Racist Abuse: Sikh Boy bullied and Called 'Terrorist' on school bus
- Palatine, IL, March 27, 2015/NRIpress-Club
Palatine, IL,: It was a Red Letter Day for the members of Sikh Religious Society, Palatine
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez Visits Sikh Gurudwara to Address Hate Crimes:
- State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez named Amrith Kaur Aakre one of her Assistant State's Attorneys, who handles the office's diversion programs and trains law enforcement about the Sikh community
- State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez named Rajinder Singh Mago, a Sikh American community outreach and public relations activist, to her Asian American Advisory Council.
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago, as Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez visited the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) on Sunday March 22, to showcase her initiative “Hate Crimes Advisory and Prosecutions Council.” The council will advise her to take preventive measures to stop hate crimes in her jurisdiction. The Sikh community will have a voice in the council.
Mrs. Alvarez was greeted by the society president Dr. Jasbir Kaur Saluja, community leaders and congregation members. The purpose of her visit was to build relationships and develop partnerships with the Sikh community plagued with hate crimes.
In a press conference while meeting with the Gurdwara board and community leaders, packed with mainstream major media reporters and cameras, she and her associates were given an educational presentation “Who Are the Sikhs?” by Amrith Kaur Aakre highlighting the salient features of Sikh Religion, with emphasis on equality of mankind. Through the presentation, valuable bits of information were shared such as the fact that post 9/11, Sikhs bore the blunt of bullying and hate crimes. Efforts to stop hate crimes and bullying within the Sikh community were discussed.
The State’s Attorney Alvarez was visibly moved after watching video of a 12 year old Sikh boy in Georgia being taunted and bullied in a school bus by his peers for wearing his Sikh article of faith, a turban.
Mr. Kuldip Singh Makker said, “The 12 year old boy in the video is actually my grandnephew. He came home crying many times saying that his classmates mocked him daily.” Makker added that, “all this is due to intolerance and misinformation.” Mr. Makker suggested educating the youth at an early age about diversity and other cultures around us including Sikhs as part of the curriculum.
Sue Walton, an elementary school teacher from neighboring Rolling Meadows said, “By bringing this into the curriculum of school, the age-old debate of the separation of church and state is put squarely in the picture.”
Satnaam Singh Mago responded, “It’s the Judeo Christian mindset that is hesitant of teaching other cultures.” He addressed this as the reason why people become misinformed and react in ways we see today. He brought up the Boston Bomber story and how the media hastened to broadcast a picture of a Sikh man labeled on the screen as terrorist, who had been mistakenly arrested in connection to the crime at first, prior to nabbing the actual perpetrators.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez addressed the congregation of Sikh Gurdwara Community Center. Alvarez said that her office is working to educate the community and local law enforcement offices about the Sikh community, which is often plagued by hate crimes.
"We've seen an increase of hate crimes in Europe and so that makes us kind of have a concern as to what is going to happen here," she said. "The Sikhs suffered with the shooting in Wisconsin in 2012, so we're always worried that something like that may happen here so we want to be ready for it."
Anita Alvarez said that, “As a State’s Attorney, it is my job to reinvigorate efforts to raise awareness. Hate crimes go unreported and have a ripple effect on the entire community.”
To this effect she announced that she has named Amrith Kaur Aakre one of her Assistant State's Attorneys, who handles the office's diversion programs and trains law enforcement about the Sikh community, is familiar with the Gurdwara Sahib, having attended it while growing up in West suburban Wayne, to the Hate Crimes Advisory and Prosecutions Council.
She said the chief focus on the Hate Crimes Council will be creating and maintaining proactive partnerships with communities typically targeted in hate crimes.
The Sikh Community was gratified to hear her mission when she said, “"My goal is not only in prosecuting hate crimes when we become aware of them, but also in bringing together important voices to develop a community-based plan that works to raise awareness about hate crimes and also strives to prevent them."
Mrs. Alvarez stated that, “The rate of reporting of these hate crimes has lessened despite the fact that the FBI tracks these crimes. People do not report because they may be too embarrassed. It’s the responsibility of the council to help these people see that they are not alone.”
She also named Rajinder Singh Mago, a Sikh American community outreach and public relations activist, to her Asian American Advisory Council.
"I also understand that the issue of hate crimes is a significant concern to your community and I want to emphasize my commitment to combating this issue as your state's attorney," said Alvarez.
"The Sikh congregation, felt that their voices are being heard as some concrete steps are taken and ensuing plans to tackle hate crimes against them are laid out by the County’s highest legal authority. Hopefully, the menace of hate crime will be uprooted from the society so we all can preserve the delicate fabric of American togetherness," remarked Dr. Hardarshan Singh Valia a Sikh from Highland Indiana visiting the Palatine Gurdwara.
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with 25 million followers. For comparison, Judaism is the sixth largest, with 15 million.
Amrith Kaur Aakre said Sikhs promote equality and, at its founding, was committed to abolishing the Indian caste system. One of the marks of the faith is the wearing of the turban, which has become a target for religious intolerance.
"There has been a significant amount of negative media post 9/11, and there is still that perception that many turban wearing individuals in the U.S. are Muslims, Middle Easterners somehow connected to terrorism," Aakre said. "We know that none of these things are true, but that misperception has led to the significant number of incidents and the rise of hate crimes and bullying within in the United States."
"We do not mean to say that since we are not Muslims so leave us alone and go after them, but our stand is that no innocent person no matter what faith they belong to should be the target of hatred or violence," said Rajinder Singh Mago.
Statistics from the Sikh Coalition show that more than two-thirds of Sikh students are victims of bullying, Aakre said.
Satnaam Singh Mago, a young Sikh man spoke of his own experiences as a child being bullied and the conflicts he faced growing up.
"You go to school and you want to be American. You're at home trying to be Indian, there is so much pressure trying to balance two lives," he said.
"The suicide rate is actually comparable in the Sikh community to the gay community," he added. "The misinformation that comes with the turban, with the Sikh community is costing us our boys, our girls. These stakes really are high for us," he added.
Mrs. Alvarez was given a tour of the facilities, Langar Hall (community kitchen), and children’s Sunday school.
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