In 2007, when Gurinder Singh Khalsa, an Indian American of Sikh faith, was flying from his home in Buffalo, New York to visit his sick mother in Sacramento, California, he was asked by TSA to remove his turban.
It was an affront to his faith and forced him to make difficult choices between his lifelong religious beliefs and his family.
Eventually a simple request, the choices he made and the resulting Congressional actions thereafter, led to making the short film “Singh,” which is scheduled to be released on January 19, 2019.
“We are a peaceful people with a belief system based on honor, integrity, justice, and helping our fellow man. Sikhs will do most anything that is fair and ethical to serve our communities. But as with all religions, there are sacred traditions that we cannot and will not violate. Wearing our turbans is among the most sacred traditions we observe,” Khalsa is quoted saying in a press release.
The incident urged him to find SikhsPAC in Central Indiana and now he has been selected for the Rosa Parks Trailblazer Award, which will be presented by Indiana Minority Business Magazine at the 2019 Champions of Diversity Awards.
“The new film, titled ‘Singh’, explores how Gurinder faced this challenge, creatively found a short-term solution that did not go against his religious beliefs, and worked to achieve a long-term solution that affects countless people each day,” Jenna Ruiz, director of the film, is quoted saying in a press release. “It’s one man’s real-life story. But more than that, the film will shed light on the true vulnerability and fear that comes with being racially profiled and what it is like to be made to choose between religious beliefs and everyday life.”
The film will also serve as an introduction of the Sikh religion to many of its viewers.
“I plan to use this platform to educate people on who the Sikh people are and who they are not, while washing away stereotypes and negating the unnecessary fear that many people have regarding turbans and other articles of faith. I hope that the audience will leave this film with a newfound love and respect for not only the Sikh religion, but for people and beliefs that are different from their own,” Ruiz added.
“People fear the unknown. Our hope is that this film and my story will encourage people to gather information, ask questions, and speak openly and honestly about issues of faith and community. That’s how we, as Americans, will overcome racial bigotry and defeat religious persecution. Incidents like this one, where misunderstandings occur between people of different backgrounds and faith, strengthen our society. In my case, this situation helped me become stronger, made me more resilient, and provided guidance to me as I strive to best serve the Sikh people and everyone in our great country,” Khalsa added.