Cook County Attorney visits Sikh Gurudwara

Anita Alvarez getting Plaque from Gurudwara officials showing British Indian Sikh Soldiers of World War I & II
Anita Alvarez getting Plaque from Gurudwara officials showing British Indian Sikh Soldiers of World War I & II

PALATINE: Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez visited the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) on Sunday March 22, to reaffirm her pledge to end hate crime and showcase her initiative on “Hate Crimes Advisory and Prosecutions Council” that has also Sikh community representation.

The council will advise her to take preventive measures to stop hate crimes in her jurisdiction. Ms Alvarez was greeted by the society president Dr Jasbir Kaur Saluja, community leaders and congregation members.

Ms Alvarez and her associates were given an educational presentation “Who Are the Sikhs?” by Amrith Kaur Aakre highlighting the salient features of Sikhism, with emphasis on equality of mankind. Through the presentation, valuable bits of information were shared such as the fact that post 9/11, Sikhs bore the blunt of bullying and hate crimes. Efforts to stop hate crimes and bullying of the Sikh community were discussed.

Alvarez was visibly moved after watching video of a 12 year old Sikh boy in Georgia being taunted and bullied in a school bus by his peers for wearing his Sikh article of faith, a turban.
Satnaam Singh Mago said that people become misinformed and react in ways that could be hurtful. He brought up the Boston Bomber story and how the media hastened to broadcast a picture of a Sikh man labeled on the screen as terrorist, who had been mistakenly arrested in connection to the crime at first, prior to nabbing the actual perpetrators.

Responding, Anita Alvarez said that her office is working to educate the community and local law enforcement offices about the Sikh community, which is often plagued by hate crimes.

She said that, “as a State’s Attorney, it is my job to reinvigorate efforts to raise awareness. Hate crimes go unreported and have a ripple effect on the entire community.”

To this effect she announced that she has named Amrith Kaur Aakre, one of her Assistant State’s Attorneys, who handles the office’s diversion, to the Hate Crimes Advisory and Prosecutions Council.
She also named Rajinder Singh Mago, a Sikh American community outreach and public relations activist, to her Asian American Advisory Council.

Amrith Kaur Aakre said Sikhism promotes equality and, at its founding, was committed to abolishing the Indian caste system. One of the marks of the faith is wearing of the turban, which has become a target for religious intolerance.

Satnaam Singh Mago, a young Sikh, spoke of his own experiences as a child being bullied and the conflicts he faced growing up.
“We do not mean to say that since we are not Muslims so leave us alone and go after them, but our stand is that no innocent person, no matter what faith they belong to, should be the target of hatred or violence,” said Rajinder Singh Mago. Ms Alvarez was given a tour of the facilities, Langar Hall (community kitchen), and children’s Sunday school.

Harish Rao