Education Politics

It is Here : November 2011 Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month

Greetings to one and all on the Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav in the month of November! The Sikh Council of Central California is celebrating Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav 18-20 November, 2011 in Caruthers, California.  Considering a befitting tribute on this occasion, the Sikh Council of Central California is organizing an informal conversational style seminars on Saturday, November 19 that is dedicated to spreading Sikh Awareness in schools,  whereby local school superintendents, administrators and  teachers  will meet the parents of school going children to discuss ways and means to work together for the good of all. So parents of currently school going children please note and must attend for the sake of their children.

Celebrating the birth of founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, in the month of November is one of the most auspicious months, not only in the history of the Sikhs, but also for humanity as a whole. Guru Nanak Dev Ji laid the foundation for the core beliefs of the Sikh religion through questioning many rituals and traditions that were accepted as fact during this time period. It gave the world a new way of thinking through the Sikh religion, which in such a young age has now become the fifth largest religion worldwide. Illama Iqbal (Sir Iqbal),  the most learned philosopher and cherished poet of all times wrote a couplet about Baba Nanak, (one can do a PhD thesis on it), ” Phir utthi Aakhir Sda Tauheed Ki Punjab Se,  Hind Ko ik Mrde Kamil Ne Jgaiya Khaab Se ! Wounded by the Great Poet’s poetry, I as a humble poet added my two liner, ” Oh Khaab Phir Supne bne, Such Vi, Sakaar Vee, Os Jago ne Bchaiee Hind see Azaab Se !  Bernard Shaw, one of the most renowned philosophers, playwrights, and satirists of the 20th century, once wrote that if this world was destroyed because of a nuclear war and few people survived, the only religion capable of guiding them to rebuild would be the Sikh religion. When asked why the Sikh religion couldn’t save the world from being destroyed in the first place? He replied that it could, but the Sikhs did not let its message to spread out.

All over the world wherever the Sikhs now reside, November has traditionally been the month to rejoice. Since the 9/11 attacks however, the followers of the Sikh religion, especially living in the “West” have had conflicting emotions. The terrorist attacks continue to affect us, not just as Americans, but as Sikhs with a visual presence because of our religiously mandated beard and turban. Images of a bearded and turbaned Osama bin Laden, immediately following the hijacked planes crashing into the Twin Towers being continually broadcast on television stations created the impression that Sikhs were the face of evil, resulting in numerous hate-crimes predominantly against Sikhs.

The Sikh religion has never been about spreading our message or of converting people. There is no such thing as a Sikh missionary or Sikh missions. It is perhaps for this reason that although Sikhs have served in both World War I and II, fought for England, France, and the United States, been living in the United States since the 19th century, and are involved in virtually every aspect of society the world over: politics, music entertainment, police and military, education, government, small business, agriculture, people still don’t know who the Sikhs are.

In a misguided act of “patriotism,” on September 15, 2001, Frank Roque wanted to “kill a Muslim” and ended up shooting and killing gas station owner, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a proud Sikh American, father, husband, brother, and small business owner in Mesa, Arizona in the first “backlash fatality.” And all because he “looked like a Muslim to him.” The irony that none of the 19 hijackers who committed this terrorist act that no sane member of any religion has ever endorsed, has largely gone unnoted as discrimination against Sikhs continues, despite many strides in the right direction being made.

Balbir Singh Sodhi cold blooded murder has been euphemistically described as a “backlash fatality,” and the mistaken identity of the Sikh identity resulting in other “backlash” hate crimes, is also described in various euphemistic language. None of it has been covered in any depth by any national media outlet.

Ten years later, in April of 2011, in an unfathomable turn of events, Arizona Governer, Jan Brewer, was seriously deciding on signing a bill to remove Balbir Singh Sodhi’s name from the state’s 9/11 memorial and sell his memorial plaque as scrap metal! Thankfully, because of Sikh organizations like SALDEF and the word getting out through social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter, Brewer vetoed the bill, but the fact it was being considered is cause for alarm itself (read about it here).

Most recently this year (2011), two elderly Sikh gentlemen were shot and killed while going for a walk near their homes in Elk Grove, Sacramento, California. Nothing had been taken and they were targeted solely because of their Sikh identity.

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