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Sikh Children Report Harassment to OC Human Relations Commission

A Decade after 9/11: Commission Listens to Sikhs and Muslims Tell Their Stories

(Santa Ana) — On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the worst domestic terrorist attack in our history. The Orange County Human Relations Commission, on the tenth anniversary of that attack offers condolences to the families and friends of those victims who were wounded or died in those attacks, and to the first responders who gave their lives trying to save lives in the aftermath of the attack.

At its December 2010 meeting, the Orange County Human Relations Commission decided to research the status of some of the groups targeted by hate crimes hate crimes in the months after 9/11. Now that 10 years have passed, the initial outreach focused on the Muslim and Sikh communities in Orange County—faith communities that had previously reported concerns to the Commission. An ad hoc committee of Commissioners, members of the OC Human Relations Council Board, staff and interested community organizations has met monthly since December to discuss how to assess the status and issues of OC Muslims and Sikhs.

Many ideas surfaced and an initial action was undertaken by committee members from SALDEF for the Sikhs and CAIR for the Muslim community to survey their youth to find if they had been the object of bullying due to their religion. These surveys showed that Sikh and Muslim youth who wear traditional dress such as; Hijabs or top knots, experience bullying at a much higher rate than other students. Preliminary results from the SALDEF Survey show that 55% of Sikh American children report being bullied or harassed more than once; and 31% of Sikh children report being threatened with physical violence. These surveys will be published by the respective organizations at a later date.

To further investigate anecdotal reports about the current level of potential bullying or harassment of the Sikh and Muslim communities in Orange County today—10 years after they became the primary targets of hate crime following the 9/11 terrorist attacks—two Listening Sessions were completed in May 2011 at the Sikh Gurdwara services in Santa Ana and Buena Park. Two Muslim Listening Sessions were held in June at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim and at the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove. The death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2 affected the accounts the [state number here] “listeners” from OC Human Relations heard.

Listening sessions are one of the tools developed by the OC Human Relations Commission to learn about the diverse communities living in Orange County. These sessions involve visits to the venues where various communities gather and are thought to be an upgrade to the public hearing approach to capturing and understanding the accounts of diverse groups.

“The Commission considers it a privilege to visit these communities in their cultural settings to hear their stories especially when some may not attend public hearings, but have important things to share,” said Carol Turpen, OC Human Relations commissioner. “Our goal is to listen and hear, rather than to teach and tell. In this way peoples’ stories are told in the manner that evokes the natural communication style of each community, rather than making them conform to the culture of the listening body.”

Listening Sessions are perceived to be respectful and engaging by the communities where the Commission has conducted them. As commissioners we have appreciated being with these communities, and we would like to share the insights we gained with the Board of Supervisors, other policy makers and the Orange County public.”

About OC Human Relations

Since 1971, OC Human Relations has worked to build bridges of understanding to promote a vision of our community where all people are valued and included and our diversity is realized as a source of strength. For more information, visit Connect with us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at

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The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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