Letters for the week of December 3-9, 2003 

Reconsidering a name change. It's Singh vs. Singh in letters about our Sikh temple story. The ethnic roots of Antibalas.

"Too Girly for a Boy," Take Out, 11/12

Please consider the consequences
I am writing to express my deep dismay and upset over the lack of foresight and sensitivity put into the November 12 "Take Out" column. I am one of the people mentioned in this feature on name changes, and as a transgendered person your public announcement of my name change puts me in danger of discrimination and emotional and physical violence. I am aware of and fully acknowledge your legal right to look up the information on my name change and the reasons behind it, but I believe your decision to publicly highlight name change information on myself or any other transgendered person is morally negligent.

As a result of this information being published about me, friends and family members to whom I have not disclosed my true gender identity due to safety issues could become aware of it; this information could result in my being ostracized or suffering other negative social consequences.

Publicizing my status as a transgendered person also opens me up to discrimination in housing, education, and employment. In past employment I have twice been fired for reasons relating to my gender identity and presentation, and though my place of employment is currently safe, I do not wish to risk repeats of these experiences.

Perhaps most significantly, your decision to publish information that reveals my status as transgendered could very well put me at increased risk of becoming a victim of hate violence. As residents of the Bay Area, you are surely aware of the murder of Gwen Araujo last year, and the death of another young transgendered woman in Oakland earlier this week. Ms. Araujo's killers, as you know, targeted her after her status as a transgendered woman was revealed to them. While in this case, the revealing did not occur via newspaper, I want you to understand that outing people as transgendered in any situation is dangerous and may pose a very real threat to their safety.

In the future I sincerely hope that you will put more thought into the potential consequences of information you publish about transgendered people, and that you consider the very real and terrible effects that it could have upon their lives.
Jacob Richards, Berkeley

"Singh vs. Singh," Feature, 11/19

The congregation's turn
I really appreciate your article on the abuse and terror that is going on at the Sikh temple in Fremont. This group of thugs needs to be exposed. Last Sunday [November 23], they announced that they are filing a slander lawsuit against the paper and yourself. That, in my opinion, is totally bullshit. They need to say that to the congregation only to make themselves look like the victims. Our community needs to wake up and realize that until they speak out against these people for the wrong they are doing, nothing will change. You guys did an excellent job. Now it is up to the community to stand up and hold these so-called leaders of the temple accountable.
S. Singh, Fremont

Making people fear us
Your article is extremely biased, and I feel that you are trying to humiliate a very peaceful community by relating it to "terrorism" based on something that has no real grounds. It's people like you who stuff fear and disgust into the faces of public and make them fear minorities.

Sahaj Singh, San Luis Obispo

Follow the money
Good job exposing the wolves in lambs' clothes. If American government did cut them loose, that will be bad for so many peace-loving, hard-working Sikhs. I know them closely. Sikh Youth of America's main aim is to control the temple finances.
Raj Dhillon, Livermore

Singhs vs. India
In his otherwise well-researched and sensitively written piece on the Fremont Sikh Temple, Malcolm Gay misstates several important facts.

While discussing the climate of state terror and government oppression in Punjab, India, in 1984, Gay labels Sikh leader Sant ("Saint") Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as "a heavily armed Sikh separatist." In fact, Sant Bhindranwale never demanded a separate Sikh state. Bhindranwale instead sought equal rights for Sikhs within India's political system. He did warn that an armed assault on the Golden Temple would ignite demands for a separate Sikh state. Hence, India's brutal June 1984 invasions of seventy Sikh shrines sparked a decade-long resistance movement.

Disturbingly, Malcolm Gay links the Fremont Sikh faction with the murderous 1985 bombing of an Air India 747. In fact, investigative journalists Zuhair Kashmiri and Brian MacAndrews argued in their book Soft Target that India's Soviet-trained intelligence services masterminded this bombing.

Overall, Malcolm Gay's article is highly accurate in its descriptions of Sikh theology and modern political history. But his implication that Sikhs who support Khalistan, or the idea of a Sikh "Israel," are ipso facto terrorists is plain wrong. The Harvard Law School-sponsored human rights report "Reduced to Ashes" details the savage anti-Sikh violence waged by the Indian nation state during the 1980s and '90s. The Sikh resistance movement must be evaluated in the context of India's anti-Sikh policies.

If Sikhs are committing crimes, they should be punished. But the idea of a Sikh nation is not itself a crime.
Gurman Singh Bal, Esq., Berkeley

Does anyone outside Sikhdom really care?
As a member of the Sikh community, I am deeply offended by your inflammatory and sensationalist article, in which Malcolm Gay paints the Sikh community in a negative light by making false assumptions and attempting to establish Sikhs as terrorists. Gay's purpose doesn't seem to be to say anything of import, other than that "some Sikhs are terrorists," a grandiose, false, and incendiary claim.

The front page of the paper says that some Sikhs are "linked to violence and drugs. Some say terror, too," suggesting that these people are not only engaging in crimes, but even terror. I don't think I need to explain to the editor what "terror," stated so vaguely, means in current usage. It will be linked by readers to al-Qaeda and jihad, two movements diametrically opposed to the aims and interests of Sikhs.


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