Sikhs honor rebirth, renewal in Los Angeles on their holiday

first_imgHe said Baisakhi is officially April 13, but it is sometimes celebrated on Easter Sunday in Los Angeles, when Sikhs from throughout Southern California and other parts of the country gather at the Convention Center. Baisakhi and Easter are both holidays of rebirth and renewal of the spirit, he said. Sikh leaders say there have been hundreds of documented hate crimes against their followers since the 9-11 attacks, including the murder of an Arizona Sikh who was gunned down within days of the 2001 attacks. Police say assailants have mistaken Sikhs, who wear turbans, for Muslims. Congressman Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, who joined the festivities, decried the violence against Sikhs. “It’s bigotry wrapped in ignorance,” said Sherman, who is advocating new federal legislation to increase penalties for hate crimes. PHOTO GALLERY: Baisakhi Celebration More than 10,000 people celebrated the Sikh religious holiday of Baisakhi Sunday and denounced a series of hate crimes against the sect following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Sikhs shared food, music and art in the Los Angeles Convention Center and later paraded through the streets of downtown, singing prayers as they marched behind a dozen colorful floats. “We are trying to draw all the religious communities together to communicate better,” said Nirinjan Singh Khalsa, executive director of the California Sikh Council and a member of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission. Further highlighting the need for more understanding, two non-Sikh men attending another event near the Convention Center on Sunday quipped that the Sikh gathering looked like “an al-Qaida convention.” Sikhism, whose followers practice the pursuit of salvation through disciplined meditation, started in India hundreds of years ago. Kirtan Singh Kahlsa, the program director of the Baisakhi celebration, said the religion stresses love, equality and tolerance. He added that support from Sherman and other officials was invaluable. “It’s important for people to understand that if they see a turban (in the United States), it’s a 99 percent chance it’s a Sikh,” he said. “The origin of the Sikh religion is in India, both philosophically and geographically a long way from everything that is going on in the Middle East.” A recent hate crime occurred on March 13 in Redding, Calif., where a man rammed a piece of heavy equipment repeatedly into a new Sikh temple, allegedly telling police he thought the Sikhs were Arabs. The Rev. Leonard B. Jackson, an adviser to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, praised L.A.’s diversity. “Los Angeles is the only city in the nation where you can celebrate Easter at a sunrise service, then celebrate Baisakhi in the afternoon and go to a Greek festival in the evening. “I love L.A,” Jackson said. “Diversity is what makes L.A. great.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more