New Jersey declares April as Sikh Awareness Month

Washington, March 29

The US state of New Jersey has declared April as ‘Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month’ as part of its effort to promote awareness of the faith.

New Jersey’s State Assembly made the declaration in a joint resolution this week, saying it was an effort to combat the “increasing and unacceptable levels of anti-Sikh bigotry”.

“The month of April of every year is designated as ‘Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month’ in the State of New Jersey in order to promote public awareness of the Sikh faith, recognise the important contributions of the Sikh community, and combat anti-Sikh bigotry,” the resolution said.

The resolution was adopted unanimously by both the New Jersey House of Representative and the Senate.

The state wants to acknowledge the lasting contributions of the Sikh people and the essential role they play in New Jersey’s diverse community, a media release said yesterday.

This state assemblies of Indiana and Delaware adopted similar resolutions earlier in the month. But unlike New Jersey they declared the month of April this year as the Sikh Heritage Month and Sikh Awareness and Awareness month, respectively.

The resolution noted that despite their progressive principles and charitable deeds, the American-Sikh community commonly experienced discrimination, often by individuals who are unaware of the beliefs and practices of the faith.

“Nearly 60 percent of Americans admit to knowing nothing about the religion or its practitioners, and national rates of anti-Sikh bigotry rose dramatically following the September 11th terrorist attacks,” the resolution said.

Sikhs disproportionately experience school bullying, with estimates indicating that over 50 per cent of all Sikh children, and roughly 67 per cent of turbaned-Sikh children, endure physical or verbal abuse while at school, it said.

In New Jersey, a Sikh student’s turban was set on fire by a classmate at Hightstown High School in 2008.

The resolution said that deadly assaults against the Sikh community had become all-too-common occurrences across the country.

“Although the Sikh-American community continues to peacefully overcome each attack on its cultural identity, the State of New Jersey is now compelled to promote public awareness of the Sikh faith and memorialise the lasting contributions of its Sikh residents,” it said. PTI

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