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Thursday, September 07, 2006

'We are not Muslims'

The onrush of hate crimes against Muslim-looking people following Sept. 11, 2001, has decreased, but a representative for a large Indian cultural organization based in Palatine believes misperceptions still exist that socially impact his community.

When asked if his people still feel the sting of discrimination or outright hostility, spokesman Rajinder Mago of the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago in Palatine set the record straight.

"The first thing is that we are not Muslims," said Mago, a Sikh co-founder of the society and its president in 1996. "Sikhs are of a distinct religion in the world with 23- to 25- million followers. We wear turbans and have beards, which is where some people mistake us for Muslims. When they look at us, they see Arabs, Muslims, Afghans and even Osama bin Laden."

Because of education programs that explain the Sikh religion as well as Sikhs participating in popular American traditions such as Fourth of July parades, Mago said people are beginning to understand his faith.

"Treatment of us has improved since we began getting into mainstream customs, but we still have to be careful among the uninformed. In the meantime, we still educate people as to whom we are." [Link]

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