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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.

You can hear more of Manpreet Singh here. Even better: listen to his entire album “Take It All.”

How do we personalize the message of Gurbani? The following short film argues it can be accomplished by learning our script, Gurmukhi, and engaging it with our history:

The message of the Gurus was conveyed in a language and vocabulary that the listener could understand and also develop an emotional bond with. The focus was on communicating the revealed message to spiritually and socially uplift the listener. The adoption of a local language as a symbol of group identity is well illustrated by the contributors of the Guru Granth Sahib. The use of a different language by the same contributor is a sign of a distinct religious and political group. It is a signal of unity in everyday circumstances.

The Guru Granth Sahib is a treasury of old dialects and languages spanning over 500 years. The oldest specimen of the language is from 12th century by Bhagat Jaidev whereas the latest is from the 17th century by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. At minimum, the Guru Granth Sahib is one of the world’s greatest collections of languages and anthology of divine poetry and repository of classical music.

Gurmukhi holds great historical significance. It is the vehicle of a scripture that belongs to a distinct faith which speaks against inequality; the script emphasizes the accessibility of religious teachings to all. By understanding the context, meaning, and grammar of our written and spoken language and learning our history we may begin to personally and directly interact with the divine… which means I have a lot of work to do.

So the last few posts have been pretty heavy which means I probably lost your interest completely. It’s time I get it back.

Twenty-four year old Californian comedian and soon-to-be-movie-star Harvin Sethi is part of a 4-comic comedy troupe in a show that aims to “ease religious tensions through laughter and a healthy dose of political incorrectness.” Titled Make Chai, Not War, the Indian-American comedians (Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and Jewish) threw out jokes to an equally diverse crowd on April 28 in the D.C. area. Co-creator Azhar Usman commented that “some of the comics have a deep commitment to interfaith and bringing communities together. For others, it’s probably just another gig” (newsblaze.com). Although Harvin clearly identifies himself as Indian, here’s hoping he’s also part of the former. And if not, well, it doesn’t bother me much: he’ll win you over with his laughs as well. Here’s a great one from March 2005: The Power of the Jatt.*

*Uh oh, I might have made your Caste-is-Bad bell go off. Remember: this is just for laughs.

A probing public service announcement made by the folks at rethinkbias.org/A 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.

Back in March, The Pluralism Project, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and the Harvard Migration and Immigrant Incorporation Workshop cosponsored the screening of A Dream in Doubt, a documentary chronicling Rana Singh Sodhi’s (brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the first post-9/11 hate crime murder victim) journey to bring attention to his own tragedy and the ordeals faced by Sikhs in America after 9/11 through education, self-courage, and leadership.

Oops. You didn’t make it to the event. No worries! The film is being screened again, not once but twice! in the Boston area:

Friday, April 18, 2008 at 7:00 PM
First Church Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist
6 Eliot St., Jamaica Plain

Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 2:00 PM
Rabb Lecture Hall, Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St., Copley Square

But, wait! There’s more!

Take action by supporting more comprehensive hate crimes legislation. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) is a bill that has been passed by the House but not by the Senate. And you know what that means: we need to speak up, raise our collective voice, and tell our representatives to approve it already! E-mail your senator urging him/her to support this bill.

Special thanks to punjaban for always keeping the sangat in the loop.

A group of athletic and like-minded Sikhs in Texas make up the roster of Team Khalsa. Each player signs a contract promising to abide by the teachings of the Guru Granth: to not smoke, drink, do drugs, or cut one’s hair.

Check out the orange jerseys and all those awesome layups and passes. (Fast forward to 3:45 and you’ll see what I mean.) Now how heavy is that?!

Forget your NCAA bracket predictions. Bet on these guys to make a scene and join the Facebook group instead.

The first novel written in Punjabi has been adapted into an animated film!

If this is the musical score then the movie is sure to rock.

Published in 1898 Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundri (or Sundari) was written with the aim of “boosting the morale of the Sikhs [of their own history and cultural heritage] after the downfall and subsequent annexation of the kingdom of Punjab.” Written with a literary rhythm and flow I could only hope to emulate, Bhai Vir Singh paints Sundri as a heroine who embodies the Khalsa virtues of discipline, courage and compassion through her strength as a woman and her fighting and equestrian spirit.

Read the short story for yourself.The movie is to be released in May and June 2008 in different cities across North America.

An image of a young Sikh man is plastered on a wall in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. Nice. I’ve been debating whether to identify him because it would take away from the idea that he represents all members of the Sikh faith. But after some thought (and acknowledging the entertainment factor it would add), I gave in. He goes by Sandeep “Sonny” Caberwal and has a blog of his own. He’s the co-owner of Tavalon, a tea bar in New York’s Union Square. There’s a Facebook group you can join if you’re a fan. He’s a tabla player on Thievery Corporation’s third LP release. He’s also in the promo below. And, no, I’m neither working with the paparazzi, stalking him, nor a part of his entourage.

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.

The wonderful folks at SALDEF developed and recently released a video designed to help law-enforcement agencies become familiar with Sikh customs and principles. It illustrates various scenarios in which law-enforcement personnel may interact with Sikhs (i.e., Mr. Awesome Kirpan Wielding Sikh awaiting assistance for his crappy Jeep’s flat tire, Mr. Sharp Looking Off-Duty Sheriff Sikh photographing Famous Government Structure, Mr. Regular Dude Sikh walking through security at an airport) and also addresses the proper etiquette to be observed when handling an article of faith or entering a gurudwara.

The video highlights both the Sikh community’s desire to correct public misperceptions and the welcoming attitude of government agencies in furthering cultural competency within their ranks. Hopefully, this video will prevent future mishaps and misunderstandings by maintaining free-flowing dialogue between both groups.

I have to admit that this video also serves some selfish purposes because of its general applicability: I think I may show it to anyone who asks me “so tell me about Sikhs.” And the SALDEF folks will get a little plug as well. Superb.