Three Films Produced and Directed by Sikh Youth
The Sikh Way of Life: Stand Up, Speak Up, and End Bullying (7:45) by Ajay Singh
Kudrat Ke Sabh Bande (All Are Created Equal) (4:58) by Harshdeep Singh,
End Bullying: A Short Film (7:39) Prabhpreet Singh
Grade-Level: Middle School and High School
Surveys conducted in the Sikh community have revealed that 69% of turbaned Sikh students in the San Francisco Bay Area have suffered harassment and bullying because of their religion. In these three short films produced in response to recent hate crimes against Sikh Americans, Sikh students from California high schools share experiences being bullied, information about their Sikh religion and background, and ways to combat harassment.
1. Prior to watching the videos, offer students a brief overview of the central themes. Sikh youth, who are harassed and ostracized because of their religious beliefs, take action to combat hate in their schools and communities. Also provide students with a brief introduction on Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world:
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that originated in Punjab in the northern region of India and Pakistan. Over 500,000 Sikhs currently live in the United States, and have been living in America for over 100 years. The word “Sikh” is a term that means disciple, or student, as many believers of Sikhism see themselves as students of God. The core teachings of Sikhism originated from the first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who formed the roots of Sikhism as a leading movement towards social justice, egalitarianism, and equality among all men, women, and individuals from various faiths. Sikhism is rooted in the belief that there is one God, and all human beings regardless of gender, caste, or religion, are equal. In establishing this universal religion, the 9th guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, created the Khalsa, a universal sibling-hood, where everyone wears the same uniform that includes a turban and the 5 K's. The 5 K's are articles of faith that baptized Sikhs wear on a daily basis, and include: Kesh (uncut body hair), Kirpan (small dagger), Kachera (undergarments), Kara (steel bracelet), and Kangha (comb, which symbolizes the long hair that is tied into a knot and covered with a turban).
In the videos, you will see Sikh youths, many of them wearing turbans and the 5 K's. Introduce the films by having them write about and then discuss the following questions:
a. What examples have you experienced or seen of students being bullied because of their religious beliefs? Have you seen any examples of people being bullied because they do not believe in God?
b. Why do you think that students are bullied because of their religious beliefs?
c. In addition to encouraging students, Sikh students in particular, to stand up for themselves, what role can you take to combat bullying and harassment that students face because of their religious beliefs?
d. Islamophobia is the intolerance of and hatred towards all Muslims and the religion of Islam. Islamophobia can also target people who have names or a physical appearance that is associated with Muslims. Islamophobia manifests itself in the mischaracterization of Islam, violent and hostile acts against Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslims (such as Sikhs). Do you believe that 9/11 and other incidents of terror have had an impact on the number of students that are currently bullied because of their religious beliefs?
2. After watching the films, have students write their personal reflections and then engage students in a dialogue using some or all of the following questions:
a. What kinds of articles of the Sikh faith did you see in the video? Is there anything in the video that helped you learn more about the Sikh Americans? Discuss.
b. One student stated that, “You can't watch and let it happen the next time, either. You know? You can't be a bystander.” What defines a 'bystander'? What kind of a role does a bystander play in allowing bullying and harassment to happen?
c. One student spoke about the need to “educate” and “let them know who we are.” Do you believe that education is a useful strategy in combatting bullying and harassment? Why? What kind of education would be effective in combatting bullying that students face because of their religious beliefs?
d. In one incident when Sahib Singh asked the student why he pushed him, the student who was harassing him stated, “For 9/11, you terrorist.” Do you think that the instances of bullying have gotten worse for Sikh American students after 9/11? Why or why not? What role does Islamophobia play in initiating antagonism towards Sikh and Muslim students?
e. Towards the end of the video, Sahib Singh, the student being bullied in the video, stated that “These kids need someone there for them.” What action can a school community take in sharing their support for students who are being bullied because of their religious beliefs?
Follow-Up/ Extension Ideas
Remind students that while the Sikh students in the video reached out to non-Sikh students to engage and educate them on their religious beliefs, they also emphasized the role that non-Sikhs play in educating themselves and reaching out to all students who are being bullied, regardless of their religious background. Educating ourselves, engaging in conversations, and reaching out to those who differ from our beliefs is a very powerful method in combatting hate and learning about respect and diversity. Additional action areas to consider may include:
1. Planning a student speaker panel, and inviting students and community members from various religious traditions to speak of their own experiences with discrimination. The speakers can also share with and educate the larger public about their religious and cultural beliefs. These speaker panels can be followed by small group discussions around specific action items that can be developed by students, teachers, and administrators to ensure the school is a respectful and inclusive community for all.
2. Plan an art day where students can share creative expressions around the value of diversity and plurality through various art mediums (such as music, poetry, skits, and painting). Submissions can also appear in the school or local paper.
3. Coordinate a field trip with teachers, local community members, and school administrators, where students can travel to the local places of worship (such as a church, gurdwara, or mosque) and learn more about these religious traditions and communities.
4. Have students do a KWL chart (K- what they know, W- what they want to know and L- what they learned) after watching the videos and then have them do research to answer questions they still have about aspects of the Sikh religion and other issues raised in the film. Then have them create presentations to share with the class.
The Sikh Next Door
The Sikh Next Door is a film about the daily lives of four Sikh American youth. The film and accompanying lesson plans encourage students and educators to discuss diversity, immigration, history and personal identity.