Religious discrimination and hate crimes against the Sikh community in the United States have increased in recent years, a leading human rights expert tells lawmakers urging the administration and the US Congress to take action to address it. end.
“Congress must act,” Amrith Kaur Aakre told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties at a recent congressional hearing on discrimination and civil rights.
Aakre is Legal Director of the Sikh Coalition.
“Discrimination at work harms Sikhs in a range of public and private sector jobs, including transport, entertainment, health care, military and law enforcement, by allowing interpretation and application biased by government policies and laws.
“We have seen Sikhs willing to risk their lives to defend their cities and their country, only to be told that uniform and grooming policies prohibit their articles of faith,” she said.
“We have seen Sikhs forced to cut their hair for work-related drug tests, even when alternative means are readily available.
“And we have seen Sikh first responders in the fight against COVID-19 forced to shave their religiously mandated beards instead of being provided with proper and safe personal protective equipment that does not interfere with their faith,” Aakre said. .
Regardless of the specifics, time and time again these policies are interpreted in a way that disproportionately impacts minority communities and our system allows that to continue, she said.
“We also receive reports from Sikh travelers of inappropriate requests to remove Articles of Faith, discriminatory comments from TSA agents and other profiling profiles at our airports,” she told reporters. legislators.
“This is a humiliating barrier for Sikhs and other religious and racial minorities, members of the transgender community and others. And additional discriminatory practices like the no-fly list and lingering effects of the previous administration’s Muslim ban continue to perpetuate profiling against too many people,” she said.
Responding to a question, Aakre said TSA profiling for Sikh Americans and other minority groups has always been a problem.
Bias against travelers is prevalent at every stage of the travel process and it starts with TSA agents not receiving adequate training in TSA policies or cultural competency, which is evident from the moment where many stigmatized groups arrive at the airport and have to go through behavioral screening before reaching security.
In response to another question from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, she said American Sikh students experience high rates of bullying and harassment in our country’s public schools and continue to receive and document national reports on school bullying.
“Sikh boys who wear turbans are called terrorists and girls are mocked for having long hair. And many of these children are subjected to violence.
“Our research shows that the majority of Sikh children, over 50%, have experienced bullying at school. Over two-thirds or 67% said they had been bullied at school and Sikh children with turbans been bullied at more than double the national rate,” Jackson Lee said.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who is the first and only South Asian American woman elected to the House of Representatives, said 9/11 forever changed what it means to be Muslim, Arab or South Asian American in America. .
“In the days and weeks that followed, I received chilling calls from individuals in the Sikh, Muslim and Arab American community who were being attacked for wearing turbans or hijabs. I heard from moms and dads who were afraid to send their children to school, a fear I shared for my own child,” she said.
Jayapal declared his resolution, H Res. 629, recognizes the climate of hatred that Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Sikh communities have experienced since 9/11 and calls for action to address the lasting impacts of the event.
“I hope this hearing will become one step among many to examine and ultimately dismantle 9/11-era policies that have perpetuated and exacerbated discrimination against these communities,” she said.
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