC(USA) brought together 60 Presbyterians along with panels of ecumenical and interfaith guests to think through the writing of an interfaith stance for the church. One of our panelists was Simran Jeet Singh, a doctoral student at Columbia University, a peacemaker, and an advocate for the Sikh community. Singh encouraged Presbyterians to build love into the foundation of our interfaith stance. The love Singh spoke of champions justice and lives courageously and hopefully into the future.

I received an email from Simran yesterday. After he had spent the day offering Presbyterians encouragement and affirmation for our interfaith efforts he came home to find that his friend and colleague at Columbia University, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, had been the victim of a hate crime. On Saturday night Dr. Singh was attacked in Manhattan. His attackers yelled “Get Osama” and “terrorist” as they beat him.

Reading Simran’s note and his Huffington Post blog on the incident broke my heart. It reaffirmed for me that what we are doing is of the utmost importance. Not only because we are working at understanding the dynamics of interfaith engagement as Presbyterians, but because our friends like Simran and Dr. Prabhjot Singh are hurting. Our encouragers, those who challenge us to be bold, dynamic, and cultivate peace are living in a world, our mutual world, where they fear physical harm because of the color of their skin and articles of faith. This should matter to us. It should hurt us because they are hurting.

Interfaith work is advocacy on the deepest level. It is advocacy not only for faith communities at large but also for the people we share our lives with on the daily: our neighbors, friends, and families. In a very real sense interfaith work is also advocacy for ourselves, for our shared world and future. Interfaith work is the accompaniment of faith communities who, like us, want to raise their children in a world where violence is not the way human differences are handled. Interfaith work will break your heart, but if we can move past the fluff and remember that what we do saves lives, it will also start to mend it.

I give thanks for Christine and Simran and Dr. Singh and all who engage in interfaith work. I pray for healing for Dr. Singh. I pray that the hurts endured by my brothers and sisters because of their articles of faith or the color of their skin will hurt me enough that I will find ways to engage more deeply in heart-breaking, heart-mending interfaith work.

See you along the Trail.

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