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California gets pro-Sikh, pro-Muslim laws

Press Trust of India
Sep 10, 2012 at 01:58pm IST

Colourful turbans crowded around California Governor Jerry Brown as he signed two historic bills designed to battle workplace discrimination against Sikhs and Muslims in the state.

Brown signed the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, Assembly Bill 1964 which ensures that employees receive equal protection under law, protecting workers who wear turbans, hijabs and yarmulkes, the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.

In California, employers faced over 500 cases of religious discrimination in 2011, it said.

California gets pro-Sikh, pro-Muslim laws

The bills come in the wake of the Wisconsin gurudwara shooting that left seven Sikhs dead.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 1540 that updates the California high school curriculum so that every student in the State learns about the about the history, tradition and theology of Sikhism and California Sikhs.

When Brown signed the bills on the north steps of the Capitol on Saturday, he was surrounded by Sikhs wearing blue, green, saffron, red, pink and black turbans.

"Breaking down prejudice is something you've got to do every day, and to help us do that, I'm going to sign a couple of bills," Brown told an enthusiastic crowd of 500 Sikhs from as far away as Texas and Colorado.

"Sikhs everywhere can see in California they are a powerful presence," the paper quoted him as saying.

Education can blunt hatred, prejudice and fatal misunderstandings, such as the massacre of Sikhs outside a Wisconsin temple, he said.

Brown said that since the Gold Rush of 1849, California's been built by waves of immigrants – including Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Mexicans, Punjabis and Europeans.

"My own great-grandfather came here in 1852 from Germany and didn't speak English," Brown said. "There's always new and different people coming around – they speak 113 languages in California."

Balbir Dhillon, president of the Sacramento Sikh Temple, said: "Both bills represent landmark achievements that will increase protections for all religious observers in the workplace and expand awareness of the 100-year history of Sikhs in California."

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