Region's Sikhs work toward understanding, acceptance
Post-9/11 America has not been kind to Sikhs. Since the collapse of the World Trade Center, many Americans have linked Sikhs, almost exclusively by appearance, to terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and the attacks.
The Sikhs had nothing to do with Sept. 11. But, unshorn, dark-skinned and turbaned, they look the part. The Sikhs' resemblance to the Muslim men who threaten the U.S. through Al-Jazeera videos has led to an unwarranted backlash.
"Post-9/11, it's been difficult for our community," said Amardeep Singh, executive director of the New York-based Sikh Coalition, which was founded just hours after the 9/11 attacks to thwart the hate crimes and discrimination already unfolding against Sikhs.
The Sikh Coalition Web site lists more than 400 instances of bias against Sikhs since Sept. 11, 2001. from verbal and physical abuse to murder of a Sikh boy who had his hair forcibly cut by whites last month. Another Sikh Web site reported 133 incidents of hate crimes and harassment against Sikhs in the week following the terror attacks.
There certainly is confusion about Sikhs.
A news Web site earlier this year mistakenly linked a story on the Lebanon-Israeli conflict to a photo of a Sikh. After the Sept. 11 attacks, a Sikh was murdered by someone who suspected the Arizona gas station owner had ties to al-Qaida.
In September, someone defaced a billboard intended to educate drivers on Interstate 78 in Berks County about Sikhism. The graffiti read, in tall black letters, "Arabs go to hell," mistaking Sikhs for some Middle Easterners. "F--- Allah," the person wrote, apparently believing Sikhs pray to the Muslim god....
Some within the Tatamy sangat, hoping to avoid workplace discrimination, Chana said, have foregone turbans and cut their hair and beards, which are considered sacred gifts from God
The Sikh Coalition, meanwhile, is "firefighting," litigating instances of bias against Sikhs. Its long-term goal is to disassociate Sikhs from terrorists -- an effort, Singh said, that could take decades. [Link]
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