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The Pew Forum, through their recently released “US Religious Landscape Survey,” provided information regarding a niche that the US Census manages to avoid: religious affiliation. You could imagine my excitement as I clicked on religions.pewforum.org to check it out and learn what the survey found in regards to Sikh Americans.

And that’s when it all started moving in slow-motion.

“Main page.” I scan through it. “Where’s the category for Sikhs? Okay, no worries. Perhaps we’re buried in the ‘Religious Composition of the US’ table in Chapter 1.” I move the edge of my finger over the mousepad ever so slightly so as to scroll down the page inch by inch. “It’s there, it’s there,” I tell myself reassuringly. “Wow, categories for Eclectic, a little bit of everything, own beliefs, New Age and Native American. Okay, seriously, where are we?” I shoot back up to the top and carefully re-scroll downwards. “You wouldn’t want to publicly hate on a survey for no reason. You’re definitely missing it.” I re-read the text. No luck. Re-loading the page doesn’t work either. “This can’t be for real.”

The record in my head came to a screeching halt.

After going through the entire frickin report I feel comfortable declaring that Sikhs were not included as a category in the study. We are neither a religion, an other world religion, an other faith nor an unaffiliated religion. I don’t get it. Out of the 35556 people over the age of 18 surveyed not one Sikh was reached? We weren’t away from our phones having post-Vaisakhi celebrations between May and August of 2007 (the time period the survey was conducted). How we got shafted remains uncertain.

It’s one thing for you and me to not be able to experience the joy that comes from seeing statistical data published on Sikhs. And trust me, our joy is of major importance to me. But it’s entirely problematic when a survey of great political importance snubs a huge percentage of the American diaspora.

…Muslims rival Mormons as having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India. (NYT, Feb 26)

I hate to admit that certain groups are lobbied in greater preference than others and politicians cater to certain groups for self gain, but it’s sadly the nature of the beast. Our exclusion from this study is a big loss for our community. We must make sure that this isn’t repeated again. Speak up, people.

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Many like to joke that mini-Punjabs exist in some Canadian cities. It’s understandable when you review the stats: of the roughly 64,000 South Asians in Brampton, Ontario, 34,000 speak Punjabi. According to census data, 135,000 Sikhs reside in Vancouver alone. Sikhism also constitutes the largest religion in Surrey, Vancouver, making up 16.3 percent of the population. Numbers alone, however, aren’t enough to attract influence. The growing Canadian Sikh community garners significant political support because it is able to organize effectively, raise substantial funds, and contribute to its local and national economy.

In 2005, it was announced that a new hospital, the William Osler Health Center, would be built for the Brampton community. Under the public private partnership (P3) funding formula used to build the new hospital, Bramptonites were required to raise 30% of the building’s total cost of $536 million. Canadian Sikhs, along with local Hindu and Muslim communities, eagerly came together to show their commitment to the future of local health care. Canadian Sikhs generously pledged $10 million for the hospital. A “Better Health Radiothon” broadcast on Punjabi radio stations raised more than $3 million (nearly $1 million in the first 90 minutes!). The Sikh community in particular was recognized when officials announced the name of the Emergency Department as Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department. The Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department greeted its first patient in July 2007.

It appears that Guru Nanak Dev Ji is causing a stir not only in Brampton but in hospitals across the land of the maple leaf. The Guru Nanak Healing Garden, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, occupies the fourth floor of the Alberta Heart Center.* Two weeks ago, Surrey Memorial Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia announced that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s name “will adorn the main entrance of the new emergency centre in recognition of the importance of Surrey’s South Asian community and its support of hospital fundraising efforts.” “By naming the entrance of this Surrey Memorial Hospital centre after Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we are saying this is a place for everyone,” said Premier Gordon Campbell after making the announcement.

Which hospital in the United States will be the first to jump onto the movement? A better question may be which proactive American Sikh community can foster enough support on the outside and camaraderie from within to move forward with such a proposal.

*Note comments below.

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch released a damning joint report against the Indian government titled “Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India” along with a slideshow and video testimonials.

Lots of links to click on above, but definitely worth taking a look at each carefully.

As much as I love my Armenian brothers in System of a Down (SOAD), please don’t think like me and conjure up images of rock stars when you hear the word Armenian. Rather, I’d like you to consider this: Interesting how Armenians have creatively switched gears from directly confronting their Turkish-government-in-denial to instead lobbying their US Congressman to declare that the Ottoman Empire authorized and committed genocide against their ancestors. Yes, it may have taken twenty years for Armenian-Americans to get the attention of their legislators and draft a bill. And yes, the chances of the bill being passed by the House are slim to none in our current geopolitical climate. Yet our community may want to take note of this as an example of how powerful we can be if we organized ourselves as one voice with specific and unified goals and employed our collective votes and lobby machines in the same manner. And we shouldn’t forget the role of rock stars: the guys in SOAD have held demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to fight for recognition of their history. Perhaps a Sikh band similar to SOAD could get together to remind people of our “forgotten” history as well.

What can you do right now to be part of the movement? If you’re downright lazy, register to vote. Have a bit more energy? Register to vote and join a rock band.

I’m not the biggest Bush fan. And with his approval rating hovering around 24%, I don’t think many of you are either. Yesterday, however, Mr. Bush managed to get my respect. (But only for a moment. Too bad he had to screw it up with his ridiculous press conference banter earlier in the day.)

President Bush became the first US leader to appear publicly with the Dalai Lama despite threats by the Chinese government that such an event would bring about “a severe violation of the norms of international relations.” The White House acknowledged China’s displeasure with the event by not releasing photographs of the two leaders at a private meeting on Tuesday. Yet, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was presented with the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal as Bush praised him as a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepard of the faithful, and a keeper of the flame for his people.” Photographs of the ceremony were released this time around. Talk about a diplomatic dance to the death.

So the Chinese are pissed that the US honored a man who promotes so-called secessionist activities and political unrest towards the motherland. And the Chinese may be partially correct in their thinking as the CIA contributed millions of dollars during the 1960’s to support the exiled Tibetan administration in India. We have a lot to lose by further angering the Chinese; they could totally kick our rear-ends by supporting governments we’re trying to destabilize or by diverting their capital surplus away from underwriting our ever-growing debt.

Yet, in the midst of this tortuous love-hate relationship, each party has somehow humbled himself to ascribe to the message of gratitude. We showed our love to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama gave us some love in return. The Dalai Lama passed some love over to India while expressing no hatred towards the Chinese. The Chinese didn’t show much love to anyone but toned down their rhetoric somewhat. I even had a moment where I respected the Bush administration.

Whether Christian, Sikh, or Buddhist, lame duck president, spiritual leader or civilian, we each have unique qualities that can be celebrated and shared. I could have come to a similar conclusion and been spared of the sillyness of this week’s news if I had just remembered that Guru Nanak Dev Ji devoted himself to highlighting the oneness of humanity by exploring the differences that separate people. That he promoted open discourse and interfaith dialogue without press secretaries and journalists meddling in the process. That it is possible to co-exist while respecting what makes each of us distinct. That ultimately all of creation has the same origin and end and that during the short time we experience life through human-form we should practice being tolerant, humble, honest, and compassionate towards one another.