On September 2, 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a bill (initiated by the Sikh Coalition six years ago) that will significantly enhance religion-based protections for employees working in New York City. The bill, called the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act” by supporters, will change the legal standard by which courts review claims of religious workplace discrimination by public and private city employees. Now this law will still allow employers to deny religious accommodations, but only by proving that such accommodations would constitute a “significant difficulty or expense,” as opposed to a “minimal difficulty or expense,” as the previous law allowed. Council Member Mark Weprin (D-Queens) is the law’s primary sponsor. Present at the signing were representatives of the Gurdwara Sant Sagar and the Sikh Coalition, whose joint efforts, along with Council Member Weprin, allowed this historic bill to pass.
This change in city law tracks a national movement to enhance federal employment discrimination laws. Every year, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduces a federal “Workplace Religious Freedom Act.” While efforts to change the standard at the federal level have not yet seen success, both state and local municipalities are moving to adopt a more faith-friendly workplace accommodation standard.
“This [law] sends the message that people should not have to choose between serving our city and adhering to their religious beliefs. All Americans should receive the full embrace of our country’s constitutional freedoms,” said Council Member Mark S. Weprin.
Sikh Coalition Launches Unheard Voices of 9/11 Websit
This past August, the Sikh Coalition was proud to launch the Unheard Voices of 9/11 website, in conjunction with the upcoming 10 year anniversary of September 11th. Members of the Muslim, Sikh, South Asian and Arab American communities not only endured a horrific attack on the United States by terrorists, but are continually subject to attacks from fellow Americans in the form of hate crimes, employment discrimination, school bullying, racial profiling and other forms of discrimination in the wake of 9/11.
These stories of discrimination have gone largely unheard or dismissed, but this website is meant to give these victims a voice. To be a part of this movement, please share your voice on how discrimination has affected you since 9/11. Record a 2-3 minute video or write a short testimony and upload it to: http://www.unheardvoicesof911.org/.
Coalition Holds 9/11 Hearings in New York and California
On August 20th in New York and August 27th in the California Bay Area, over 200 community members from the Sikh, Arab, Muslim and South Asian American communities - as well as government officials, advocates, and scholars - came together for two separate hearings to reflect on the realities of post-9/11 bias. Spearheaded by the Sikh Coalition, and billed as the Unheard Voices of 9/11, the hearings in New York City and Mountain View, California featured testimony from individuals impacted by backlash discrimination, including targets of school bullying, job discrimination, and profiling, and panels that included the Chair of the New York City Council Immigration Committee, attorneys from the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Asian Law Caucus, and the San Jose Police Chief, among many others.
As the nation mourns the victims of 9/11 one decade ago, it is important for the mainstream media to also pay more attention to communities impacted by post-9/11 discrimination. Please do your part by uploading your testimony to our Unheard Voices website. Click here to make your voices heard.
Sikh Youth Group Leads Workshop on Bullying
This past August, six members of the Sikh Coalition’s youth group, the Sikh Youth of New York (SYNY), spent their first summer at Camp Chardi Kala, one of the longest running Sikh camps in the United States. There they participated in a week of Sikhi-related educational activities, along with 195 other Sikh youths from across the East Coast.
Additionally, they had the honor of leading an anti-bullying workshop for 80 Sikh youths, which included presenting a video that they had developed on bullying, which outlined their experiences and message on bullying in schools, and sharing a Know Your Rights brochure that they had prepared to educate Sikh youth on their rights as students and on how to respond to bullying in schools.
The anti-bullying workshop was very well received by camp participants and the discussion that followed revealed the considerable number of bullying incidents that Sikh youths face in schools. The Sikh Coalition extends its gratitude to Camp Chardi Kala for their leadership in providing a safe and fun environment for Sikh youth to learn and discover Sikhi, and to discuss their experiences on bullying. As always, we urge Sikhs everywhere to fearlessly practice their faith. If you or your children are being bullied, teased or physically hurt at school because of your Sikh identity, please contact us immediately at email@example.com.
9/11 Educator Resources Include Sikhs
The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding has created one a kind educational resources on the aftermath of 9/11, and religion-based bias that has affected numerous communities in this last decade. Tanenbaum has had over ten years of experience in creating instructional materials for teachers which are used in schools nationwide.
These materials are meant to be used by both teachers and students, to "promote critical analysis and support educators addressing these sensitive topics." The Sikh Coalition was asked to take a lead role in providing information for many of the topics including the Sikh experience: World Religions, Opposition to Places of Worship & Religious Practices in the U.S., and Hate Groups/Hate Crimes/Bullying/Harassment. To read more about these resources, please visit https://www.tanenbaum.org/prepareny.
Sign the Petition: Tell Congress to End School Bullying
The Sikh Coalition, in collaboration with dozens of national organizations comprising the National Safe Schools Partnership, is promoting a proposed federal anti-bullying law known as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. If enacted by the U.S. Congress, this law will require schools and school districts to collect and publicize data about incidents of bullying and harassment. This reporting system will create incentives for school officials to protect students and allow government agencies to quickly identify schools and school districts where problems exist. If you want to support our efforts to create a safe and healthy learning environment for all children in the United States, please click here to sign a petition to your members of Congress.
Sign Up Now for Our New York Bowl-a-thon!
The Coalition is hosting its second annual New York City Bowl-a-thon on Sunday, October 23rd! Sign up now to participate in this awesome event. Register your team or join an existing one!
Save the date: October 23rd from 5:00 - 7:00pm, at Frames Bowling Alley in the 42nd Street Port Authority. Come have fun with friends and family, and support the Coalition's work! We look forward to seeing you there!
Sikh Coalition In The News:
The Coalition has been busy this month, and we have been honored to have our work showcased in numerous media journals and websites. Below is a sampling:
- August 16, The Wall Street Journal - Bill Takes Aim at Turban Ban
- August 17, NY1.com - City Council Passes Bill to Prevent Religious Discrimination in Workplace
- August 17, Gothamist - Sikh Cops Fight For Right to Wear Turbans, Grow Beards
- August 18, The Huffington Post - NYPD Turban Ban Will Be Challenged By New Bill, Sikh Coalition
- August 21, NY1.com - Community Hearing Focuses on Racial Discrimination Following 9/11 Attacks
- August 26, Newark Patch - Community Hearing on Post 9/11 Prejudices to be Held Saturday in Mountain View
- September 1, INDOlink - New York Law to Ensure Freedom to Sikh Employees
- September 2, IndiaWest - A Decade of Bias Voiced at 9/11 Hearing
- September 3, TwoCircles - US Sikh Group Highlights Post-9/11 Bias with Video Wall
- September 6, NY Daily News - Website, Created by Sikh Coalition Co-Founder, Collects Tales of the 9/11 Backlash on Minorities
- September 6, South Asian Focus - Religion Based Protection for Workers in New York
- September 7, CNN - American vs. America: Sikh-American Recalls Backlash of 9/11