It is fairly common for the average American to misidentify a turbaned Sikh man as a Muslim person. And ever since the tragedy of 9/11, negative stereotypes have perpetuated throughout the United States about people from South Asian and Middle Eastern countries. This is a topic that I was eager to do my project on because I am a Sikh myself and it disheartens me to hear about Sikhs being killed and harassed or any religious hate crimes in general. Sikhs and Muslims have been the target of countless racist jokes and comments which are not funny at all. For this project I reached out to an organization called the Sikh Coalition which works to spread awareness about the difference between Muslims and Sikhs and provides support for victims of religious and racist hate crimes. In this essay, I will discuss what the Sikh Coalition is all about, the work they are doing, The Sikh religion, and how they incorporate its values in their work. The Sikh Coalition was founded as a volunteer organization in response to 9/11 as hate violence swept the country.
The first deadly hate crime in the aftermath happened to a turbaned Sikh American, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was killed outside his gas station in Mesa, Arizona on September 15, 2001. Mr. Sodhi was a kind hearted man and a devout Sikh who would distribute free candies and drinks to children who came to his gas station. And if people were not able to pay at the moment, he would often tell them it was okay to come back and pay tomorrow. He was even planning to donate blood to the victims of 9/11. The murder of this innocent and kind hearted man was the event that triggered the founding of the Sikh Coalition. Ever since, they have diligently worked to help victims and prevent hate crimes. Although they are the Sikh Coalition, their efforts are not just for the benefits of Sikhs. They work to create safer schools for every child, fight employment discrimination, prevent hate crimes and discrimination, fight legal battles for those who are unable to afford legal fees, empower the Sikh community, and spread awareness about issues they handle in order to prevent them. Sikhism is the world’s fifth-largest religion, followed by more than 25 million people worldwide. For centuries before the religion of Sikhism was established, the turban was common in many south Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Sikhs believe in one God, and that all religions are equal. As long as one follows and worships God no matter what religion either Muslim, Sikh or Christian etc. that is good. We believe that people’s religions are just different methods of worshiping the same God, any method is permissible as long as one believes in a single Almighty God. When the Sikh faith was developing from the 15th through 18th centuries in South Asia, the turban was worn only by the higher classes and elites of society. The reasoning behind Sikhs wearing turbans is to signify the equality among all of our faith’s followers.
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