How 9-11 spurred New Jersey’s Sikh legal professional standard into public carrier


(RNS) — Last January, Gurbir Grewal has become New Jersey’s attorney fashionable, making him the nation’s first Sikh to function a nation’s chief regulation enforcement officer and legal professional, a recognition of New Jersey’s reputation as one of the most culturally numerous locations inside the country.

Although Grewal, forty-five, says his religion isn’t the primary motive force of his paintings as legal professional preferred, its core teachings of provider, justice, and kindness align well together with his modern method to policy.

One can pay attention to this conviction while Grewal speaks about justice for all, especially for the marginalized, as he regularly does. In just over a yr in the workplace, Grewal has already taken part in dozens of legal proceedings towards the Trump administration, every of which confronts discriminatory, inhumane or inequitable guidelines.

Grewal, who grew up in New Jersey, attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service before getting his law diploma at the College of William and Mary. He became appointed legal professional fashionable by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2017 after a decade as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey in Newark.

He says that growing up as a visible spiritual minority has given him an experience of what injustice and disenfranchisement due to groups — a view of America that changed into installed remedy through the attacks of September 11.

I had the opportunity to speak with Grewal about his upbringing, what he attracts from his faith and the relationship among Sikhi and public carrier.

This interview has been edited for period and clarity.
I’ve always stated that being a Sikh strain up so naturally with being a public servant. It’s precisely what our lifestyle teaches us to do. But it’s just now not that. Being a Sikh also lines up with being a public servant who’s, in particular, focused on the goal of ensuring justice and equity for every person. There are so few professions that enable you to serve the general public, to ensure justice, and to ensure that everybody’s rights are entirely covered.

So plenty of who I am and what I accept as true with is primarily based on how I changed into raised, and Sikhi played a large part in that. You want to rise for everybody. You want to ensure that everyone has an honest shot — and there’s an element of mercy that runs thru Sikhi as nicely.

As a county prosecutor, wherein I had the capability to set coverage and form the way the workplace prioritized instances, that notion pushed me to prioritize cases that treated justice. For instance, I could say we’re no longer going to fasten up human beings on low-degree drug offenses because it doesn’t help them and doesn’t bring justice to everybody. We focused as an alternative on assisting those people and their communities.

In my present day role, I’m answerable for the whole criminal justice gadget in New Jersey. I can set policy and directives that form how we deal with our communities and make sure justice for all people. My work ties back to the entirety that I’ve discovered and believed about what it manner to be a Sikh — to work for justice and to stand up for those who can’t get up for themselves.
For me, all of it is going again to the Guru Nanak’s radical egalitarian imaginative and prescient. I see that as the inspiration of our religion, and I locate a lot of notion in that. It’s valuable to who we’re as a community, particularly in case you examine the origins of Sikhi.

I additionally, in reality, love the line from the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture) with the aid of Bhagat Kabir, where he says, “Sura, so pahichaniai jo larahi deen like het puja kat marai Kabhi na chaadahi that.” (“One is known as a warrior who fights for the oppressed; one who is slashed and annihilated — but never abandons the battlefield (of justice).”

That’s been inspirational teaching to me about what its approach to deciding to something. The message I dispose of from this for myself is to have the strength to combat injustice and to combat bigotry and to fight intolerance. Whenever I pay attention to those strains, I feel empowered.
There are lots, especially with regards to thoughts round public provider. I always come returned to the concept of Seva (“selfless carrier”) and serving the ones around us. I ask myself: “Are we doing the maximum we will assist all of our communities?”

I’d also say there’s additionally more to it than just the beliefs. My work is informed through my worldview as a Sikh, and it’s also knowledgeable through my experience as a Sikh in America. You recognize what it’s like to be marginalized; you recognize what it’s want to be bothered, you realize what it’s like to be at the receiving stop of bias and hate. And while these studies can be hard, they also can help teach us empathy.

So there’s the empathy we’re taught to have via our spiritual teachings, after which there’s also the empathy that’s produced through our stories with oppressive policies, like racial profiling on the airport. To have skilled the one’s styles of oppression, and to have felt that ache, and to now have the opportunity to assist restore the one’s issues at a large level — that performs into some what I do.