NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, for many of the Sikh community, the past decade can be defined as a series of many trials and tribulations.
Just four days after the attacks, a 49-year-old Sikh man who was mistaken for an Arab was fatally shot outside the gas station he worked at in Arizona.
In the years following the attacks, the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, has recorded hundreds more cases of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in the United States. Now, the coalition is organizing a photo exhibition showcasing nearly 40 portraits of American Sikhs from all walks of life.
The exhibition, titled the Sikh Project, will be held in New York City from Sept. 16 to 25, and will be free to the public. The exhibit can be seen at New York’s 500 block of Broadway.
The goal, said Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition, is to “highlight the beauty of the Sikh faith” and to “spark conversations across the country on what it means to look like an American and to humanize communities who are too often regarded as ‘other.’ ”
The photographs are shot by British photographers Amit Amin and Naroop Jhooti, who are both Sikhs.
The two, who have been working together for more than a dozen years, first came up with the idea in 2013 when they were shooting portraits of Sikhs. They had noticed a growing number of men not of the Sikh faith sporting long beards as “a kind of fashion statement,” Jhooti, 35, said. They wondered, why not do a project on Sikh men and how their beards have been part of their identity for hundreds of years?
The project soon gained traction, an exhibition was held across London. That was when the New York-based Sikh Coalition contacted them to see whether they might undertake a similar project in the United States.
The duo started planning the U.S. project last year, tapping into the large American Sikh community to find subjects to photograph. In all, they photographed 38 Sikhs, each with a unique story to tell.
There’s Sat Hari Singh, a train operator for New York’s subway who, on 9/11, reversed the train he was driving, saving hundreds of lives.
There’s also Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, the first American Sikh to be granted a religious accommodation to serve in the U.S. military while wearing his beard and turban.
And another Sikh subject they photographed was Amrita Kaur Khurana, the first and only turbaned Sikh female employee at the New York Times, according to the Sikh Coalition.