California Enacts Legislation to Protect & Honour Sikh-AmericansSTEPHEN MAGAGNINI
Blue, green, saffron, red, pink and black turbans crowded around California's Governor Jerry Brown on the north steps of the Capitol in Sacramento on Saturday when he signed two bills designed to battle anti-Sikh discrimination.
"Breaking down prejudice is something you've got to do every day, and to help us do that, I'm going to sign a couple of bills," Brown told an enthusiastic crowd of 500 Sikh-Americans from as far away as Texas and Colorado. "Sikhs everywhere can see in California they are a powerful presence."
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, Assembly Bill 1964 by Assembly-woman Mariko Yamada, Democrat from Davis, ensures that employees receive equal protection under law, protecting workers who wear turbans, hijabs and yarmulkes. In California, employers faced over 500 cases of religious discrimination in 2011.
Brown but honored the countless Sikhs who have given their lives in a long history of struggle for religious freedom both in India and the United States.
Brown also signed Senate Bill 1540, sponsored by Senator Loni Hancock, Democrat from Berkeley, changing how history and social sciences are taught in schools so that students learn about the history, tradition and theology of California's Sikhs.
Education can blunt hatred, prejudice and fatal misunderstandings, such as the massacre of Sikhs outside a Wisconsin gurdwara last month, Brown said.
Since the Gold Rush of 1849, California's been built by waves of immigrants – including Sikhs and other Punjabis, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Mexicans, and Europeans – Brown said.
"My own great-grandfather came here in 1852 from Germany and didn't speak English," Brown said. "He was driving a stagecoach from Placerville, then called Hangtown. ... There's always new and different people coming around – they speak 113 languages in California," Brown said.
"Both bills represent landmark achievements that will increase protections for all religious observers in the workplace and expand awareness of the 100-year history of Sikhs in California," said Balbir Singh, president of the Sacramento Gurdwara.
Yuba City's Didar Singh, one of the biggest growers in California, took the stage wearing a blue turban and noted how liberally Sikhs set aside money for charity and paid huge taxes.
"When we die, the money stays here," Didar Singh reminded the group.
[Courtesy: The Sacramento Bee. Edited for sikhchic.com]
September 10, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Jaspreet (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), September 10, 2012, 7:51 PM.
I am a little concerned about what is going to be taught about the Sikhs. Apparently various religions have had concerns about what was being taught in California textbooks. Sometimes it is better not to be taught about than taught about wrongly. For instance, I would not want it to be taught that Sikhism is an offshoot of this or that. There are Hindus making claims that Sikhism is a part of Hinduism, some Muslims saying Guru Nanak converted to Islam and Sikhs need to be convinced of that, and now some Christians saying the Sikh scriptures tell Sikhs to worship Jesus Christ. Besides that, I would have a problem if people said Sikhs believe in caste without it being mentioned that in India Christians and Muslims also delve in some caste practices (and of course, the truly practising Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians don't, as all three religions preach egalitarianism). No information at all is better than misinformation.