According to CNN, cries of “Osama” and “terrorist” echoed through the streets near Central Park on Sept. 21 when Prabhjot Singh, an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, became a victim of a hate crime when a mob of 12 to 15 people attacked him.
It appears that ignorance and intolerance within the United States continues to plague the nation more recently than ever before because yet another Sikh hate crime occurred in New York City just last week.
But there’s one glaring disturbance about this vicious assault: Singh is a Sikh. In the U.S., Sikhism has become synonymous with Islam because of those who associate the turbans and full beards of Sikhs with those of Muslims. The unsettling assault on Singh is an addition to a seemingly large number — more than 700 Sikh-related hate-crimes have been reported since 9/11, according to the Sikh Coalition — that clearly showcases a lack of education about the Sikh religion.
The majority of Americans remain in the dark when it comes to recognizing the religion as exemplified by Singh’s case. Singh, who co-authored a 2012 New York Times op-ed on Sikh hate crimes in the U.S., was left bruised with a fractured jaw after becoming a victim of hate crime himself when assailants mistakenly took him for a Muslim.
According to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. does not recognize the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim.
Sikhism is the world’s fifth most popular religion. The monotheistic faith emphasizes equality and service to all. Of the 25 million Sikhs in the world, roughly 700,000 reside within the U.S.
The violence and hatred spurned by the ignorant mistaking of peaceful Sikhs for extremist Muslims occurs frequently and is widespread, from regular reports of Sikh school children in New York being called “Bin Laden” or “terrorist” to the fatal Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting by a neo-Nazi that took place just over a year ago.
The fact that these sorts of attacks continue to occur is an indication of the lack of general education regarding both religions. There should at least be some silver-lining in the hope that out of these attacks comes a lesson, yet still Sikhs continue to wrongly become the targets of anti-Islam attacks time after time.
Most Americans remain largely politically and socially unaware due to their own folly. Hopefully, Americans will one day be able to recognize the difference between Sikhs and Muslims and become less violent toward others.
Rojine Ariani is a sophomore majoring in political science and international relations.
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