WSO connects growing racism to misleading news reports

(April 18, 2012):  The World Sikh Organization, a Canadian human rights group, is saddened but not surprised to hear racist remarks from the mouths of children and politicians after some news outlets misrepresented human rights rallies involving Sikhs last month.

“We always feel an increase in racist rhetoric following news stories that portray Sikhs as extremists, but it has been particularly bad this month,” says Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the WSO. “We’re so concerned by the inaccuracy in one report that we sent CBC’s ombudsman a letter of concern two weeks ago.”

The WSO believes it’s no coincidence that a Brampton high schooler made a YouTube video linking “turbans and terrorists” and complaining about all the brown people “with shanks in their turbans” within days of coverage claiming Canadian Sikhs were rallying for a suicide bomber. While some news outlets reported the story that Sikhs worldwide joined international human rights groups in opposing India’s death penalty for Balwant Singh Rajoana accurately, opinion pieces in some major media claimed the protests were evidence of extremists.

“What can we expect from children when media misrepresent news stories and politicians like Wildrose candidate Ron Leech brag that being Caucasian is a political advantage?” says Prem Singh Vinning, president.  “Mr. Leech’s comment that Sikh and Muslim politicians will work only for ‘their own people’ makes it clear he sees us as something other than Canadian.”

Leech’s opponent, Progressive Conservative Manmeet Bhullar, is a Calgary native and a Sikh who has been serving the constituents of Calgary-Greenway since 2008.  

The WSO is concerned that if misleading news reports continue, there will be an increase in physical attacks on Sikhs, like the one in Edmonton in March by Calgary-based white-supremacist group Blood and Honour. The neo-Nazi group also has active members in Vancouver.

“Racism tends to escalate. We began seeing an increase in hateful remarks posted under news stories and on discussion sites like Craigslist following opinion pieces claiming a rise in so-called Sikh extremism about 18 months ago. Now we have politicians and children openly declaring their anti-Sikh views in mass media, and neo-Nazis physically attacking Sikhs. It’s not a coincidence,” Balpreet Singh says.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

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