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Punjabi Sikhs

  • Jasbir Singh Kang (1962?–present)

Jasbir Singh Kang (1962?–present), a Sikh doctor in Yuba City calls for harmony

In the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many Sikh Americans have experienced harassment and discrimination, ranging from suspicious looks and slurs to physical attacks.

In response to this, Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang, a Sikh medical doctor in Yuba City organized candlelight vigils to pray for peace and harmony in America. He has appeared on many radio and television shows appealing for peace. He also helped produce a documentary about the history of Sikh Americans, whom many people know little about and mistakenly think are Muslims.

In connection with Dr. Kang’s work in the community after September 11, the mayor of Yuba City invited him to give a speech to the local citizens about his feelings about being an American. A transcript follows:

My name is Jasbir Singh Kang. I am a physician living in Yuba City for last 10 years. I have been bestowed this honor by our mayor, Mr. Doolittle, to speak on what I think about being an American. Before I came here, I had read about America. President Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were, and still are, heroes to me. I had read about America’s fight against injustice and oppression. I had read about the Civil War, where brothers had fought against brothers to end slavery.

Fifteen years ago, I came to this land of opportunity, drawn to this country perhaps by its material success and wealth. But what I have found instead is priceless. I found justice and fairness. I have found human dignity. I found tolerance and love. I found generosity of spirit, a country that rewards hard work. And I found perfect freedom in this great bastion of democracy built upon the bedrock of a solid trust in God.

So how did it mesh with my own beliefs? Perfectly, because my Sikh way of life has three golden principles: hard work, sharing, and always remembering God. And my Sikh faith teaches me to fight oppression. Our history is rich with sacrifices. Our forefathers have given their lives to protect other religions and freedom of speech. Sikhs have fought alongside the allied forces in World War I and World War II. Even today, many of our children, brothers and sisters are serving with the U.S. Armed Forces. Our Sikh anthem —Deh Shiva Var Mohe — “Oh God, give me this one gift, that I may never refrain from doing what is right.” My faith also teaches me to treat all human beings as one. It values gender equality. It respects all religions and faiths.

So, as I was saying, my name is Jasbir Singh Kang. I am an American by choice and a physician by training. My job is to save lives without judging them. Yuba City and America are my home.

I have been asked to speak on what I feel about America, my home. How do you feel about your home? Of course, I love it. It is my shelter and comfort, a place of joy, warmth and peace. But how do you feel about your home after someone evil with hate has just killed part of your family? You feel sadness, you feel anger, you feel a resolve building to fight the evil that caused this. You pray for comfort through your pain. You want to hunker down and start rebuilding. And then how do you feel when all this pain inside you, your own family members look at you with suspicion because you were adopted into the family and into this home and look a little different. You may be a little darker in complexion, or you may wear a turban on your head, or your clothes are different. Would you feel that you have been disowned — left homeless? Your pain and sorrow knows no end.

So, I say to you, fellow Americans, look into your hearts for a place for those who look different from you. For they are your brothers and sisters, too. Embrace them and comfort them. They have the same blood running through their veins. They cry, too, when they see pictures of firemen rushing up smoke-filled stairways. They grieve, too, for the fathers and mothers, children, spouses, brothers and sisters lost in this senseless act of violence. They are sad, too, at this attack on freedom.

So, fellow Americans, treat everyone with love. We Sikhs have a prayer that says:

“Jin prem kio tin he prab pieo — Only those who love, realize god.”

Once President Nixon said, “Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them — and then you destroy yourself.” Please don’t let evil split our great nation along parochial lines, for this is not a war between religions. It is a war between good and evil, between freedom and fear. Goodness and freedom will prevail.

Fellow Americans, our greatest wealth is not material wealth. It is our freedom. Believe me, I know what it is not to be free, I know the pain of being shackled.

Let us not let those evil terrorists take our freedom away. I can say that all freedom-loving Americans no matter of what faith or religion will be united in this battle. You can count on all of us.

So in ending, I would use the words of my hero Abraham Lincoln: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom …. shall not perish from the earth.” God bless America, my home sweet home.