American Sikh: Towards a more Perfect Union City Club of Cleveland - April 14, 2010
On April 14, 2010 a special program was held at the City Club of Cleveland titled American Sikh: Towards a more Perfect Union.
Jasjit Singh, Paramjit Singh and Dr. I.J. Singh
The three speakers were Dr. I.J. Singh, Professor and Coordinator of Anatomical Sciences at New York University, Jasjit Singh, the Associate Executive Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF) and Paramjit Singh, President of Productive Group Inc.
The City Club was sold out, filled with both Sikhs and others of Indian descent and a variety of other cultures.
Len Calabrese introduced the event
Dr. I.J. Singh told how E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) defines us. Sikhs began arriving in America about 130 years ago. Sikhism was the first religion from India to settle in America during the 1800s. Dr. Singh said, "We are all, in one form or another, just off the boat."
He told of how Sikhs and others worked on the Panama Canal ("The West was not opened by John Wayne types alone), fought in wars for the US and even served in Congress (Dalip Singh Saund elected in 1956.)
He was one of three Sikhs in New York in 1960 and understands that fear of strangers is universal but Sikh scripture teaches "I see no stranger." He urged the audience to "see the us in them and the them in us."
Paramjit Singh told of his journey which led him to Cleveland in 1962.
One potential early employer thought his turban might be a distraction. Paramjit assured him that the others would get used to his turban in a few days but they would be distracted by his good-looking secretary every day.
Sikhs believe in One God, Equality, Freedom of Religion and Community Service. Paramjit explains the 3 pillars of Sikhism in this short video.
Jasjit Singh told how everything changed for Sikhs in the US on September 11th. The photos of Osama Bin Laden with turban and beard and brown skin led too many people to equate Sikhs with this terrorist.
99% of the people wearing turbans in the US are Sikhs from India. Unfortunately even today, Sikhs are often treated as if they were potential or actual terrorists because of the way they look.
The City Club program, and this section of ClevelandPeople.Com, are efforts to help educate people that Sikh Americans are not terrorists. They are teachers, doctors, police, entrepreneurs, engineers - all walks of life. They are not Moslems or Hindus. Sikhism is a distinct religion dedicated to hard work and service to others.
A program such as this is often "preaching to the choir" but it was a good start in helping educate the general public about their neighbors and co-workers in turbans and beards - the Sikhs.