Before the start of the 2016-17 school year, the U.S. Department of Education announced its latest efforts to end religious discrimination in public schools across the country. Officials have launched a new website designed to help families understand their students’ legal rights and updated an online complaint form.
Also, for the first time, the government will begin collecting data on religion-related harassment in U.S. public schools.
A decorated veteran Sikh officer is the first to win an approval from the U.S. Army to continue on active duty while maintaining his religiously mandated beard and turban. The Army issued a decision March 31, concluding that to allow beards for medical reasons but ban them for religious reasons is a discriminatory bar to service for Sikh Americans, according to a statement from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the law offices that argued his case.
Why and how did Greg’s post resonate with so many people on the meme’s second time around the Internet? Why did it take so much darkness before something profoundly positive happened? I think I come back to two powerful resources available to us as a church, if we have the courage to embrace it.
Brian Murphy attended Catholic Mass regularly, both before and after he took 12 bullets while trying to defend a Sikh temple in Wisconsin from a gunman in 2012.
But he says the principles he’s learned from the Sikh temple have helped his recovery.
Now, a Maryland-based Sikh organization has honored the retired police officer for his service when a gunman killed six worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, a Maryland-based Sikh advocacy organization, honored Murphy on Sunday — on Vaisakhi Day, a Sikh holy day — with a Sewa (service) Award, given annually to someone who has contributed to the Sikh community.
Shortly after teenagers beat up a Columbia University physician Saturday, a Muslim woman was attacked a few blocks away.
It is not clear whether the attacks on Dr. Prabhjot Singh and the Muslim woman, who were both treated at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, are related. But many say the motives, if not the perpetrators, are depressingly familiar.
They are part of a long line of assaults on Sikhs, who are sometimes mistaken for Muslims; on Muslims; and, more generally, on people perceived as foreigners.
Quebec’s decision to ban Sikh religious headgear on the soccer field is having national repercussions.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Soccer Association suspended the Quebec Soccer Federation for instituting the ban on religious head coverings, such as turbans, keskis, and patkas. Then the Ontario Soccer Association withheld travel permits for 20 Ontario teams scheduled to play in a tournament near Montreal.
Finally, on Friday, FIFA, the international governing soccer body, said it was authorizing male head covers at all levels of Canadian soccer.
In a conference full of people who champion traditional religious values, Amardeep Singh knew that everyone might not appreciate his recounting of the “uncomfortable” cab ride he had taken the previous day.
Singh, a featured speaker at the second annual National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington on Thursday, told the several hundred attendees that his D.C. taxi driver had the radio tuned to a religiously minded commentator, who was explaining that women become lesbians because they had been abused.
His cab story — both his telling and the reaction to it — reveals fault lines in the coalition of Americans concerned that government and popular culture are eroding religious freedom and trying to banish religion from the public sphere.
U.S. Sikhs are taking heart in a widely publicized Senate hearing on hate crimes and a pledge by the Justice Department to consider tracking hate crimes directed at their community.
The hearing, on Sept. 19, featured Harpreet Singh Saini,18, whose mother was one of six Sikh worshippers killed Aug. 5 when a gunman opened fire in their Wisconsin gurudwara (house of worship or, literally, "house of the guru").
“Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic,” he told a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize.”
Sikhism, a monotheistic faith founded in South Asia, is the world’s fifth largest religion with an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 adherents in the U.S. Male Sikhs often keep their uncut hair bound up in a turban.
The Senate hearing, spurred by the Wisconsin shooting, brought more than 400 people to Capitol Hill, most of them Sikhs.
Funeral services will be held today for the six Sikhs killed at a Wisconsin temple last Sunday. The bodies of the deceased will later be cremated — but their souls will live on, Sikh tradition teaches.
Sikh scriptures don't dwell on what happens after death. Instead, the faith focuses on earthly duties, such as honoring God, performing charity and promoting justice.
"The afterlife is not a primary concern," said Gurinder Singh Mann, a religious studies professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. "It's a very life-affirming belief system."
Still, like many religions, Sikhism includes intimations of immortality.
Founded in 15th-century India, Sikhism was born in the same cradle as Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which posit reincarnation. Like those faiths, Sikhism teaches that the goal is to escape from the cycle of death and rebirth.
But unlike Hindus and Buddhists, Sikhs believe that humans can't liberate themselves through meditation and virtuous living — only God's grace offers freedom from rebirth.
"We don't think that, 'Well, I've done these wonderful things, I get a ticket to heaven,'" said Mann. "That's a divine decision."
Four hundred people gathered across from the White House last night with a single message: “We are all Oak Creek.”
Responding to the murder of six Sikh worshippers, the wounding of four others, including police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, and the suicide of perpetrator Wade M. Page, hundreds gathered to stand with the Sikh community as they invited prayers for the victims, the murderer, and his family. "Tonight, we are not Jain, Muslim, Hindu,” announced one speaker, “we are all Sikh tonight. We are all Oak Creek. We will not allow fear to overcome us."
In a response reminiscent of the Amish during the Nickel Mines, Pa., massacre in 2006, the Sikh community, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not used to the national spotlight in the U.S. But neither do they shy away from an opportunity to introduce their faith to a wider audience and to practice what they preach.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled into the parking lot of a local Sikh temple — or gurudwara— last night, but I assumed it would be culturally enlightening and offer a glimpse into a worldview and religious tradition I have only sparingly engaged. While yesterday was the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity for the victims and mourners of the shooting in Wisconsin, I felt deeply compelled to stand with them in their pain as a follower of the Prince of Peace.
Walking into the gurudwara's courtyard holding my two-year-old daughter’s hand, my wife and two friends were immediately greeted by the priest with a handshake and smile. He thanked us for coming and invited us into the experience that included a short service in the gurudwara and vigil outside to remember the six worshipers who were shot by a man that had never met them. I can only speculate, but if this man would have engaged these people on a relational level at any point, he certainly would have reconsidered his actions.
Much like the response of the Amish after the horrific schoolhouse massacre in 2006, the Sikh community has intentionally chosen to respond to by offering radical love and forgiveness. Although somber, they carried a deep conviction to embrace the way of peace as retaliation for the death of these innocent victims.
Like most people, I was deeply troubled by news of another mass shooting, this time at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., not far from Milwaukee. On the heels of the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colo., this seemed all the more savage to me, given that it took place in a house of worship.
Maybe it’s because my wife and I work in a church and are aware of such vulnerabilities every day, but my first reaction is defensiveness. I want to raise my guard, double-check the locks and do whatever I can to ensure our safety. It’s the response that makes the most sense, after all.
Or is it?
Imagine the terror.
You are in a temple, a safe, sacred place, preparing for a morning service. In the kitchen, you are busy cooking food for lunch, while others read scriptures and recite prayers. Friends begin to gather for the soon-to-start service.
At the front door, you smile at the next man who enters. He does not smile back. Instead, he greets you with hateful stare and bullets from his gun.
Such was the scene Sunday at a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis., just south of Milwaukee, where a gunman, Wade Michael Page, killed six and critically injured three others before being shot down by law enforcement agents.
As Page began his shooting spree, terrified worshippers sought shelter in bathrooms and prayer rooms. Rumors of a hostage situation surfaced, and those trapped inside asked loved ones outside not to text or call their cell phones, for fear that the phone ring might give away their hiding place.
The first police officer to arrive on the scene stopped to tend to a victim outside the gurudwara. He looked up to find the shooter pointing his gun directly at him, and then took several bullets to his upper body. He waved the next set of officers into the temple, encouraging them to help others even as he bled.
That magnanimity is a common theme among the stories of victims and survivors of the Wisconsin shootings. Amidst terror and confusion, Sikhs offered food and water to the growing crowd of police and news reporters outside the gurudwara as part of langar — the Sikh practice of feeding all visitors to the house of worship.
Law enforcement authorities don't know why suspected gunman Wade Michael Page burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., on Sunday and opened fire, killing six before he was shot dead by the police.
But many American Sikhs say they do know this: Their community has been targeted by a growing number of hate crimes since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The New York-based Sikh Coalition reports more than 700 such incidents since 2001. The question is: Why?
"The turban is the main issue here," said Pashaura Singh, a professor of Sikh and Punjabi studies at the University of California-Riverside. "People confuse Sikhs with Osama bin Laden."
Following 9/11, bin Laden and his al-Qaida associates were often shown in media reports wearing white turbans. Combine that with a lack of basic knowledge about the estimated 500,000 Sikhs living in the U.S. and you get tragic — and sometimes violent — cases of mistaken identity.
Ralph Singh, director of publications and public relations for Gobind Sadan — "God's House Without Walls," a spiritual community rooted in the Sikh tradition with locations in India and the United States — responds to the mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh gurudwara that has devastated the faith community.
Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago in India. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair, and male followers of the religion wear turbans, which they consider sacred.
"A Sikh, wherever they go in the world, is committed to building community a community of peace, an inclusive community to stand as an affirmation of what we now call pluralism," Singh says.
Listen to what Singh as to say on a video inside the blog ...
Since Sunday's terrible shooting at a Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee, Wis., faith communities have been extending their support, thoughts, and prayers to the faith community.
As Christians, we are called to be a voice for peace and nonviolence — to stand against a culture of violence that has allowed for two such hateful acts in three weeks. We at Sojourners extend our deepest sympathis, our prayers lifted high, for all of those affected by the senseless tragedy.
Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
For the unbearable toil of our sinful world,
we plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved,
we plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your creation,
we plead for resurrection.
Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
— from Common Prayer
Please comment here to add your thoughts and prayers.
Americans cheered when Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., won a gold medal on Tuesday in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition, but at least some American Jews likely cheered a little louder.
“For people who are part of a minority, to see one of your own have this international recognition gives you enormous satisfaction and pride,” said Rabbi Keith Stern of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Mass., where Raisman has worshipped since childhood. “It lets you say, ‘Look at what we’ve managed to do.’”
Members of minority faiths in the U.S. — Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs — are rooting for U.S. Olympians and also saving a few extra cheers for their co-religionists, both Americans and athletes from other teams. Before they go to bed or when they wake up, they scan lists of medal winners and competition results, looking for names that might sound Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.
In a sense, religion isn't supposed to matter in who a fan roots for, said Harold U. Ribalow, author of three books about Jewish athletes, trying to answer that question. But, he added, the evidence was overwhelming that people like to see those from their own groups do well, especially in the root-for-the-underdog world of sports.
Sikh civil rights activists will unveil a mobile phone application next week (April 30) that they say will allow travelers who believe they have been profiled by airport screeners to file complaints directly from their cell phones.
The New York-based Sikh Coalition launched the app project after a steady increase of complaints about unfair treatment at U.S. airports. Sikh men do not cut their hair as an article of faith, and their turbans have been met with suspicion by some Transportation Security Administration personnel.
The group emphasized that that the “FlyRights” app is meant to help Sikhs and other religious and racial minorities who have been subject to profiling, such as Muslims, South Asians, Arabs, blacks, and Latinos.
FBI officials say they are willing to consider a proposal from a coalition of Muslim and interfaith groups to establish a committee of experts to review materials used in FBI anti-terrorism training.
The coalition raised the idea during a Feb 8 meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who met with the groups to discuss pamphlets, videos and other anti-terrorism training materials that critics say are either Islamophobic or factually incorrect.
"We're open to the idea, but they need to submit a proposal first," said Christopher Allen, an FBI spokesman who was in the meeting.
Groups at the meeting included the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign.