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United Sikhs UNITED SIKHS Expresses Outrage, Demands Resignation Of Senator Jesse Knotts


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Date: Saturday, June 26, 2010, 9:53 AM

Sikhs Outraged at Senator Knotts’s Words of Incitement toward Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Haley

New York, NY: On June 4, 2010, during an internet political talk show, South Carolina Senator John M. Knotts Jr., repeatedly used the term “raghead” while referring to State Representative Nikki Haley, searing the consciousness of Sikh and Muslim communities in South Carolina and throughout the nation. Ms. Haley is of Sikh descent and converted to Christianity when she was 24. The racially charged comments were targeted at Ms. Haley because she was running for the GOP nomination for Governor for the State of South Carolina, which she eventually won.

UNITED SIKHS is calling for Mr. Knotts’ resignation as Senator of South Carolina and also for a hate crime legislation to be introduced in South Carolina, a provision which is currently lacking. Such hate crime legislation should be inclusive of hate speech, which often has the effect of inciting violence.

Staff Attorney Hansdeep Singh stated that “Senator Knotts’ own words reveal a deep seeded mistrust and anger towards those with external religious identities, even when he is ignorant about the group he is attacking. This is evidenced by his comments that ‘we’re are at war over there,’ as he erroneously tried to make a link between Ms. Haley’s turban wearing Sikh father and the war being waged against terrorists.

What is particularly offensive about the term “raghead” is that it is used to debase those who cover their head out of religious observance. Following 9/11, there has been clear evidence of the use of the term “raghead” in conjunction with violent acts. On September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner who wore a turban, was mercilessly gunned down because the attacker misidentified him as someone of Middle Eastern descent, allegedly bragging to people at a bar just hours before that he was going to “kill the [Expletive] ragheads responsible for September 11.” Similarly, after the Fort Hood massacre in November 2009, the Washington Post reported that a Muslim-American soldier, Army Specialist Zachari Klawonn, was jolted out of bed when individuals were pounding and kicking the door of his barracks. After the individuals left, Mr. Klawonn found a note that said, "[Expletive] YOU RAGHEAD BURN IN HELL".

Throughout history, political leaders have used terminology and slurs that dehumanized minority communities. Internationally, during the Rwandan genocide, Tutsis were called “inyenzi”, or {censored}roaches and the term was used as a call for extermination of Tutsis. Even before the Holocaust, there were caricatures and slurs depicting Jews as vermin or parasites in State run media. In United States, racial slurs directed against the African-Americans by politicians perpetuated slavery, Jim Crow laws, and segregation. In each instance, the dehumanization of an entire minority group permeated society and incited mass atrocities. Dehumanization of a group allows individuals to cross over the barriers of decency/ morality and allow them to inflict violence on those they see as less human.

Traditionally, one half of the mantra, “sticks and stones,” has been given legal sanction in the U.S. However, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical violence that is provoked through words has largely been ignored because of our deference to speech over dignity. Interestingly, the State of South Carolina does not have a state statute on hate crimes and it would require the crime to implicate federal jurisdiction before the attacker could be tried under the federal hate crime statute.

Therefore, South Carolinians need to demand greater accountability from their elected representatives and they need to engage lawmakers in policymaking that protects them from heinous acts of violence and hatred. By intentionally vilifying the turban and other religious head coverings, Mr. Knotts has waged war against the principle of pluralism that this country holds so sacred, and therefore, the South Carolina Republican Party needs to seek the immediate resignation of Mr. Knotts.

UNITED SIKHS has sent letters requesting the resignation of Mr. Knotts to The South Carolina Republican Party, the South Carolina Democratic Party, gubernatorial candidate Ms. Haley, gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheehan, and Mr. Knotts himself. The letter also included a recommendation to introduce hate crime legislation into the Senate.

To read a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS Advocacy Efforts, please visit: UNITED SIKHS

Issued by:
Rucha Kavathe
Media and Communications Coordinator

UNITED SIKHS has sent letters demanding Senator Knotts’ resignation to:

  • The South Carolina Republican Party
  • The South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley
  • Gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheehan
  • Senator Knotts

As a community member, make your voice heard! Contact your local representatives and ask them to support their constituents and their dignity.

UNITED SIKHS Advocacy Efforts Are Made Possible Through Generous Donations of People Like You! To donate or volunteer, visit www.unitedsikhs.org.

Contact Us UNITED SIKHS encourages the Sikh community to wear their kakaars, fearlessly exercise their freedom of religion, and to contact us with any problems, concerns, or incidents of discrimination.

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.

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