Policy Institute Lists Two Indian-American Faith Leaders To Watch In 2017

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Recognizing the important role that faith leaders play in promoting a more just nation and world, the Center for American Progress last week named 12 faith leaders, including two Indian-Americans, to watch in 2017.

“As a new presidential administration and congressional and state legislative sessions begin, the faith leaders can play a critical role in holding political leaders accountable,” the nonpartisan policy institute said Jan. 18.

The 12 faith leaders named by CAP include Suhag Shukla, executive director, legal counsel, and co-founder of Hindu American Foundation, and Sapreet Kaur, executive director of Sikh Coalition.

“Following an election cycle filled with hateful rhetoric about immigrants, women, people with disabilities, people of color, and religious minorities, people of faith will be integral to fighting injustice and ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and equity,” CAP said in a press release two days before the scheduled inaugural of President Donald Trump.

It noted that Shukla has positioned HAF as a strong voice in the national debate about the separation of church and state, consistently speaking out about issues of Hinduphobia and the rights of religious minorities.

“Prioritizing legal advocacy, HAF regularly weighs in on cases related to religious discrimination and accommodations. Educating the Hindu American community on their rights regarding religious liberty is a core part of this work,” it said.

CAP said that HAF participates in the (Obama Administration’s) White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders Act to change platform to combat bullying and it recently published a report on classroom bullying titled ‘Bullying and Bias Against Hindu Students in American Schools.’ The report examines Hindu American students’ experiences with bullying in schools and offers recommendations to address this bias.

“Shukla embodies true religious liberty, ensuring that plurality and the rights of religious minorities are at the heart of religious freedom advocacy,” CAP said.

Commenting on the recognition, Shukla said she is humbled to be included alongside other prominent American faith leaders, but noted that HAF’s work has only been possible because of the dedication and hard work of the entire team as well as that of our supporters.

Sapreet Kaur, the other Indian-American, who leads the Sikh Coalition, has transformed it into a large and visible civil rights organization that provides legal defense and advocates on issues of hate crimes, racial and religious profiling, safe schools, employment discrimination, and religious liberty, CAP noted.

Shedding a light on the lesser-recognized faith, Kaur was the first Sikh in 2013 to speak at a Presidential Inaugural prayer Service. In 2016, Kaur and her team launched the groundbreaking Sikh Project, a collection of photographs of diverse Sikh Americans that complicates the narrative and sparks conversation about what it means to be American.

“In all of her work, Kaur prioritizes building bridges within the interfaith community, ensuring that the Sikh Coalition’s advocacy work supports not only Sikh civil rights but also the rights of all people,” it said.

“Going forward, Kaur is committed to pushing back on attacks on religious minorities and lesser-known communities and taking a stand against fear mongering and discrimination,” CAP noted.

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