Last week, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation's oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, took part in the first ever Intelligence Community Heritage Summit, hosted by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. The purpose of the Summit was to provide the Intelligence Community with an honest assessment of how they are viewed by communities including Arabs, Muslims and Sikh Americans.
SALDEF, the only organization representing Sikh Americans at this summit, was one of the select few organizations to meet with officials from a range of intelligence agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA) and others.
The Summit sought to strategize and develop new ways to ensure better recruitment and retention methods within communities that are critical to the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
In a prepared statement read at the event, SALDEF stated, “As a result of military uniform policies which prevent practicing Sikh Americans from enlisting in the armed services, the community has developed perceptions that this policy may be implemented across the board in all federal security agencies. Sikh Americans may therefore disregard and not pursue openings in the intelligence community, be it from the Army or even the FBI and CIA, until this perception is removed and official uniform policies changed to allow religious exceptions for the community.”
SALDEF also highlighted the long and proud military, security, and intelligence history of the Sikh community across the world, and advocated for the Intelligence Community to encourage more diversity training and understanding of other cultures and religions, including Sikhs. [SALDEF Press Release]
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