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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Golf Digest" Magazine made Guru Arjan Dev Ji into a Golfing Guru.

Recently the good ol' family was in town for my Cousin's wedding, which were good times had by all. I always enjoy times like this as it allows for all my uncles/aunts and cousins to get together and just forget about our worries. I especially enjoy watching my Parents interact with their brothers and sisters, as they too in ways become like children again enjoying each others company.

However, I was presented one worry during this time that I was totally not expecting. And this worry came from the weirdest place of all… the May 2008 Golf Digest magazine.

My Masi Ji's son, Harjit Singh Sandhar, presented a thought to me after he landed in the DC area from his air trip from Tulsa. While killing time on the plane ride, he decided to open up the latest addition of Golf Digest as he is an avid golfer. While flipping through the pages, he started to read one article called the "Golf Guru." This article allows for readers, like Harjit, to write and pose their various golfing questions. Then the authors then answer the various questions as if they are the gurus to the game of golf, hence the whole "Golf Guru" article a play on

However at the conclusion of the "Golf Guru" article on page 66, Harjit noticed something strangely familiar but couldn’t figure out what. As seen in the scanned image below of page 66, the pictorial image of what is suppose to represent the "Golfing Guru" seemed strangely familiar:

Page 66 of the May 2008 Golf Digest magazine.
Page 66 of the May 2008 Golf Digest magazine, at the conclusion of the “Golf Guru” article.

A closer look…
A closer look…

Harjit and I kept thinking that this image was familiar from somewhere. If you took away the golf club and the golf glove it appeared to represent a Sikh Guru, but we could not pinpoint which one. Harjit kept thinking the image was of Guru Ram Das Ji, but I wasn’t convinced.

So after some thought, I started to think as if I was part of the graphics art team of Golf Digest. Here’s an article on the “Golf Guru,” and they want me to make an image for it? Hmmm… maybe Google images can help out?

With that thought in my mind, I went to Google images and did a search on “guru.” After doing a search, take a look at the far right most image. It appears to be a “guru” like character, as seen in the image below:

Something looks fishy…
“Hmmm, that looks like a guru to me,” thought the graphics arts department at Golf Digest.

However when you click on the image, it becomes very clear where Golf Digest got their inspiration for the “Golfing Guru.” It is none other than the Sikh’s Fifth Religious Prophet, Guru Arjan Dev Ji:

Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Fifth Guru of the Sikh Religion.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who is not a “Golfing Guru.”

And for fun, let’s just do a side by side comparison:

Desecration of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
Sorry Golf Digest, you are guilty.

So clearly Golf Digest didn’t do their homework when selecting an image of a “guru” for their article. They went with their stereotypical gut of what appears to be a “guru” like figure without doing any homework to who Guru Arjan Dev Ji is.

If they had done their homework, they would have realized that Guru Arjan Dev Ji is a major figure for the Sikh religion. They would have realized how he stood for civil and human rights for all people regardless of faith, creed, or gender. They would have realized that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the principle architect for both the city of Amritsar and Harimandar Sahib, which is popularly known as the Golden Temple. Furthermore they would have realized how he was the Sikh Guru who created the first compilation of Sikh scriptures known as the Adi Granth, which laid the foundation for its current compilation known as the Guru Granth Sahib (the 11th and immortal Guru for the Sikh faith) and consists of almost half of his teaching. Furthermore if they did their homework, they would have realized that Guru Arjan Dev Ji compiled a special prayer known as Sukhmani Sahib which calls for universal world peace.

And finally if Golf Digest did their homework, they would have realized that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred for his beliefs that worked to benefit all of society, whether it was a Sikh or Non-Sikh.

But they didn’t do their homework. So what do we get? A doctored image of Guru Arjan Dev Ji as a “Golfing Guru.”

Totally pathetic and sad.

Unlike followers of Islam, Sikhs have allowed for artistic works to represent their Gurus and major historical events. It allows for their adherents to remember the message of Sikhism through artistic portrayals. But unlike some other religions who may verbally scold individuals for doctoring their faith (like Kanye did to Jesus on Rolling Stone), Sikhism has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to desicration of their religious figures. Anyone remember that idiot Gurmeet Ram Rahim?

Sorry Editor in Chief Jerry Tarde of Golf Digest, looks like you got a whole lot of hurt coming your way.

Oh yeah, you can email Jerry here.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama the Turbanator, say it ain't so!!!

So in today’s US Political News today, The Drudge Report posted a picture on their website of Senator Barrack Obama in 2006 wearing a cultural headdress and clothing representing the people of Wajir on a visit to Kenya. Both the Obama and Clinton camps are going back and forth with the “he said/she said game,” with ultimately a sense of dirty politics being played.

What’s worse is that image is causing people to “question” Barrack as to why he donned this attire:

Is this a sign of loyalty to Kenya?
Is Barrack a Muslim?
Is he anti-American?
Is he already loosing the War on Terror by dressing like the “enemy?”
Hmmmm turbans scare me, so should I be afraid of Barrack Obama?

… and bingo Houston. We have identified the problem. Mr. Obama is seen wearing something that looks like a turban and everyone goes nuts. It’s sad to see that it just takes a man in a turban to cause fear in people as if the individual is crazy, a monster, or a terrorist.

So Mr. Obama, welcome to the club. Now you too know how it feels to be looked at differently in the modern world, and it is not because of your skin color but for what you have on your head.

It really does surprise me how shallow people can be to make a news item of something that is not… and that goes for the media and those who are eating this story up thinking that Senator Obama is suddenly different because he has a turban (gasp!) on his head.

Sometimes I feel people just need to realize that the world is diverse and due to the post 9/11 world, it has forced to recognize this diversity if we like it or not.

It just proves to me that those who wear head coverings, whether it is for religious purposes (like Sikhs) or not, there is a distinct need to continue to educate people that we are not weirdos or crazy people.

The freakin’ world is diverse and there is more to it than you think. So get over it and don’t let xenophobia take you back to 1952.

Hell, the world should look at Canada. They got a whole lot of Politicians who wear turbans, and their Sikhs too (Navdeep Bains, anyone?)!

Sorry for the rambling, but I really was pissed when I saw this news break. I’m not necessarily a Barack or Hillary supporter yet, but I do think either candidate would be a good Candidate for the Democratic ticket so it’s a win/win.

However my Father-in-Law likes to remind me that Mr. Obama did write that Senator of Punjab slanderous paper (link1, link2).

Hopefully his thoughts will truly change and can sympathize how it feels to wear a turban in today’s world.

Maybe I should just walk down the streets going “boooooooooo” like a ghost. I bet some people will shriek and run.

Hmmm, maybe a new video project idea coming….

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nigerian Scammers target Sikh Community (and everyone else in between)

Well it was only a matter of time before this internet scam would target the Sikh community. Recently I got an email from an individual who I did not know, who informed me that a huge inheritance was awaiting for my withdrawal. The emailer also thought that I was part of some Sikh Gurudwara management board (ha!). Here’s a snapshot of the email below:

Mr. Muna Gborie, I presume?
Mr. Muna Gborie, I presume?

Now I’m sure you’ve seen many types of these emails in your inbox as well, hopefully it is picked up by your email spam blocker. These “I want to give you a bajillion dollars, so contact me right away” emails are all part of large of fraudulent email scam operation based out of Nigeria.

Known as Nigerian Letter scam (or 419 – link1, link2), individuals in Nigeria run intricate email extraction systems in order to find your email. From there, they send a bombardment of emails to you, and any body else they find, promising millions of dollars if you contact them back. To make the emails interesting, these individuals act as they are some type of rich king/queen/ambassador/billion dollar widow who can only trust you to hold their money in secret. In return, they will cut you a portion of the wealth… so long as you provide your bank account and some upfront money to take care of “administrative items.”

Recently ABC News show 20/20 did a special on these Nigerian scammers and all the people they have caused harm to. Most of the people were individuals who allowed their greed to take over them to fall into this scam. However, one group surprised me.

As you’ll see in the documentary, these scammers targeted a Christian church in New Jersey and twisted their spin a bit to state. The scammers disguised themselves as fellow Christians and stated that since they admired the Church’s work, they wished to pay off their mortgage in full. The scammers would go on to say that they wished to give the Church even more money to help promote their future projects.

Regrettably, this Church gave into this fraud and lost thousands of dollars, all because they trusted these “God-fearing people" in disguise.

And now, as seen in the email above, these Nigerian email scammers are targeting Sikhs and their Gurudwara establishments as well in the same manner.

So check out this video below as it is well worth the watch. This is good information for you, whether you watch it as an individual or as someone who may be affiliated with any type of organization.

20/20 investigation on Nigerian Email Scammers
20/20 investigation on Nigerian Email Scammers

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Air travel tips that work for me

With the Thanksgiving Day travel starting here in the States, I’m sure much is on the Sikh air traveler’s minds as they go through the various security checkpoints with other passengers in airports. Security surveillance in airports is at its maximum, with many air passengers expecting long lines and delays to and from their destinations.

In recent months with Sikhs facing unwanted (and personally, un-needed) ridicule when traveling by air due to new TSA guidelines, many Panthic organizations have stepped up and assisted in sharing Sikh viewpoints to work towards the common goal of maintaining security without compromising religious sensitivities.

During my marriage a month back, TSA was at the height of providing additional scrutiny to those wearing religious head coverings (such as us Sikhs). I spoke with many of my relatives who traveled by air to attended the wedding festivities. Many stated that they were not singled out for secondary inspection, but my Mama Ji was. When talking to him about his secondary screening, who is a hardcore Taksali, he stated that he personally had no issues with the questioning by the TSA.

As I asked him to recall specifically what happened, he stated that after he completed the metal detection screening process, TSA security officers asked if they could check his turban for any type of item that may be concealed. He personally agreed to this, and the TSA security officer touched his turban lightly on the top within vicinity of other passengers at the metal detector location. He did not carry his kirpan with him on his flight over.

I then asked him if he objected to this process and he said no not at all. However his response was unique and brought a smile to both of our faces. He went on to say when that you have no sovereignty for people to identity who you are or where you belong, people will continue to encounter issues like these.

Upon reading all the various reports of Sikhs having their turbans inappropriately touched, or in some cases removed, there is one common theme that I see over and over in each reported case via media outlets: The lack of Sikh air passengers potentially not understanding their rights, nor the enforcement of those rights by TSA security officers.

I only came to this conclusion after reviewing the TSA guidelines before Supreet and I headed off to our honeymoon. During our honeymoon trip we traveled back and forth from the continental United States to Hawaii, all the while making several travel stops on various Hawaiian islands by airplane.

On each day of air travel, I encountered no issues from the TSA while traveling even with their heightened screening of anyone with a head covering.

Maybe it was my luck (such as potentially dealing with TSA security officers that were not power hungry), but I carefully reviewed specific sections of the TSA website and my specific airliner to know what rights I was entitled to. Sadly in some cases where Sikhs were forced to remove their turbans in public, my guess is that they did not have a clear understanding of their rights as their reactions in the various reports did not show this.

So here on some tips in regards to air travel that has worked for me, especially during TSA’s extra surveillance:

1. Know your rights. Read and understand your rights on the TSA website. Check out this link of prohibited items as well as this link discussing how the TSA screens passengers with religious sensitivities. Did you know that at the start of the screening process you can request for a private screening if need be?

Knowing this information, as well as specifically understanding the terminology used by the TSA, can be part of a great defensive strategy when going through the airport screening process. Furthermore, it can defuse any potentially unwanted situation by demonstrating that you are a knowledgeable air passenger who is not violating any security protocol.

2. Check out various Sikh advocacy groups (SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, and United Sikhs) for their own references on how to travel with minimal scrutiny within the United States. Many of their air travel guideline advisories differ slightly from each other, but all basically state the same thing.

3. Pack bags accordingly. Know exactly how many checked-in baggage and carry-on bagger or your air carrier will allow. Basic rule of them is two checked-in baggage, one carry-on baggage, and one personal bag. However this might vary from airliner. Supreet and I flew on American Airlines and they have a section devoted to baggage restrictions. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to get the approved TSA lock for travel within the United States. I’ve seen TSA officers welcome these locks when they see them on luggage.

4. Get to the airport well in advance. Compensate for the security process, especially if you request to go to a private screening room for whatever reason.

5. Have all appropriate paperwork in hand at all times. To have your boarding pass and identification in hand even before meeting the first security checkpoint will streamline your process. Furthermore, keep it in hand once going through the metal detectors as security officials will see it again.

6. Welcome the security process at all times. This goes hand-in-hand with Step 4 above. When the time is appropriate, be sure to take off shoes and follow instructions as needed. If you welcome the process and follow instructions, this will defuse any potential unwanted situation.

When going through the metal detectors, verbally ask the guards if they are ready before you enter even if they flag you in. By starting a dialogue before this process starts lets them know you are ready to comply and again, it can help to potentially defuse unwanted situations. This in particular worked well for me.

7. Don’t bring any unwanted attention. I know this is hard when having kesh and a turban, especially when it is very visible. So you know you are already being watched, so don’t make things any harder than it needs to be. If you comply and welcome the security process, you hopefully will not encounter any negative experiences. While at IAD one time to see one of my friends off, I waited outside the security line to verify that my friend passed security with no issues. While waiting, a Muslim woman wearing a hejab standing next to me passed some water to her family or friends who were in the actual flight security line. By doing this, Dulles Security was all over the place trying to identify what the woman passed into the security line as it was a violation. I felt bad as the woman was being ridiculed, but it was obvious that security knew of her presence due to her identity hence she had even further unwanted attention.

8. Keep your cool at all costs. No matter how much cultural or sensitivity training a TSA security official receives, I still believe that many of them will not be able to identify who a Sikh is as well as understand the religious sensitivity of the turban. With that said, there is no need to get upset or visibly agitated if they ask inappropriate questions or wish to commence with a pat-down of the turban. If this option does arise, you should know your rights and not give into any type of touch/feel in public vicinity. Request that you know your rights and demand to be taken to a private screening room.

Being a Punjabi, I know it is in our nature to get upset first and ask questions later. At SCORE’s Capitol Hill Dinner this last year, this Uncle got so upset at Capitol Police because they would not let a Giani Ji enter the facility due to his kirpan. I literally had to yell at the Uncle to keep his cool, as he kept shouting to the police officers that they should know who Sikhs are after all their cultural training they should have received. After removing this Uncle and rationally talking to the police officers, they let in the Giani Ji after several minutes after talking to their superiors.

9. Smile. It’s amazing what a smile and having patience can do for you. It has worked wonders for me, and works well in any stressful situation… like going through airport security.

I’m out. Happy Turkey Day!

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