Wisconsin: GURBANI KAUR
A Sikh-American Teenager's Angst
As a teenage Sikh-American youth, I am obligated to speak out against injustice, ignorance and religious intolerance.
My heart shrank in disgust as well as sadness as I watched news reports of the shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin unfold before my eyes. I am flabbergasted that someone would commit an act of violence, completely unprovoked, against any worshipper at any house of worship.
Like the majority of Sikhs residing in the United States, I was born here and am an American citizen. I owe my allegiance to this country and am just as loyal as any of my fellow Americans.
The very American ideals and values of freedom and sacrifice for one's country are paralleled by the teachings of Sikhism. The three basic principles of Sikhism are to work hard to earn an honest living, to share one's earnings with others through charity, and to remember our almighty creator, the Lord of all. The Sikh word for God is Waheguru.
Since the 9/11 attacks, which occurred when I was in the first grade, I have felt obliged to practice a great deal of parchaar -- educating non-Sikhs about my faith -- because of the misguided association of the Sikhs with terrorism.
This past December, I was honored to fulfill the request of my Global Scholars teacher to give a presentation on Sikhism and the Golden Temple to my classmates and the faculty members who chaperoned my school's India trip.
After my presentation, I, with the help of my family, gave my peers a guided tour around the Golden Temple complex and inside the Harmandar Sahib itself.
I knew my efforts were fruitful when, in between my presentation and the beginning of the guided tour, my Global Scholars teacher and another chaperone went to a local turban shop and purchased Sikh turbans for themselves, asking the shop owner to help adorn their heads with the Sikh crown.
For the rest of the day, they wore the turbans -- an article of clothing whose mistaken association with terrorism has caused the hate-crimes against Sikh-Americans since 9/11.
Through my experience as a young Sikh-American, I have come to understand the meaning of Eleanor Roosevelt's wise admonition: "With great freedom comes great responsibility."
In order to fully exercise our freedom of religion as Americans, Sikhs and other people of faith need to take responsibility for educating their fellow citizens, uplifting one another from the swamp of misguided ignorance that plagues our nation.
I appreciate President Barack Obama's kind gesture of ordering the American flag to be flown at half-mast for the five days until August. 10. I appreciate the empathy Sikhs have received from the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
I would also like to emphasize our gratitude towards the first responders, who put their lives on the line to protect the Sikhs of the Oak Creek gurdwara -- especially police Lt. Brian Murphy, whose heroic actions as the first to arrive on the scene have left him in critical condition.
Please help spread the word and honor the lives of Paramjit Kaur, 41; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Prakash Singh, 39; and Suveg Singh, 84, who died in the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting.
And let us all extend our support and prayers for the safe and timely recoveries of Bhai Punjab Singh, Santokh Singh and Lt. Murphy.
Gurbani is a High School Senior at Hathaway Brown in Ohio, USA, and looks up to Mai Bhag Kaur. Her elder brother Akaljot Singh is a sophomore at Columbia University and her sister Sukhmani Kaur is a 7th grader. She hopes to pursue a career as a physician, following in the footsteps of her parents Dr. Deepjot Singh and Dr. Hanspreet Kaur. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Review.
August 9, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Sandeep Singh Brar (Canada), August 09, 2012, 1:24 PM.
Gurbani Kaur, you are a great ambassador for the Guru and your initiatives to educate others are an inspiration for us all. This is the only way that we can change things and educate others, not by complaining about everything that's wrong, but by asking yourself, 'what can I do' and than doing it. Your parents choose your name well.