Dampoort to Ieper

Dampoort to Ieper
11 November 2017

Gent Dampoort – Two northbound tracks

Gent Dampoort – One Southbound track

Gent Dampoort

Train to Lille (Rijssel) Flandres and Poperinge
The train will be split at Kortrijk

Poppy Parade
11 November 2017

Gent Gurdwara Pardhan – Pardhan da putr – Harpreet Singh – Balkar Singh – Granthi Singh – Mehakpreet Singh

To see all my pictures:


More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue


CBS Sacramento – Yuba City swears in first female Sikh mayor

Kelly Ryan

Yuba City-California-USA, 6 December 2017. A local city is celebrating and making history with the swearing-in of its new mayor.

A Sacramento State graduate and former vice mayor, Preet Didbal is being elevated to a top position, one that’s making history.

Tuesday evening started with the first-ever Girl Scout color guard, part of a night of firsts.

There was standing room only inside, with an overflowing crowd outside, as the new mayor of Yuba City was sworn in.

“Thank you for letting me be mayor. I am grateful, absolutely grateful to represent our city,” Dibal said.

Earlier in the day, Didball spoke about how she was feeling before her historic swearing-in ceremony.

“I’m still blown away by what’s happening,” Didbal said.

She says she’s honored to be the first Sikh woman elected mayor of a USA city. But this isn’t new territory for her. She was the first Sikh woman elected to a USA city council here in 2014.

“I’m paving the way, but there are women in front of me who paved the way as well,” Didbal said.

Yuba City has one of the largest Sikh populations in the country. Founded in India’s Panjab region, Didbal says that “service” is an important part of the Sikh religion. Her parents came to Yuba City from India working as farm laborers. She was born here in a local hospital.

“That was the whole point to emigrate from India to here to have a better life,” Didbal said.

She says this new position goes along with her continued effort to give back to a community which has given her and her family that better life.

“If you look around our society, there’s crazy stuff going on, so I want to reflect the positivity, the hand of kindness, and get rid of hate.”

Yuba City Swears In First Female Sikh Mayor

Ilford Recorder – Sikh running club holds event for Woodford Green girl with rare brain tumour

A Sikh running club gave back to the community recently by hosting a charity event to raise money for a young girl with an incurable brain tumour.

Rosaleen Fenton

04 December 2017. The Team Kaleigh 10K Challenge was organised to raise additional funds for seven-year-old Kaleigh Lau, of Snakes Lane East, Woodford Green.

In April last year, Kaleigh, was told she had Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a very rare and aggressive tumour.

Since then she began to suffer double vision, unbalanced walking and her left hand became very weak.

Earlier this year, she started travelling to Mexico every month with her family, to try and find a way of halting the tumour through a pioneering treatment.

So far, Kaleigh has responded well to the treatment and now Team Kaleigh is raising money in order to ensure the seven-year-old can continue to travel abroad.

At Sikhs in the City Running Club on November 26, a whole host of friends, family and complete strangers united to run a challenging 10K on a blustery winter day.

Mayor of Redbridge Councillor Linda Huggett gave a rousing speech before starting the race and was on hand to present medals for every runner.

She said: “It’s amazing to see everyone here today and I congratulate every runner for their dedication and human spirit.”

Celebrated runners included Jog on Hijabi Lynne Northcott, who is preparing for the London Marathon whilst raising money for a Gambia water project for Penny Appeal, Timi Veerasamy from Dagenham 88 and prolific long distance running legend Harmander Singh.

Organiser Jason Li said that the most uplifting moment of the race was watching “brave Kaleigh take part and complete the course in her wheelchair”.

He added: “I’m just relieved the event ran like clockwork.

“The weather was cold but the sun was out. We had no rain and even little Kaleigh participated.

“Everyone looks so happy and there is a great spirit of togetherness – It’s been perfect.”

Kaleigh’s Father Scott Lau thanked everyone for their support: “We are very blessed to have so many people come out and support Kaleigh and her determination has spurred us on even more. It’s just been an amazing day.

“We will do whatever it takes to make life easier for Kaleigh and it’s just fantastic that we have so many unbelievable people joining us on this journey.

“I’m really proud of everybody and immensely inspired by my own daughter. This illness hasn’t got a cure at the moment and we want to make a change as Team Kaleigh.

“It’s been emotional and we are full of pride – thank you everyone.”

The route was run on Roding Lane South, Woodford Bridge Road and Woodford Avenue with several friendly volunteer marshalls manning road crossings.

Readers who wish to make a donation should state clearly your full name, add a reference: “TK 10K” with your deposit and if possible an email to jasonli.kaleighstrust@gmail.com so that it can be added to the event’s fundraising total.

Payee: Kaleigh Lau Account No: 98159575 Sort Code: 09-01-28

For event updates or to find out more about Kaleigh’s story and her new UK Petition, please visit her website at kaleigh.ethanet.co.uk


I News – What it’s like to experience Islamophobia as a Sikh

London-UK, 4 December 2017. The programme My Week As a Muslim caused outrage this autumn. It’s easy to see why: a white woman was ““browned up” as a Muslim, complete with hijab, prosthetic nose and false teeth. Instead of “disguising” someone in such a crude manner, why not actually ask Muslims about their experiences?

It also stereotyped Muslims as “brown” when Islam is a faith, not an ethnicity. While I understood the controversy, the programme was also a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy. For just one week this woman experienced the intolerance many Muslims face on a daily basis.

This includes being abused, spat at and labelled a terrorist. There is an old adage that to truly understand someone you need to walk a mile in their shoes. This went a step further, by asking someone to a mile in someone else’s skin.

I don’t need to wear a prosthetic nose or false teeth to begin to recognise what Islamophobia feels like. Although I am a practicing Sikh, I have been mistaken for a Muslim on many occasions. People see my skin colour and turban, and in their ignorance assume that I am both a Muslim and a terrorist. If the leap of assumptions wasn’t so hideous it would be funny.

‘You killed three thousand people’ One of my worst experiences came on an ordinary Friday evening. It was a few months after the 9/11 tragedy, when the atmosphere in the UK was one of fear and anger. I was on the Tube on my way to meet friends, with my headphones in and oblivious to everyone else. So far, so normal.

A man became extremely aggressive, shouting “you killed three thousand people”. He called me “scum” and every other name under the sun, becoming increasingly belligerent and threatening. I was left with an unwelcome dilemma: should I defend myself against the false “charge” of being a Muslim or the preposterous inference that all Muslims are terrorists? I was stumped.

As my fellow passengers became increasingly concerned for me, an American man, who I know was only trying to help, stepped in, also thinking I was Muslim. “Leave him alone, I’m an American and we all hated them [Muslims] at first but now I’m not angry. It wasn’t their fault.”

My attacker was by now screaming, his face turned red. He was about to punch me. He would have succeeded if a passenger hadn’t stepped in to defend me as I ran towards the platform, squeezing past the slamming doors.

Despite my best efforts to tap into the British spirit to keep calm and carry on, I was left completely shaken and it remains one of the most frightening experiences of my life. I didn’t report it, at the time I just wanted to get out of the situation. And I’ve regretted it ever since.

Always report

Reported hate crimes have risen by 29 per cent in the past year From then on, I’ve made it a principle to report any time I face hate crime. The police have not only taken it extremely seriously, but I have found even just the act of reporting cathartic and empowering. I deserve to take a stand and say “enough”.

Too often victims of hate crime stay silent. Statistics show a 29 per cent rise in hate crime over the past year and a rise in Islamophobia specifically. Despite this, there are still serious challenges with underreporting. Some think they won’t be taken seriously or feel unsure if what’s happened even constitutes a crime.

As someone who has been affected, as well as in my personal experience as a barrister, my message is simple: report it. Whether it’s online or offline, attacks on the basis of race or faith should never be tolerated. And if you see someone being targeted – step in. Hate crime is thankfully not endemic in our society and despite some horrible exceptions Britain is characterised by tolerance and respect.

The fact that hate crime is on the agenda shows that it is not acceptable in our society. Not only is the Government monitoring statistics but the police actively encouraging people to come forward by making it easier to report crimes, including setting up online apps. This all points to Britain’s proud history of creating a liberal society where all are treated equally under the rule of law.

Respect for those who are different is a value to be celebrated and it is clear that progress is being made in tackling the very antithesis to liberty: hate crime. We shouldn’t have to dress up as another ethnicity to know how important it is to defend the rights of one another. The only intolerance we should accept is for intolerance itself.

Jasvir Singh OBE is Co-Chair of the Faiths Forum for London and the Chair of City Sikhs, a national representative body for British Sikhs. He is also a practising family law barrister.


The News – First Sikh army officer gets married

Rawalpindi-Panjab-Pakistan, 4 December 2017. Pakistan Army’s first Sikh officer Major Hercharn Singh on Sunday tied the Knot at Gurdwara PunjaSahib, Hasan Abdal, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his message extended best wishes for matrimonial life of newlywed couple, the statement added.

A number of serving and retired officers of Pakistan Army attended the wedding ceremony Major Harcharn Singh.

According to Arm’s media wing, ISPR, Major Harcharn Singh was commissioned in Pakistan Army in 2007.

Pakistan Army remains a symbol of national integration and respects rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, the ISPR statement added.


International Business Times – Who is Preet Didbal?

Yuba City elects first Sikh woman mayor of USA

Hannah Preston

Yuba City-California-USA, 01 December 2017. A northern California woman made history Thursday after being the first Sikh woman elected as mayor.

Before assuming her role as mayor, Preet Didbal held the position of councilwoman in Yuba City since 2014. Vice Mayor Didbal will officially be sworn in as mayor 5 December.

Didbal was born and raised in Yuba City, roughly 40 miles from Sacramento, and is the daughter of Indian immigrants who moved to America in 1968. The Yuba City-native is a part of the Sikhism religion which originated from Punjab region in India during the 15th century.

Aside from being the first Sikh mayor, Didbal was also the first to receive a college diploma within her family. Didbal received her Bachelors from California State University, Sacramento in 1998 and went on for her Masters in 2012 from University of San Francisco.

“Her focus is built around children being raised in a community that invests in the success of young people and will look to develop more youth and family activities,” according to the Yuba City website.

Didbal arguably became an inspiration for the Sikh people and women in general.

“Reach for the stars,” Didbal said to KGTV Thursday. “Don’t sit back and think ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘not me,’ because it can be you.”


Sikh24.com – UK’s First Permanent Sikh Art Gallery Opens Doors

Slough-Berkshire-UK, 22 November 2017. On November 4th & 5th, over 5,000 visitors attended the grand opening of UK’s first Sikh Art Gallery as it launched the ‘Without Shape Without Form’ exhibition. This modern 7,000 sq ft gallery located in Slough, UK took design inspiration from London’s renowned contemporary art gallery scene.

The Gallery will be the permanent home of the dramatic Sikh paintings of Kanwar Singh, the artist behind Art of Punjab. This already extensive collection of artwork is set to be expanded annually and will be the artist’s UK home base and exclusive site for launching new art as it is created.

The Gallery’s ongoing focus is two-fold, spreading knowledge of Sikh history with an emphasis on Gurbani and inspiring future generations to express their love of Sikhi through the arts.

One visitor commented,”Finally we have a Gurdwara investing in our next generation and promoting our heritage on a platform never seen in this country, I fully commend all those involved in the much needed initiative”.

Kanwar Singh, the artist behind the gallery was on site as it opened doors to the visitors showcasing a complete collection of his iconic Sikh history paintings, presented on an unprecedented scale. The highlight of this event was the unveiling of an exciting new collection of paintings created exclusively for the launch.

Kanwar Singh spoke about his ten year journey as an artist focused solely on the Sikh story.


NBC News – In this Seattle suburb, Sikh Americans make historic gains amid tough challenges

Chris Fuchs

Kent-King County-Washington-USA, 27 November 2017. Satwinder Kaur made it official in March. That’s when the 31-year-old single mom announced her candidacy for City Council in Kent, Washington.

Eight months later, Kaur’s victory made her the city’s first elected council member who is Sikh, she said.

“They’re really, really proud that one of their own is representing at City Hall,” Kaur told NBC News.

Just outside Seattle, Kent is home to many of the Sikh faith, a religion founded in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent during the late 15th century.

Kaur’s election is a big deal for this city of roughly 127,000 that found itself in the media spotlight back in early March, when a turbaned Sikh man working on his car was shot and injured by a masked gunman who told him to get out of the country, police have said.

“That created such anxiety in the community,” Jasmit Singh, one of the founders of the Khalsa Gurmat Center, a community group based in nearby Renton, told NBC News.

“All the elderly who used to take walks would no longer go out, they would not sit in the public parks,” he said. “There was a sense that somebody was on the prowl that would shoot them.”

The shooting, which authorities were investigating as a possible hate crime, remains unsolved.

Kaur, who announced her council bid just days before the attack, said she had conversations about the shooting with the police chief, family, and community.

“People seem to have moved past that in the community, kind of,” she added.

School bullying is another big concern for Sikh parents, Singh said. It’s an issue that Kaur said she vows to address as a council member.

Just over 50 percent of Sikh children have reported being bullied in school, according to a 2014 report from The Sikh Coalition, a community-based nonprofit.

To show their commitment to their faith, Sikhs keep unshorn hair, which men are required to cover with a turban. Some women also wear turbans, while young Sikh boys wear a patka, or smaller turban.

That appearance has made Sikhs the target of bias-based bullying, as religious articles like the turban have been wrongly linked with media images of terrorists following the 11 September attacks, according to The Sikh Coalition.

“It has improved a lot,” Singh said, referring to school bullying. “But every time an incident happens, our people just assume the worst.”

One case that made headlines recently involved a 14-year-old Sikh boy punched on the street in late October as another student videotaped the attack, police and school officials said.

Commander Jarod Kasner, a Kent Police Department spokesman, told NBC News that the two boys had had an earlier in-class disagreement at Kentridge High School, but said race had nothing to do with it.

The boy who hit the unidentified 14-year-old and the child who videotaped and uploaded the clip to social media were both sanctioned, according to Chris Loftis, a Kent School District spokesman.

Loftis said the video was posted along with racially charged language, with words to the effect of, “Who wants to go with me and beat up Indians tomorrow.”

While the district does not disclose the specific sanctions students receive, Loftis said suspensions are used in the most serious cases. “And these were both serious cases,” he added.

Singh said the school district, after learning of the attack, was extremely responsive in reaching out to the Sikh community.

“They’ve taken measures to make sure that the child and the family feel safe,” he said. “But at the same time they’re also trying to deal with the broader aspect, the anxiety that such an incident causes in the community.”

Kaur, who said she spoke with parties involved in that incident, said she plans to sit down with the school district, even before starting her term in January, to review how such cases are handled.

“If our kids are not feeling safe in schools, we have failed in the city as a whole, including the school district,” she said.

Parts of King County, which includes the City of Kent, are home to a sizeable Sikh population that traces its roots back to the early ’60s, according to Singh.

He estimated there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Sikhs living in Kent and nearby Renton and Auburn. He put that number closer to 50,000 when SeaTac, Federal Way, and Seattle — all in King County — are included.

While the Sikh community had participated in parent teacher associations, it wasn’t much involved in local politics, according to Singh. That began to change between 10 and 15 years ago, he said.

“With the kinds of issues that the community was facing across the board — whether it was in the schools with the kids, whether it was housing discrimination, whether it was jobs — it required a more active participation in all aspects of civic engagement,” Singh said.

For Kent as a whole, Kaur identified a range of issues she plans to tackle while serving on the seven-member council. It includes figuring out the city’s finances, creating a police force representative of Kent, and forging better communications with residents, she said.

“I want to be the voice for every single person,” Kaur said.

The nonpartisan city council position is part-time, meaning Kaur will keep her job as an IT director during her four-year term, she said.

In addition to Kaur, who grew up in Kent, victories of other Sikh candidates this past Election Day could pave the way for more Sikhs to run for office, Amrith Kaur, legal director of The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News.

Those include Manka Dhingra, a Democrat elected to Washington’s state Senate, and Ravi Bhalla, a Hoboken councilman who is now that New Jersey city’s mayor-elect.

“If anything, their candidacies and elections show for other people in the community that it’s possible,” she said. “And my hope is that this brings out the people who are willing to put forth that effort and put themselves out there, and stay true to whatever they believe in.”


Wrex.com – Sikh temple [Gurdwara] promotes religious tolerance during prophet’s [Guru’s] martyrdom day

Taylor Utzig

Rockford-Illinois-USA, 27 November 2017. One local temple [Gurdwara] is promoting peace and tolerance this weekend.

Sunday marks the martyrdom day of the ninth prophet [Guru] of the Sikh religion.

According to the the Sikh faith, the prophet gave his life to stand-up for Hindus, who were being persecuted in India 300 years ago.

Today, people say his message of tolerance is just as important as these two faiths come to worship together.

“They believe in different faiths. They come into one place to worship, one temple, with peace like brothers and sisters and like one family,” said President of Rockford’s Sikh Temple [Gurdwara] Baba Ji.

It’s also a message the Sikh temple [Gurdwara] says it wants to remind other religions of in the light of tensions in today’s society.

Nanaksar Sikh Temple [Gurdwara]
714 3rd street
Rockford, Illinois


ANI News – Sikhs observe martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 23 November 2017. Sikhs across the world on Thursday observed the 342nd martyrdom day of their Ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur.

Thousands of devotees thronged the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] in Amritsar to offer their prayers and remember the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life while resisting the forced conversions of Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam. He was executed on the orders of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675.

Speaking about the importance of the day, Giani Puran Singh Granthi briefed about the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur and events surrounding it. Giani is a salutation in Sikhism and it is given to Sikh priests.

“For saving the Hindu religion*, for safeguarding Tilak (sacred mark applied by Hindus) and Janeu (the Brahminical thread), Guru Tegh Bahadur arrived in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk (for his martyrdom). Bhai Dyala, Bhai Mati Das, and Bhai Sati Das also sacrificed their lives while opposing Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s oppression,” Giani Puran Singh said.

A devotee said, “Today is the martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. It is being observed in Amritsar and at Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj (the places where the Guru was martyred and cremated in Delhi), and at all Gurdwaras across the world.”

Guru Tegh Bahadur was a merciful saviour of the weak, and that is what he preached. He taught his disciples to protect the ones who need protection, even if it comes at the cost of one’s own life.

Guru Tegh Bahadur contributed many hymns to Granth Sahib including the Saloks, or couplets near the end of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Sikh scripture.

Guru Tegh Bahadur travelled extensively in different parts of the country, including Dhaka and Assam, to preach the teachings of Nanak, the first Sikh guru. The places he visited and stayed in, became sites of Sikh temples (Gurudwaras). (ANI)

* The Gurus were not pro-Hindu and anti-Islam, they were pro-religious freedom and anti-oppression – Man in Blue