The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that defends Sikh civil rights in the United States, educates the broader community about Sikhs,, promotes local community empowerment, and fosters civic engagement amongst Sikh Americans. The Coalition serves as a resource for all organizations and individuals as well as a point of contact for the Sikh people.Contents
The Sikh Coalition's mission is to: Provide all citizens with the information and tools necessary for them to safeguard their fundamental rights as free citizens and make the most of the democratic process Advocate cultural diversity and stand against racism while advocating social justice, equality for both sexes, and human rights for all peoples Foster organization and civic engagement within the Sikh community to enable local empowerment and activism Provide Sikh organizations, Sikhs, and others with the skills and resources necessary to help organize, coordinate, and implement an effective and sustained Coalition effort
Under its charter, the Coalition pursues a broad range of proactive engagements in various forums to address the need to educate the broader community. The Coalition focuses its efforts in the following program areas of Community Relations, Education, Government Affairs, and Legal Affairs; in addition, the Coalition engages in, and promotes other organizations focused on, Human Rights, Women's Programs and Youth Outreach
The Sikh Coalition has been extremely active in each of these areas under a banner of education, advocacy, and protection. There is often overlap between each program area, thus the majority of the Coalition's work is collaborative in nature between the program areas and its member organizations. The ability to mobilize at a grass roots level by leveraging the various cross-functional program areas is the Coalition's greatest asset.
The U.S. Congress institutionalized the term “Sikh-American” when it unanimously passed a resolution initially drafted by the Sikh Coalition that specifically condemned hate crimes against Sikh-Americans on October 17, 2001. The U.S. Department of Transportation enacted regulations, co-drafted by the Sikh Coalition, that govern the searches of Sikh airline passengers. Rajinder Singh Khalsa filed the first civil suit by a Sikh hate crime victim asking for monetary compensation from his attackers. 18 Sikhs were spared criminal convictions for carrying their kirpans with the help of the Sikh Coalition. Amric Singh and the Sikh Coalition filed and won a lawsuit against the NYPD for not allowing him to wear his turban on the job. The Sikh Coalition created an online hate crimes database that houses over 400 complaints of discrimination.
The Coalition hired the community’s first and only full-time Legal Director to fight Sikh community discrimination cases. Over 5,500 agency officials, police officers, teachers, human resources professionals, and college students have received training from the Sikh Coalition on Sikhs and Sikh practices. The Coalition has conducted trainings for the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, New York City Police Department, International Monetary Fund, and United Airlines. Over 6,800 people visited the “Sikh Community, Over 100 Years in the Pacific Northwest" exhibit co-organized by the Sikh Coalition at the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle, Washington. The Sikh Coalition's Diversity 2nd Annual Diversity Essay Competition attracted 1600 essays from around the world. The Coalition has distributed over 20,000 of its “The Sikhs” brochures. The popular brochure has been translated into English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Translations in German, French, and Chinese are pending. Over 400 print articles have been written on the Sikh Coalition’s work and Sikh discrimination issues since 2001. Many major newspapers have written about Sikh concerns. Over 30 television and radio news pieces on the Sikh Coalition’s work and the Sikh discrimination issues have appeared on all the major broadcast networks. After the Sikh Coalition led a world-wide protest, the video game maker, Eidos, pulled images of Sikhs being portrayed as terrorists from its Hitman 2 video game, the most popular video game in America in 2002, as announced
Issues Tackled by the Sikh Coalition
The Sikh Coalition has attempted to address many issues affecting the Sikh-American community. To name a few:
- Hate-crimes against the Sikh community living in the United States (particularly after September 11th, and the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, Sikhs faced many hate-crimes due to mistaken identity)
- Bullying in schools against Sikh students, particularly in the New York area
- Racial profiling in airports many times by the Transport Security Administration (TSA)
- Employment discrimination against Sikhs, where employers many times would claim a Sikh with a turban and beard intact would not fit the company "profile"
- Sikhs in the US army campaign, where Sikhs were made to be accommodated by the US army after lobbying by the Sikh Coalition, after a rule made by the US army after many years
- Many more...