The Sikh Coalition congratulates the entire Sikh Community as we celebrate Vaisakhi. It is a time for jubilation and introspection. It is a time to recommit ourselves to meeting the ideals Guru Gobind Singh Ji laid out over 300 years ago during Vaisakhi 1699.
We would like to thank the Sikh community for supporting our work to protect the rights of Sikhs across North America. Since its inception the Coalition has protected the rights of well over 100 individual Sikhs. These cases have included fighting to allow Sikhs in the New York Police Department, defending Sikhs charged with wearing their kirpan, preventing employers from firing Sikhs because of their articles of faith, helping children bullied in school, and ensuring hate crimes against Sikhs are fully investigated and prosecuted (see below for a sampling of current cases)
Without your support, our community’s victories would not be possible.
Since being shaken by 9/11, Sikhs have made incredible strides in fighting for the same rights as other Americans. Today, we are at a critical juncture in the history of Sikhs in America. We can slip back into a world where we hope our rights will not be violated, or we can seize the opportunity before us to ensure that this and future generations of Sikhs will live with the same rights guaranteed to all Americans.
If you believe that Sikhs should have a permanent institution that will always defend our Guru’s way of life, we request your Dasvandh on this Vasaikhi day and ask you to make a recurring donation to the Sikh Coalition’s Sikh Defense Fund.”
In only the past few weeks we have taken significant action on the cases described below. We again thank you for your support, and ask for you recurring support so that we can build an institution for the protection of our faith. All donations are fully tax deductible.
Current Sikh Coalition Cases
Discrimination against the Turban
Sikh Woman Told By Supervisor She Would Look Sexy if She Took Off Her Dastaar
Sukhvir Kaur was fired from her job as a sales clerk at National Wholesale Liquidators in September 2004. During the last two months of her employment, her new supervisor repeatedly asked her to take off her turban because it would make her look more attractive. He also told her and other Sikh employees that he did not like Sikhs because they are “dirty” people. The Coalition is assisting Sukhvir and other Sikh employees with filing federal claims of employment discrimination.
Subway Restaurant Owner Told Wearing Turban Violates Subway Policy
Harbans Singh owns a Subway franchise in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. During his training as a franchise owner and for one year after he owned his franchise, Harbans always wore his turban. In January 2005, a franchise inspector visited Harbans’ store. The inspector told him that he would have to start wearing a Subway cap instead of his turban and reported to local headquarters that Harbans was in violation of company policy because he was wearing a turban. The Sikh Coalition wrote a letter to Subway advising it that Harbans’ rights were being violated. Because of the Sikh Coalition’s intervention, Harbans is now allowed to wear his turban at his franchise without repercussion. The Coalition is now working with Harbans Singh and other Sikh franchise owners to determine whether other Sikhs have been discouraged from wearing their turbans by Subway representatives.
Sikh Continues Battle with MTA
The Coalition continues to assist Sat Hari Singh in his battle with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Association (MTA). Over the past nine months, the MTA has gone from requiring Sat Hari to wear an MTA hat to instituting a policy that would allow him to wear his turban with an MTA logo on it. Just last month the U.S. Justice Department made public the results of an investigation that found 200 instances where MTA employees were wearing headwear without an MTA logo. The Coalition is working with Sat Hari to ensure that he is not subject to additional or discriminatory work requirements, like wearing a logo, only because he wears a dastaar as a member of the Sikh faith.
Prison Tells Sikh It Will Cut His Hair and Take Away His Turban
Navdeep Singh began a prison term in January at Downstate Correctional Facility in New York. Upon arrival at Downstate, Navdeep was told he would not be allowed to wear his turban would have to cut the hair from his head and face for his initial prison photographs. The Sikh Coalition, along with local community representatives and attorneys, wrote numerous letters to the prison requesting that it not violate Navdeep Singh’s rights. The Coalition’s letter detailed controlling law on the rights of prisoners to practice their religion while in confinement. At present, the prison has decided to allow Navdeep to keep his turban and hair on his head. It is in the process of determining whether it will require him to cut his facial hair for his prison photograph.
Prison Tells Sikh to Cut His Hair
Lakhwinder Singh is a prisoner at Vacaville State Prison in California. Prison officials have told him he must cut his hair or face disciplinary action. At Lakhwinder’s request, the Coalition sent a letter to prison officials last month explaining the requirement that Sikhs keep uncut hair. The Coalition will work with Lakhwinder Singh to ensure his rights in prison are protected.
Prohibitions on Wearing the Kara
Told He Can Not Wear Kara at Work Anymore
Mandeep Singh works as a food preparer for a caterer in Toronto, Canada. In February, his employer told him that he would no longer be allowed to wear his kara pursuant to a “no jewelry” policy. When he told his employer that as a Sikh, he could not remove his kara, he was suspended from work. After a few days, his employer decided to allow him to work while it decided whether Mandeep would ultimately be allowed to wear his kara at work. Mandeep contacted the Sikh Coalition for its assistance. The Coalition, in collaboration with local attorneys, researched law and drafted a letter to Mandeep’s employer stating that any restriction on wearing his kara would violate his rights. Mandeep’s employer now allows him to wear his kara at work.
Sikh Trucker Loses Dastaar during Arrest and Is Subject to Criminal Charges
Gurmeet Singh was stopped by a police officer while driving his truck in Bakersfield, California this past month. The officer who stopped him asked him to come out of his truck. When Gurmeet began searching for his driver’s license, the officer saw his kirpan and immediately grabbed Gurmeet, swung him around and handcuffed him. Gurmeet’s dastaar came off when he was swung around and his hair opened. Gurmeet was then arrested. He was release the next day and given a criminal citation by the officer who arrested him. The Sikh Coalition is working with Gurmeet to ensure the charges against him are dropped.
Local Gurdwara Granthi Given Criminal Citation
Jagdish Singh is a granthi at the Sikh Foundation gurdwara in San Diego, California. In December 2004, he went to the San Diego airport to board a flight to visit a relative in San Jose. Before boarding the plane, Jagdish Singh forgot to check in his only bag, which contained his kirpan. When airport screeners found his kirpan they immediately notified the police who questioned him for an hour and then gave him a criminal citation. The Sikh Coalition is working with the local Sikh community and other Sikh organizations to ensure that the charges against Jagdish Singh are dropped.
Elderly Sikh Store Owner Pelted With Snowballs and Called Bin Laden
IJS Uberoi is an elderly cellular phone store owner in Manhattan, New York. In late January, a group of teenagers entered his store and said “you bloody mother f***** bin ladens” and began throwing snow balls at him. The teenagers only left the store when he told them that his store was under videotaped surveillance. The next day one of his attackers left a message on his store’s telephone answering machine saying “we will come and fix you – no police can help save you.” The Sikh Coalition is working with the New York City Police Department to ensure the attack is investigated as a hate crime and to ensure Mr. Uberoi’s store is kept safe.
Sikh Child Suspended after Defending Turban From Being Touched at School
Gurkirat Singh is a seventh grade student in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In November 2004, he was seated on his school bus, waiting to go home, when a classmate asked for permission to use his CD player. When Gurkirat Singh declined, his classmate tried to touch his turban. In order to prevent this, Gurkirat Singh pushed his classmate away. The bus driver reported the incident to Gurkirat’s school. The Coalition has written to the school’s principal requesting that the school investigate a possible bias motive for the attack and request that the school follow investigatory procedures mandated by New Jersey’s new anti-school bullying law.