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Now That Osama bin Laden is Dead ...
The Roundtable Open Forum # 65

by I.J. SINGH

 

 

The following article constitutes the topic for this week's Roundtable Open Forum # 65. 

 

Osama bin Laden is dead. 

America was after him and with good reason. So his death at the hand of Americans is not so shocking or unexpected; what surprises many is how long it took.

While some may argue that Osama's movement, Al Qaeda, takes life from our policies in the Middle East and the perennial Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it probably owes just as much to the regressive and autocratic regimes of that area to which the Western nations have too long been connected because of the imperatives of oil and energy.

Whatever the genesis of the conflicts in that part of the world, there is absolutely no excuse for terrorism against unarmed and innocent civilians and that is what Al Qaeda did when its operatives set forth the disaster on 9/11 about a decade ago.

Now that Osama is dead, what is the global Muslim community thinking? In America? All over the world? Will Al Qaeda's terrorism end? Will the nature of terrorism change?

Likely not, to both.

Should we in America be expecting heightened terrorism? Probably no less than before.

What comes next and how should I, a Sikh-American, react?

First, I am satisfied that justice has been done; Osama, who directed the killing of thousands of innocent Americans, has now met his end as he should have years ago. 

Secondly, as a Sikh, I am profoundly concerned. The past ten years have seen many hate crimes against innocent Sikh-Americans, including murder and harassment on the streets or at work, by patriotic but misguided Americans who could not tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim follower of Osama.

Do you think there would be more hate and bias crimes against Sikhs now that once again the turbaned and bearded visage of Osama bin Laden would likely dominate public space for the next several days or weeks?

We would need to be vigilant and proactive in our communities and in liaising with local police and authorities. Any preventive measures we can initiate would be more useful than a bunch of protests and copious hand-wringing after the fact.

Prevention, history and common-sense assure us, are safer, less expensive and more effective. But what exactly to do?

Undoubtedly there are matters that demand a long-term sustained strategy but they must be accompanied by quick short-term fixes and responses as well. The challenge today?

List some that are do-able.

Should we be looking to SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and SRI to take the lead? Or can our gurdwaras play a meaningful role? Do we go on a massive public relations campaign with adverts in newspapers and other media?  Do we seek out connections with media and interfaith groups? Do we look for a quick fix through available political connections? Or are there other means available to us?

It's time to time to act ... and sooner rather than later.

We welcome your comments on the issues raised hereinabove, as part of this week's Roundtable Open Furum (# 65). Please post your thoughts below. 

 

May 3, 2011 

Conversation about this article

1: Harinder (Uttar Pardesh, India), May 03, 2011, 6:39 AM.

Sikh-Americans: brace your self for the "innocent bystander" effect. My suggestions: a) Educate all Americans. b) Go to every single house in the U.S. and introduce yourselves. c) Invite them home for all your get-togethers and parties. d) Show them that you too love America.

2: Brijinder Singh (New York, U.S.A.), May 03, 2011, 11:20 AM.

I think "the Fox News" effect is the more appropriate term. I do not expect incidents against Sikh-Americans to increase or decrease until this war is over. I also don't think I need to go out of my way to show that I love America, simply because I wear a turban.

3: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 03, 2011, 12:02 PM.

That Osama's death may have unexpected and uninvited consequences for Sikhs is no doubt true, but to my mind, the possibility of being subjected to violence because of mistaken identity and hate crimes is an ongoing issue. It requires a well thought out strategy and not a hasty response to an an individual event. The strategy has to be centered around relentless communication - I use the word relentless purposefully. Communication through education: public forums/ panels/ seminars/ interfaith dialogue. Privately, becoming active (politically as well) in your local community, maybe running for office - in other words, be a good brand ambassador for Sikhi. We need an organizational mechanism like the World Sikh Council - AR which can serve as a conduit for our issues-based organizations like Sikh Coalition/ SALDEF/ United Sikhs and SikhRI to our gurdwaras (WSC has 45 gurdwara members). If these groups can learn to work together instead of jockeying for position or personal glory, and work for the larger cause (even if it means taking the back-seat sometimes) I believe we could give the Sikhs a unified voice that will be impactful.

4: Bibek Singh (Jersey City, U.S.A.), May 04, 2011, 6:29 AM.

Here is the Muslim reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death: - "American Muslims Islamic Society of North America Welcomes Justice For 9/11 Victims (Plainfield, IN: May 2, 2011). The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) joins all Americans in thanking President Obama for fulfilling his promise to bring Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, and perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, to justice. Saudi Arabia - Victory for Justice: For the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden's death is like the lifting of a curse. We hope his death will bring some relief to all the families, of every faith and walk of life, who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in every other terrorist attack orchestrated at the hands of Osama bin Laden."

5: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), May 05, 2011, 6:46 PM.

Until and unless Sikh organizations such as United Sikhs, SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, WSO, and SCORE, etc. come up with a common agenda to teach the American people about Sikhi (turban, etc.) by means of advertisements in newspapers, metro trains, TV, etc., there will be always misunderstanding against turbans and Sikhs. Sikhs may learn the example from U.S. Muslims who have started putting ads in the media. Sikhs need to focus on the turban ... it is an instant vehicle for education, even while itself being an issue that requires education.

6: Tirlochan Singh  (India), May 11, 2011, 11:07 PM.

There are many Osama bin Ladens around the world, in India as well as in every society today. My Muslim friends tell me that Islam is a religion of peace. Hope they can influence their brethren to live and let live in peace. Mankind has to learn to live as brothers.

7: Satwant Kaur (Green Island, New York, U.S.A.), May 14, 2011, 12:53 PM.

I'm am born and raised in the U.S. I think, and most Americans agree that Osama bin Laden's death was the justice due for the evil acts that he led on 9/11. I hope that it will accelerate ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an American, I know that terrorism will not end with bin Laden's death as much as I know that as a Sikh-American that this will not end Sikhs being viewed as a 'red flag' or with an eye of caution by other Americans. So, as America fosters more emphasis on actionable intelligence gathering that resulted in bin Laden's death, we as Sikh-Americans must emphasize a multi-prong approach on participating in our local communities as well as supporting education through our national Sikh organizations. Before 9/11, I had to educate everyone I met about Sikhism, and after 9-11 nothing has changed. Locally and individually, we have a responsibility to go to town fundraisers, PTA meetings, political gatherings, be a coach, and volunteer in runs, etc. I personally think that forming strong bonds with the local community is the best way to solve this problem.

8: N.S. Khalsa (Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.), May 27, 2011, 3:10 PM.

Agree that there is a lot left to be done by Sikh-Americans to educate the masses and particularly provide diversity training to law enforcement agencies. While there are several Sikh organizations in the nation, not all of them are involved in the same kind of work. Besides, these organizations DO work in sync with each other on issues. I have to disagree that this is a "personal glory" issue for these organizations. Just as in the commercial world, competition is healthy to produce the best product or service. Likewise healthy "competition" between NPOs is vital to keep them on their toes and constantly growing. Monopoly, while seemly desirable in this case, will only result in a poorer service. One of the biggest challenges for these Sikh organizations, particularly those dedicated to Sikh civil rights and advocacy, is funding to do what they do best in providing outreach, education, and diversity training to various groups. As small a number as Sikhs are in this nation, the onus is upon us to all be ambassadors of the Sikh faith to eliminate xenophobia through education of others. To do so we have to become visible participants in society. Get involved at the local community levels and also state and national. Volunteer at soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, and numerous other organizations out there. Some others on this forum have given their views as well on how to become more involved. Journalists and news organizations need to be educated too. For three days the media (Fox News particularly) were showing images of Osama juxtaposed with a Sikh gentleman who happened to be arrested in Rhode Island off a train for carrying a kirpan. Irresponsible journalism has to be challenged. Organizations like SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, etc. are the right vehicles for us to challenge the media. 9/11 pushed us into the spot-light in the eyes of the nation and the world based on our looks alone. We must do what we can to become proactive to help prevent the kind of backlash the Sikh community experienced.

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 65"









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