Sikhs say an Associated Press story suggesting the FBI has asked followers of their faith to cooperate in counter-terrorism efforts perpetuates the attitude has led to prejudicial attacks on them since 9/11.
"The FBI is intensifying efforts nationwide to enlist Muslims, Arab-Americans and Sikhs to help thwart a possible terrorist attack this summer or fall."
So says the first line of a July 9 Associated Press story that was picked up by numerous newspapers, radio and television outlets including CNN.com, ABCNews.com, National Public Radio and the Guardian Unlimited in England.
This was news to Sikhs, who are not Muslim or Arab and have never been linked to Al-Qaeda or the September 11 attacks.
"That gives the impression some members of the Sikh community are involved in terrorism," said Manjit Singh, president of Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Taskforce (SMART) which works toward accurate representation of Sikhs and Sikhism in American Society and media. "Sikhs are not connected in any way to 9-11."
The AP story, by reporter Curt Anderson, came from a July 9 FBI press release titled "Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations Reinforce Commitment to working with leaders of Muslim, Sikh and Arab-American Communities."
The press release is based on Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller's recent meeting with leaders of national Muslim, Sikh and Arab-American organizations. It lumped together the FBI's separate initiatives. One goal is to glean terror-related intelligence from Muslim and Arab-American community leaders. The other is to investigate and prevent hate crimes stemming from reaction to the war on terror and directed at these groups as well as at Sikhs, whom some mistake for Muslims because male Sikhs wear a type of turban.
"The AP jumped the gun by not realizing the clear distinction between the different things," said Singh. "Mr. Anderson fell victim to the common misconception that Sikhs are connected to 9-11. That's what we're trying to correct." [Link]
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