Sikh Running for US Senate Gives Statement on Sikh-related Issues
Special to SikhNet
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa
December 31, 2003
Dr. Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria, a Sikh running for US Senate in the state of Illinois, issued a statement last week outlining his position on issues of importance to the US Sikh community.
In his statement, Dr. Kathuria called for tightening existing bias-crime reporting laws so that, "accurate statistics can be recorded and hate-based activity accurately tracked and countered." He also expressed his support for anti-hate crimes legislation, including the “End Racial Profiling Act” and the “Hate Crimes Act” which are currently under consideration.
Dr. Kathuria also committed to improving the employment climate for minorities and to addressing immigration reform. "From an economic standpoint, it is much better to crack down on illegal immigration and increase the amount of legal immigration," Kathuria said.
"I am also very sensitive to the issue of employment and workplace discrimination," he said. "We need to reach out to business leaders, and showcase the diverse cultures that have contributed to this great country of ours. Through education and focusing on positive role models, we can impact work environments to reduce discrimination."
Dr. Kathuria also expressed his willingness to work positively on the Sikh community's behalf, especially in relation to the US's war on terror - supporting reforms to better target terrorists without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Americans.
The complete statement given by Dr. Kathuria is given below.
Dr. Kathuria is one of seven candidates running in the Republican primary for the US Senate seat in Illinois. The primary election will be held on March 16th. For more information about Dr. Kathuria's campaign, visit www.kathuriaforsenate.com.
Senate Primary Candidate Dr. Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria on US Sikh and Indian Issues
"Like many Sikhs, my parents came to America to seek the American Dream and find opportunities for their children. I am an American, I am a Sikh, and I am proud of my heritage. As a practicing Sikh, I hope that my campaign for the US Senate will help educate the American public about the Sikh community.
In addition to representing all of Illinois, I will have the special responsibility as a minority to represent those without a voice.
Nearly a half century ago, Dalip Singh Saund made history as the first Indian (from Sikh roots) elected to the US Congress. If an Indian can be elected to the House, why not the Senate? My campaign will be about breaking down barriers and addressing issues that the mainstream media has underreported.
Many Sikhs ask me why I am running as a Republican. While racism exists in all parties, it is not often reported that Republicans—the Party of Lincoln—have historically been the party that fought discrimination and worked to provide justice and social equality for minorities. In 1964, nearly 90% of Republican Senators voted to pass the landmark Civil Rights Act, but only 60% of Democrats did so. Illinois Republicans such as President Lincoln, Senator Everett Dirksen, and Governor Stratton were champions of minority empowerment. As Senator, I will make sure the Republican Party stays true to its roots as a champion of human rights and liberty.
The concerns of the Sikh community are very important to me. A quarter-century ago, I helped set up many of the landmark Sikh camps in Windsor, Florida. I’ve also been a featured speaker at the Sikh Leadership Conference – speaking to youth last year in such far-reaching places as California, Washington, D.C., Ottawa, and Toronto.
It is important people live freely without fear of persecution or discrimination because of their ethnicity or religion. Since September 11th, many American minorities – Arabs, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arabs or Muslims, such as turban-wearing Sikhs – have had to endure hate-based backlash attacks, work place and social discrimination. I am concerned with these issues and will support legislative initiates that enable all people to work and live without fear and discrimination.
I am against all hate crimes. Currently, there are federal laws in place that require local law enforcement to keep data on bias-related crimes but they are flawed and have loopholes which allow crime data to be filed away without being documented. I support correcting these laws so that accurate statistics can be recorded and hate-based activity accurately tracked and countered. I support enacting anti-hate crimes legislation such as the “End Racial Profiling Act” and the “Hate Crimes Act” which are currently under consideration. To ensure such legislation passes, we must elect Republicans and Democrats alike who support sensible laws and vote to enact them.
Another way to tackle the hate issues in America is through education. Many Americans have positive views of Sikhs they meet in person but others form their opinions through fictional Sikhs they see in movies. Education about our similarities and differences is the best way to prevent hate crimes. Electing someone like me with a turban and a beard sends a strong message that people shouldn’t associate terrorist activities around someone’s appearance. I support education initiatives at the school and college levels that seek to create a positive climate of tolerance, understanding and acceptance.
I am also very sensitive to the issue of employment and workplace discrimination. We need to reach out to business leaders, and showcase the diverse cultures that have contributed to this great country of ours. We must highlight the great business role models we have in the minority communities. Through education and focusing on positive role models, we can impact work environments to reduce discrimination.
Furthermore, I believe in the right of all people to practice their religion freely. I encourage businesses to create work environments that are respectful of people’s religions – whether it is the right of a Sikh to wear a turban on the job or the right of a Muslim to take a few moments each day to recite prayers. I support legislation such as the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act” that requires employers to respect the religions of their workers.
It is also imperative that we work to improve the employment climate for minorities. When Dalip Singh came of age in the 1920s, he couldn’t even practice farming on his own because of anti-immigrant sentiment, and had to purchase land in his wife’s name. We’ve come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. Many Americans are concerned today of the number of technology jobs that are leaving the US and moving to India. We can implement some of the lessons we have learned in Illinois through the creation of tax-free zones to attract business investment. I support an aggressive plan to help Illinois be a business leader in the 21st century.
It’s also important that we finally address immigration reform and find ways to create a safe, orderly, and well regulated flow of legal immigration to the US so people can come here and benefit from the American economy. From an economic standpoint, it is much better to crack down on illegal immigration and increase the amount of legal immigration. From an economic standpoint, the government plan of cutting H1Bs is too drastic at this time.
For the state of Illinois, I would work to link our small businesses and farmers into the international market. I would also encourage the development of high-tech industry in the state, using Illinois institutions such as IIT, University of Illinois and other technical academic powerhouses in concert with Chambers of Commerce to support the development of Illinois as a cutting-edge leader in the field of technology – building a Technological Frontier.
Another issue for which a Sikh American Senator could bring a unique perspective is the war on terror—especially on reforms to better target terrorists without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Americans. In 2002, the State Department released a video titled, “Terrorism: A War Without Borders” which depicts Sikhs wrongly. Over 15,000 copies of this video and accompanying curriculum material were distributed to middle and high schools around the country at a time when the Sikh community was being targeted by bigotry. I am concerned that this video could have the unintended affect of creating backlash and prejudice against Sikh American children who have no connection to the incident mentioned in the video. I support the Sikh community in its effort to press the State Department to recall the video and curriculum that have already been distributed. I would lobby the State Department to work with Sikh representatives to correct the inaccuracies in the present video and curriculum and in any future releases.
Finally, as Senator I would work to address human rights and champion freedom. In the 20th century, India has produced the world’s two great humanitarians - Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa died in Calcutta, all people equally mourned her. As a U.S. Senator I will use my influence and work with the Indian government to resolve human rights issues. The approach being taken in India by the National Committee for Minorities maybe a good centrist approach. I would also like to help resolve the Indian-Pakistan conflict. India and Pakistan are sovereign nations. I support the Peace processes made by each country to resolve the situation. I laud the actions that both the Pakistani and Indian government have taken in the War against Terrorism, and I commend Prime Minister Vajpayee’s leadership. India has become a model for entrepreneurship and prosperity in the 21st century, and for that, we can all be proud."
Sikh Running for US Senate Gives Statement on Sikh-related Issues