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From the Sikh Regiment’s sacrifices in WWI and WWII to the current Sikh presence in the United Nations’ security force and Canadian Army, Sikhs have had a long history of serving selflessly in armed forces throughout the world with turbans and unshorn hair and beards intact. To serve in the United States Army, however, a practicing Sikh is forced to compromise his identity and relinquish the basic tenets of his faith. The Sikh Coalition is leading a campaign calling the United States Army to end discrimination against the Sikh identity and allow Sikh-Americans to freely serve their nation. G.N.E’s poetic, revolution-driven, and soulful song Souljas Story is the perfect backdrop to the cause.

Show your support by signing the petition here.


A probing public service announcement made by the folks at More Perfect Union/Virginia Interfaith Center (probably with the help of both SALDEF and Sikh Coalition) is being streamed on TV stations across the Virginia/D.C. area.

Watch “Airplane” here.

Dramaticized? Reactionary? Exaggerated? Yeah, a little bit. (And perhaps I showed my own ignorance when I first saw it and thought hey, why is that Jack Bauer/Kiefer Sutherland dude being such an awful character?) But it relays the message clearly to the viewer: education and outreach are the answers to ignorance and intolerance.

A pain assessment usually begins with the following question: on a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your current level of pain? During a long day of asking people to describe and illustrate their pain through words I tried to find a bit of humor by imagining whether this scoring system could be adapted and applied elsewhere…

Twenty-five years ago, when Kanwaljeet Anand was a medical resident in a neonatal intensive care unit, his tiny patients, many of them preterm infants, were often wheeled out of the ward and into an operating room.

The journey of a Sikh and his career is described in a main article in this Sunday’s Times magazine. Wow. +3 points.

Known to all as Sunny, Anand is a soft-spoken man who wears the turban and beard of his Sikh faith.

The author highlights the physical emblems of our faith. +2 points. Yet, what did this comment add to the article? -1 point. I wonder why Singh was omitted from his name. -1 point.

Anand says he does not oppose abortion in all circumstances but says decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

How do Sikhs approach the issue of abortion? Is all life, no matter whether he will be born with defects or endanger his mother, entrenched with a blessed spirit? How do we feel about aggressive medical care for those nearing the end of their lives? Is this in some way meddling with Waheguru’s plan for our destiny? +5 points for getting us to think about this.

In the push to pass fetal-pain legislation, Anand’s name has been invoked at every turn; he has become a favorite expert of the anti-abortion movement precisely because of his credentials. “This Oxford- and Harvard-trained neonatal pediatrician had some jarring testimony about the subject of fetal pain,” announced the Republican congressman Mike Pence to the House of Representatives in 2004, “and it is truly made more astonishing when one considers the fact that Dr. Anand is not a stereotypical Bible-thumping pro-lifer.” Anand maintains that doctors performing abortions at 20 weeks or later should take steps to prevent or relieve fetal pain.

My, what an observation. He is not a stereotypical Bible-thumping pro-lifer. -0.5 point.

Total: 7.5 points. A considerable amount of pain on a scale of 0 to 10, but not bad on my imaginary scale of a good read that raises awareness of our community and promotes open discourse on important issues that are often pushed aside.

Don’t put your air guitar down just yet. Singing shabads and playing tabla and harmonium may lead you to realize your dream of becoming a rock star and playing side by side with bands like Rage Against the Machine and Ozomatli. Sonny Suchdev of Outernational proves it’s possible.

Suchdev is not only a musician, but a writer as well. His intimate short essay “The Day My Skin Came Off” details his experience of being harassed as a young Sikh traveling on a Brooklyn train.

Each of us has faced times where our beliefs have been challenged; Sonny is an example of how “staying up” can keep one afloat from unwarranted criticism and how terrible experiences can inspire one to become an activist and promote tolerance and social justice for all.

I love it when I see articles in major newspapers covering issues important to the Sikh community. I’m always hopeful they’ll be positive reflections; however, this article didn’t necessarily bring out the warmest of emotions. Rather, it left me feeling hurt and worried.

Popularity contests, apathy, and laziness are the leading forces behind why one of the most conspicuous emblems of our faith is nearing extinction. Sadly, I don’t think I’m exaggerating. A sense of deep concern is reverberating through our community as seen by the number of Sikh revivalism schemes flourishing as of recent. Young Sikhs can visit “turban clinics” to learn how to tie fashionable turbans. A CD titled Smart Turban 1.0 is being marketed to the technologically hip. “Mr. Singh International Pageants” are being held to celebrate the accomplishments of model Gursikhs.

The gurus taught us to embody an independent spirit by maintaining a unique appearance. A sense of duty, responsibility, and respect naturally follows with the adoption of this identity. It seems that these remarkable and forward-thinking teachings alone are not enough to motivate our youth.

Why do we need to market our article of faith as a fashion statement in order for young Sikhs to keep their kesh and wear a turban? Why can’t we simply accept and respect our unshorn hair as a part of God’s design? Why are we blinded by embarrassment and the need to conform instead of seeing our turban as a crown and symbol of wisdom, power, and knowledge? To single out men and place them at fault alone wouldn’t be fair: what has happened to our mothers, our strongest female presence, who are vital in raising proud young Gursikhs? What are our mothers teaching our daughters, the next wave of women responsible for raising the next generation of young Gursikhs?

As long as our community addresses this issue as one that is complex and demanding of our attention, I think we’ll be okay. This isn’t going to be as easy as tossing in a couple of pills to get rid of an annoying headache. A much more not-so-tasty regimen will be needed to reverse this self-created and self-destructive pathology.