Kelly found an article on Boston.com recently about the new application for smart phones that allows people to report a complaint if they feel they have been treated unfairly by the TSA. It was created by the Sikh Coalition, who saw the need for it probably because so many Americans, including many of those who should know better, can’t tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim.
Of course, if an ordinary Joe Schmoe doesn’t know a Sikh when he sees one, that is one thing. That’s just typical stupidity and ignorance. But when police officers, TSA officials, Federal agents, or other trained security personnel don’t know the difference, that’s when Sikhs find themselves subjected to “random” searches and extra scrutiny. All they see is a brown-skinned man with a beard and a turban, maybe with an accent, and that is all they need to know. It is shockingly racist and ignorant to select anyone for extra scrutiny just because they are Middle Eastern or Muslim, but even more so in my mind to do it because you mistakenly think someone is Middle Eastern and/or Muslim when they are not. And it is also a waste of time and valuable resources to detain or search people based solely on their appearance rather than their behavior.
It reminds me another article I read a couple of years ago about how, for the first time in almost thirty years, a Sikh completed Basic Combat Training for the U.S. Army without giving up the articles of his faith. Specialist Simranpreet Lamba completed Basic back in 2010, and had been preceded by two other Sikhs who were officers. But I am particularly proud of the enlisted soldier, who went in to be a combat medic and last I heard had been assigned to a battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Hoo-ah, Spc. Lamba.
For those of you who might be interested, the Sikhs have a long and distinguished tradition in the armies of several countries: the U.S.; Great Britain; Canada; and of course, India. One unit that comes to mind for me immediately is the 4th Indian Division, the first unit from India to go overseas and fight in World War Two. That division distinguished itself in North Africa, East Africa, Syria, and Italy. It was the Madras engineers in the 4th who invented the famous Bangalore Torpedo to clear barbed wire. After World War Two when India became independent, the unit became part of the Indian army.
Anyway, the point is that Sikhs have made superb soldiers in the past, and there is no reason that they should not be allowed some dispensations to serve without violating their faith. I hope that this is a sign of things to come. As we continue to evolve as a country our military should continue to be more inclusive. The Sikh religion, as I understand it, is fascinating to me for its respect of justice. They believe that is a duty of all Sikhs to defend anyone who is persecuted or unjustly oppressed, regardless of their religion, race, etc. They believe in equality for all people. I hope I am not overly simplifying it, but that is how I understand some of it.