Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Greetings from Oklahoma!

I received this email from a Sikh school teacher in Oklahoma who had requested a copy of Dastaar to screen to her students. Her feedback is one of the most powerful letters about Dastaar I've received:

Dear Kevin,

How are you? Dastaar was a HIT in the classroom! The kids really loved it, and were very sensitive to the message. They all feel smarter now because they know more about Sikhs, and they will possibly now think twice before engaging in hateful behavior towards others because of religion or ethnicity. We talked about things like, "Should people have to hide who they are because they might offend someone or because they are not like the mainstream population of an area?" "Can you look at a person and tell if they are a terrorist or not?" "Is Islam given a fair representation in the media?" "Have you ever hear of a Sikh before today?" "Would you like to see a more in depth study of other cultures and religions other than what is offered in the textbooks you use?" "Is it right to attack people because they are or might be a part of a culture that is perceived as threatening, even though they personally did nothing wrong?"

The kids were very empathetic towards the older man at the beginning of the DVD. One girl wanted to know how anyone would want to hurt that "sweet old man." We talked about how in the ignorance of the attacker's minds they were attacking the "enemy" even though Mr. Khalsa was not even involved nor is he even a Moslem. He is just a sweet old man.

I told the kids that there are Sikhs in Oklahoma, and there is a Gurdwara in Oklahoma CIty. I told them that a few people know that I am Hindu, but I also am studying Sikhism, and that I also attend the Gurdwara in Oklahoma City along with my son and daughter. I told them that I did not share my personal life and religion with many people because I did not want any backlash from living in an area where there are not many Hindus, and no Hindu teachers. I would love to be able to feel free to wear tika on my forehead every day, but I save that for the Temple. I told them that I often wear a salwar-kameez to school, and though they see it as pretty clothes, to me it is much more. We talked about how our part of the country needs to lighten up about being able to learn about other religions. We can teach in depth about other faiths without the fear of conversion. I told them that I would be happy to share all I know about Hinduism and Sikhism, and that I would never try to convert anyone, because that is not what we do. (In direct opposition to the mainstream Protestant (Baptist mostly) religions here.)

It was a very mature discussion for a group of raucous 8th graders.

Thank you for DASTAAR, it is a wonderful teaching tool. Oklahoma City is waiting for you, if you ever get a chance to come down this way!


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