10 Things You Should Know About Sikhs

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?

Related Stories

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Mistaken for Muslims? Were Sikhs Shot In California Victims of Islamophobia?

Sikh Soldier Wins Religious Accommodation


Photo Credit: Gurumustuk Singh


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

there is a man from Iraq who works at Subway near my house. He is always very polite and courteous. he is helpful and kind. His name is Muhammad and his English is broken, and I'm sure he is treated differently. I always make a point to smile at him and thank him for being so kind. People are ridiculous. What if Christians were treated a certain way based on the extremists behavior? (Manson, Hitler ect) There are crazies in all belief systems... when people base their lives on made up stories there will be extremists and ignorance

Cindy B.
Cindy B5 years ago

The Sikh religion sound divine, and every one of their major beliefs/tenets perfectly matches my own. Perhaps I should become a Sikh.

It is incredibly sad and frightening that we have so many DEFICIENT PEOPLE in this country. People who aren't able to process info well and make good decisions. People who are uninformed, angry, impulsive and prone to violence... The right to freely procreate -- as often as one pleases and without regard to social circumstances, finances, mental health issues, IQ or anything else -- is stringently protected and defended in this society. And when the kid does come, a raft of help and government services can be counted on.

I guess things must be this way if we are to hold ourselves a "cut above" as a compassionate society. And of course many wonderful people do come out of the bleakest circumstances. But it does break my heart as I watch the gene pool sag further and further downward. That's very problematical in challenging and frustrating times like these.

Yes, my comment is VERY politically incorrect! Unfortunately it's true.

Wendy Schroeder
Wendy Schroeder5 years ago

It sounds like a very peaceful religion. Still, I find that with only 25 million members it's the 5th biggest religion in the world.

Lauren B.

The problem is that normal people don't decide to randomly slaughter others, even if they misunderstand them. Something is very wrong with these killers that a course won't help, though it might really help people who are not disturbed to understand others.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Ian Robertson
Ian Robertson5 years ago

Possibly a good reason for having a course in World Religions in all schools as part of social studies. If nothing else, it helps in multicultural societies such as the USA and the UK to inform students as to the differences between religions.

nancy D.
nancy B5 years ago

Elaine - That's right including your race - whatever that is.

nancy D.
nancy B5 years ago

Sandra K - So that is a reason for this skinhead to shoot these people? I don't think so. You could find terrible things about all religions. That does not mean they should be killed.

Berny p.
berny p5 years ago


A Marina Fournier

While I have never mistaken a person from the Indian subcontinent area, wearing a turban, as being Muslim, it's because as a costumer, I tend to notice difference in headgear. Then again, most persons from that area simply do not look Arabic to me--but I haven't seen enough Afghani faces to know if I could distinguish them as non-Arab, non-Indian (etc). Their headgear is different from either of the previous cultures'.

For all that most Sikhs carry a ritual knife/dagger, and were once warriors, they promote peace and equality, and have tried to enforce those beliefs in their history. They are non-violent now, as far as I know now. This is not to contrast them with the ignorants' views of Muslims, but to say that they are no longer a warrior caste.

Sikhs have lived in most of the communities I've lived in, nearly all my life. I have been fed in a langar, a communal vegetarian feast where there is no head nor foot to show rank, because all are equal. Sikhs consider that a holy work, and do not charge for it. I ate in the same respect they gave in making and serving it.

My ophthalmologist and her husband are Sikh, and a local Sikh temple had just been dedicated when I started my care there. They were downstairs from another physician I see, so they were a sort of lazy choice for me that I haven't regretted.

I try to greet most everyone walking toward me with a smile, but for those who are in cultural attire, I make sure to meet their eyes and deepen my smile, especia