Society ignorant toward Sikh religion

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.

Emily McPeek | Daily Trojan

Emily McPeek | Daily Trojan

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.

Follow us on Twitter @dailytrojan

3 replies
  1. William Buttrey
    William Buttrey says:

    I’m afraid the ignorance of those perpetrating hate crimes would be just as pronounced even if directed at Muslims however ‘correctly’ identified..

  2. Manjit Singh
    Manjit Singh says:

    Thank you for highlighting this ongoing issue facing Sikhs in their everyday lives. In a yet another incident after the one you have covered, a Mississippi court judge seems even the worst since judges are supposed to be unbiased and proivde justice.

  3. Ras
    Ras says:

    Sikhs being lumped together is as understandable or reprehensible as people lumping together “white people” as a common group with the assumption all white people have the same thoughts and beliefs. Why is it we are not up in arms whenever we hear some sanctimonious politician, celebrity, journalist decry that “white people” just don’t get this or that or understand, etc? If we are going to have an honest discussion about race – which I am told we desperately want to have in the US – then let’s expose the hypocrisy and really talk about the truth and NOT make stupid one-sided arguments that only inflame emotions and ultimately just cry for more fist shaking at the MAN.

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