Huffington Post Religion is proud to announce that our 2012 Person Of The Year is Balpreet Kaur.
In past years we have made lists of 'most influential' religious leaders which have included the Pope and the Dalai Lama. However, when the HuffPost religion editors thought about the person we admired most in the last year, the unanimous choice was Ms. Kaur.
Ms. Kaur became an internet sensation when a photo of her standing in a line was taken by an editor at Reddit (a 'Redditor) who posted it online under the subject heading 'funny,' apparently based on her unique appearance.
Balpreet Kaur responded to the intentional denigration by explaining who she was, why she looked the way she does, and the tenets of her Sikh faith with a remarkable generosity of spirit:
"Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will... When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away," Kaur wrote. "However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can."
Balpreet's ability to express herself and to disarm ignorance with wisdom led to a sincere apology by the original editor who expressed his true change of heart:
I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post... I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant."
Balpreet Kauer enriched all of us on the internet with knowledge of her own faith and showed that grace, kindness and goodness are the best antidote to ignorance online as well as offline.
For this HuffPost Religion is proud to honor her as our person of the year.