The Sikh Experience in America
Despite being the fifth most popular religion of the world, people of the Sikh faith are rarely recognized as such in the US. With a sharp rise in Islamophobia, Sikhs are frequent targets of bigoted hate crimes, often mistaken for Muslims or Hindus. The first victim of post-9/11 hate crimes was a 49 year old Sikh man – shot to death outside of the gas station he owned. Six Sikhs were murdered in Wisconsin in 2012 when a man opened fire in a Sikh gurdwara, murdering them in cold blood in what was the deadliest attack at a place of worship since the Jim Crow era. Most recently a Sikh man was shot in his own driveway after being told to “go back to your own country.” With the incidences of hate crimes and discrimination against American citizens of middle eastern and Asian descent growing rapidly since Trump entered the political spotlight, most Sikhs have experienced it personally.
A 2015 Stanford study found that 70% of Americans misidentify Sikhs as Muslims and nearly 50% think that Sikhism is a sect of Islam. An estimated 500,000-700,000 Sikhs live in the US. Despite that, the vibrance of the Sikh community is rarely seen in US mass media or pop culture – further leading to a misidentification and misunderstanding of Sikhs and Sikhism, one of the most loving and inclusive religions in the world today.
Journalist Abby Martin visited a Sikh gurdwara in Virginia to speak with the Sikh community there about their personal experiences with discrimination, hate crimes, and cultural ignorance. During her visit she observed common Sikh practices, spoke of long standing Sikh traditions, and partook in a large traditional meal. During her time at the gurdwara Abby also spoke with Georgetown Professor and civil rights attorney, Arjun Singh Sethi.
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