Saturday, February 07, 2004

Kerry, Sikhs and Basques

This is the article that disclosed the information about Kerry's blanket statement while campaigning in Oklahoma (came to IBO members as courtesy of Google News Alert):

Hindustan Times

Sikhs in US demand apology from Senator Kerry

S Rajagopalan
Washington, February 6
Democratic front-runner John Kerry has raised the hackles of the Sikhs in the US with an off-the-cuff remark against the community while holding forth on the issue of terrorism.

A number of Sikh groups have demanded that Senator Kerry tender an apology and retract his remarks that tended to equate the whole community of Sikhs with the likes of IRA in Northern Ireland and the Basque separatists in Spain.

Kerry, speaking in Oklahoma during his recent campaign run, made the point that terrorism did not begin with September 11, 2001. Thereafter, the Sikh groups point out, he went on to give examples of Northern Ireland, the Basque separatists in Spain and "the Sikhs in India".

"This is deeply disturbing and has cast aspersions on the whole Sikh community," Dr Rajwant Singh of the Sikh Council told the Hindustan Times. He pointed out that the Massachusetts Senator has singled out the Sikh faith, while the others had been identified as ethnic groups.

The Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Taskforce (SMART) has written to Kerry and is awaited word from him. Singh said: "We have sought a personal meeting with him. He can't brand the entire community. He has got to retract his remarks." As a presidential candidate, he needs to be better educated about the Sikhs and their faith, another community leader said.

In its letter to Kerry, SMART noted: "Based on your response, which was broadcast on C-SPAN and other news outlets, all adherents of the Sikh faith can be interpreted as condoning or being associated with terrorism."

"Your Congressional staff has long worked with SMART on workplace discrimination and hate crimes issues, and we are confident that it was not your intent to single out adherents of the Sikh faith as terrorists," it said.

There is an undercurrent of fear among the Sikhs that ill-considered statements of the type from top political leaders could exacerbate the racial profiling that community members have been subjected to after 9/11.

If you want to learn more about the Sikhs, visit the website of SMART, the Sikh advocacy group demanding the apology from Kerry.

And if you want to listen to Kerry making the statement, here you can find it:

Your best way to know what he said is to hear/view the video recording of the speech, carried by C-Span TV.

You can find the speech at this web page:

rtsp:// and forward to 31:30 (NOTE: This requires RealPlayer software application, available for free at

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