Sikhs are not Muslims.
Several reports indicate that Wade Michael Page, the army veteran who is suspected of killing six and injuring three at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last weekend, was a white supremacist and a “skinhead.”
Though police have not yet named a motive in the attack, all but one of those shot were Sikh adherents. The other was a police officer.
From The Guardian:
Underpinning everything is a sense of frustration, just short of anger, at what Sikhs in Oak Creek and other parts of the US say is the frequent assumption that because of their turbans and beards they are Muslims, with all the weight that carries since 9/11.
Jeji Shergill, 62, said that since 9/11 he has regularly been assumed to be Muslim and that spills over into abuse.
“They compare us to the Muslims and we’re completely different,” he said. “I own a gas station. I am working there. People, they call me Bin Laden. Then, I explain to them, sorry, you are misunderstanding. You are mixing us up with the Muslims. You try to explain about the turban and the beard. They still call you Bin Laden.”
Clearly, Muslims themselves have endured significant unjustified abuse since 9/11, but it makes no sense that people confuse Sikhs for Muslims.
Who are Sikhs? Here are 10 things you should know:
1. Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world.
2. Sikhism is a small minority in the United States, where there are roughly 500,000 observers of the religion.
3. There are 25 million Sikhs around the world, most of them in India.
4. Sikhism originated in the 15th century in the Punjab area of South Asia. (North India and Pakistan)
5. There has only been one Sikh U.S. Member of Congress — Dalip Singh Saund, who represented Southern California in the late 1950s and early 60s.
6. Sikhism includes a belief in one god and the goal of leading an exemplary existence: equality and service to others and peace. “Everyone is the same,” says Raghunandan Johar, president of the Guru Nanak Mission of Atlanta. “There is no distinction, no caste system.”
7. Sikhs believe in freedom of religion, community service and inclusiveness.
8. Sikhs do not have clergy.
9. At temples, or gurdwaras, where Sikhs hold services, everyone is welcome.
10. Doing good deeds is important for you to be with God after death. Sikhs believe that if you don’t live a life full of good deeds you will be reborn and repeat the circle of life and death.
And in case you are wondering about turbans, Sikhs are meant to keep hair in its natural unaltered state. Sikhism has a code of conduct all Sikhs are meant to follow. A Sikh is expected to keep all hair intact and the head covered. The rule of dress for every Sikh man is to wear a turban. The Sikh woman may wear a turban or elect instead to wear a kind of traditional headscarf. A woman may also wear a scarf over a turban if she so desires. A Sikh accustomed to wearing a turban feels naked without it. Normally turbans are only removed in the most intimate of circumstances, when bathing the head, or washing the hair.
It’s not clear at this point whether Wade Michael Page targeted the Sikh community mistakenly, believing that they were Muslims.
Clearly, targeting any ethnic group is wrong, but for the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, it will take some convincing that the shootings were not a legacy of 9/11.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Gurumustuk Singh