facets of faith: September 11 obscures the view of Sikhs in America | Faith


Last week I was on the Quora Q&A app and saw a question asking what the British think about Sikhs, followers of a religion that started in India.

Answer after answer, the person was not attached to religion in general, but everyone liked the Sikhs they had met. Sikhs tend to help their communities without asking for anything in return, not even proselytizing, according to responses.

A few minutes later, I was on the Religion News Service website reading articles written by Sikhs about the aftermath of 9/11. Basically, Americans treated them like enemies, just assuming that anyone who wasn’t dressed “American” was the enemy. A young Sikh returned and said that at one point he realized that he had been mistrusted even before the attacks on American soil.

This mistrust continues today.

In March 2018, a man was charged with driving his van into a Watson store. The man reportedly told police he had done so because the owners of the store were Muslims. The owners are Sikhs, not Muslims.

That year, I searched for “confuse Sikh with Muslim,” and Google returned 479,000 results. In 2021, that figure has risen to 659,000. And just like in 2018, many of these results mention crimes against Sikhs, which the authors mistook for Muslims.

This week digital alerts on Sikhs continue to pop up in my world.

Religion News Service featured an article on “Sikh Captain America”, an animated film seeking funding through a Kickstarter campaign.

“There isn’t a lot of portrayal of people who look like me in the American entertainment landscape. Because this story has not been told, it leads to a persistent level of ignorance, ”creator Vishavjit Singh said in the Kickstarter video. He said he was trying to counter the negative by telling stories about Sikhs in America.

Religion News Service had many stories related to 9/11 or other recent stories about Sikhs. Here is a sample:

Learn more

  • My 2018 Facets of Faith column at www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/entertainment_life/faith/article_64f2c77a-2741-11e8-bfac-83dabe6d5aaf.html provides a brief history and list of beliefs in religion.
  • To compare these beliefs to Muslims, visit www.learnreligions.com/ways-sikhism-differs-from-islam-2992956, which shares 10 ways Sikhism differs from Islam.
  • www.sikhcoalition.org has a page on Sikhs in America, saying, “Since their arrival in the late 1800s, Sikh men and women have made notable contributions to American society. The first immigrants settled on the western border, where they played a major role in building America’s railways. The page says Sikh Americans served in the US military during the World Wars and served in Congress. Sikh women in America include Grammy-winning artist Snatam Kaur, a commercial airline pilot, and a professor at Columbia University. “The inventor of fiber optics is an American Sikh, as is the nation’s largest peach producer, the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Morgan Freeman’s personal physician,” the site said.


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