UNITED SIKHS, a United Nations-affiliated Sikh advocacy and human development group, just released their Global Sikh Civil & Human Rights Report, which summarizes the results from surveys completed by Sikhs around the world:
This past year, challenges to Sikh civil and human rights included:
- Belgium and other countries maintained policies that did not officially recognize the Sikh religion;
- Sikhs and other religious minorities are still precluded from manifesting their external religious identity in schools in France;
- Racial/Religious profiling of Sikhs and other minority groups who wear religious head coverings became more extreme in the United States with the implementation of new airport security mechanisms;
- India continues to disregard Sikh genocide/crimes against humanity from 1984 -1995; Indian Constitution does not recognize Sikhism as a distinctive faith;
- This year, persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan worsened and directly impacted the Sikh population faced persecution and forced conversion.
Coinciding its release with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, this report demonstrates the civil rights issues that Sikhs face not only in their country of origin (India), but across the globe.
Given its geographic scope, the actual number of respondents seems somewhat low (333 surveys), however, major issues are identified. It is an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn about the challenges that Sikhs face, internally and externally.
The report lists several issues that Sikhs are experiencing in the United States:
- Hate crimes (especially post-9/11), as Sikhs in the United States report a higher incidence compared to those in other countries
- Religious and racial profiling by law enforcement entities
- Employment discrimination against the turban, beard and kirpan (sword that baptised Sikhs wear)
- Rejection of Sikh articles of faith
- Bullying of Sikh school children
- Lack of identification of “Sikh” as a category in the US Census
- Prisoner’s rights in US prisons, particularly when it concerns Sikh articles of faith
The report is especially timely, considering the recent story about a baptised Sikh youth who was banned from wearing his kirpan in a Michigan school, as well as the national headlines generated when a group of Sikhs in Canada were not allowed entry into Quebec’s legislature buildings on the basis of carrying their kirpans.
UNITED SIKHS puts these issues in good context:
The ability of the Sikh community to practice its faith freely is a good litmus test of freedom for those that manifest their religious identity. UNITED SIKHS finds in the Global Sikh Civil & Human Rights Report 2010 released today that Sikhs and other minority communities across the world are finding protections steadily declining for freedom of religion, especially with respect to external identity.
You can download the Global Sikh Civil & Human Rights Report here.