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Sikh iReports speak to long-held fears in their community
Harpreet Kaur poses in front of her Jewett, Texas, home with a homemade sign.
August 10th, 2012
04:16 PM ET

Sikh iReports speak to long-held fears in their community

By Jareen Imam, CNN

(CNN) – After Sunday’s Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, Sikhs across America started sharing their stories. Stories of shedding their turbans and cutting their hair to avoid ridicule. Stories of facing discrimination for the way they looked. Stories of being labeled Muslims or terrorists.

Those stories were among the iReports submitted by Sikhs in the last week.

Harpreet Kaur says her life changed drastically after the 9/11 attacks. Some classmates shunned her and she was taunted as a "rag head" and "bomber."

"I have been told numerous times to go back to my own country, because only white people belong in America,” she says.

"It never really bothered me. ... In the end I am still a human being and a citizen of the U.S.," the 18-year-old says in a video she sent to iReport.

The college-bound Kaur sent a picture that showed her posing with a sign that says "I'm Sikh, please don't hate me." She says she wants to show those in her small town of Jewett, Texas, that she is different but also has a lot in common with other Americans.

"With this image I wanted to let my community know that, yes, my skin is brown and my hair is dark but that does not make me and my family Muslims or terrorist,” she said. “We are just as American as the people who immigrated here when America was first established."

Some commenters asked Kauer why she calls attention to the fact that she’s not Muslim:

Momofour1 :
"I am perplexed that the 'Muslim' is the whipping boy here. Is it bad if you look like a Muslim? Again, how exactly does a Muslim look like? And between the lines I sense some stereotyping and some reference to class here. We are Sikhs and we are better than the low-lying Muslims?"

ronmexicao12:
"Nobody hates you. It's just that some maladjusted people in this country - usually right-wing conservatives - mistake you for being Muslim, and we all know how Americans feel about Muslims."

Shedding the turban

Amrinder Singh is a Sikh but he does not wear a turban anymore. Not since he moved to Scott Depot, West Virginia, from Punjab, India.

Singh had heard stories of Sikhs being the target of hate crimes in the United States even before he arrived. "I still remember that I had to cut my long hair in order to work at a gas station," he says in his iReport.

"I wonder if I made the right choice of coming to the U.S.," he says. "I know that most of the people, especially in small towns, are not aware of our culture or religion. However, most of the time I found out that they try to relate us as Muslims."

Harpreet Singh Toor goes a step further, saying he lives in fear that someone will attack him for not being white or Christian.

Last weekend’s temple shooting reinforced that worry, provoking a “sadness that someone, again, decided to show their hate by killing people who happen to look like what that someone thinks Muslims look like."

Toor says he has already been a victim of discrimination. "People have called me towel-head, though I do not wear a turban,” he says in his iReport. “I have been bullied at school for being different, my family's house has had things thrown at it, and the list could go on. I notice how people look at me different because I keep a beard."

The San Diego resident says that such discrimination is not readily acknowledged in the Sikh community: "Most Sikhs don't write about the fear or talk about it because the discrimination, the hate, the awkward glances are a way of life. It's something we experience every day."

New Yorker Simran Singh says she and her husband choose to practice Sikhism, but that the decision comes at a cost. "At times it can be a daunting choice, especially when you hear about ignorance, hatred and violence that occur," she says in her iReport.

In the face of the Wisconsin attack, Singh hopes her three young boys will practice their faith. "I hope that I can be strong enough not to be scared of how people perceive them,” she says in her iReport. “No mother wants to see their child hurt, emotionally or physically.”

Comments speak to Sikh/Muslim confusion

Similar themes emerged in comments on CNN.com’s coverage of Sikhs this week, including on our story The Sikh turban: at once personal and extremely public:

Dryoasis41 writes:

"Anybody saying that Sikhs should be accepted if they become citizens and know the language/laws would be wise to apply this to everybody. Sadly, from what I've seen, if this article were about Muslims, there would be different responses (especially regarding the headwear Muslim women choose to wear).

"Let's make sure that when we apply acceptance we apply it to EVERYBODY. Sikhs aren't terrorists, neither are the majority of Muslims.

"But user Bill Constantine seems to want Sikhs to look like other Americans: 'When in Rome, dress as the Romans do.' ... Well where are you? You go to the Taliban area and do not have a beard then you have a problem. ... Do your religion at home."

Others said that Sikhs should work to improve relations with other Americans:

iluv_USA:

"USA is a great country and we Sikhs love this country. Sikhs need to play their role in removing ignorance prevailing amongst many racist or militant groups by reaching out to militant groups, connecting with them and informing them. We are NOT Muslims. We were born out of Hinduism as a part of anti-fanatic Muslim movement in India five centuries ago. Killing any human is wrong, whether Muslim or Sikh or of any other faith."

Hamdi replies:

"So what you're saying is that white people should hate Muslims instead of Sikhs? Isn't the point of this debate that nobody should be targeted because of their religion? How can you expect people not to be prejudiced against you when you practice the same prejudice against others?"

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: iReport • Sikh

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. iluv_USA

    Message to Sikhs. USA is a great country & we Sikhs love this country. Sikhs need to play their role in removing Ignorance prevailing amongst racist or militant groups by reaching out to militant groups, connecting with them & informing them – that i) We are NOT Muslims. We were born out of Hinduism as a part of anti-fanatic-Muslim movement in India 5 centuries ago. This is a fact & by revealing a fact you are NOT giving a message that it is OK to kill Muslims ii) Killing any human is wrong – whether Muslim or Sikh or any other.

    Daily prayer of Sikhs calls for “good, well-being, benefit, welfare, benevolence for EVERYONE i.e. all humans, animals, birds, nature etc. We believe in community service. Many Sikhs wear turban & have beard. Sikh turban is NOT Taliban or Muslim turban. Sikhs served in World Wars I & II. Just like American people, Sikhs have suffered at the hands of fanatic Muslims; from 15th century till now. Hindus suffered at the hands of fanatic Muslims since the last 11 centuries. It is real tragic that we Sikhs are misunderstood & mistaken as Muslims. Sikhs have no enmity with mainstream peaceful Muslims or any other religion.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  2. gary

    The religious debate will never end as long as people kill in the name of their religion. We are a country of immigrants that escaped persacussion many years ago and built a great nation. It is not the ignorance of Americans on what culture you are, it is the perception that is fed to them from society and the media. India is a multicultural country that follows many religions as the US does. Students are taught World History for 1 semester in High School. If you ask a teen about India they would mostly tell you that this is where they filmed Slum Lord Millionaire or you can go to You Tube and get free movies. It is a learning process for those to understand however; it will get better. After all. we are the greatest nation in the world and this is why so many people want to live here.

    August 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    August 11, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • kindless

      Actually, atheism is wonderful for children and all people! Prayer as it turn out, is just a time-sucker-upper. Who would've thought. Meditation is ok for collecting one's thoughts, but it's best to keep all the make-believe characters to one's self.

      Atheists have strong minds and encourage people to take responsibility for their actions within society instead of having their misdeeds excused and often hidden within their religion (comforting their weak minds, but simultaneously disserving society).

      Break the matrix of deception by all religions. Break the fallacy of revelation.

      If the thought leaving your imaginary friends behind is just too much, or makes you want to go p00py, then try Atheism Lite™ (agnosticism) for a period of time to ease your way into a much more rewarding, peaceful life.

      It is written. RIF

      heavenSnot

      August 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!* .

      August 12, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Jeven

      Atheism or Humanism?
      Why only when some thing happen to Sikhs, you guys come out to make this kind of comments. when Sikhs supported all the Human being. any one think he or she is Atheist should not be here to make any comments like this way they way some people doing here. Love Peace and Respect should be our motto as a human not a greed and hate.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes otherwise rational adults into believing in imaginary friends.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Simran

      Good one!

      August 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • just sayin

      Wonderful Truth posted over an unbelievable lie. God bless

      August 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  5. kyanwan

    So it's not ok to hate Sikhs – but it's ok to hate Muslims. So what the author and interviewer are kind of getting to in a nutshell is: It's ok to hate as long as you're hating on the right person. Don't hate me because I look like a "stereotypical muslim".

    If your argument is so hollow, and you want to take the hate and redirect it – rather than stop it ........ you deserve exactly what you get!

    I just love hypocrisy.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  6. Bobby

    Harpreet is HAWT!!!!!

    August 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  7. sativa619

    To the tune of the Beach Boys:

    Wouldn't it be nice if we were smarter
    And we all could get along

    And wouldn't it be nice if there was no god
    And you wouldn't have to feel so wrong...

    Do you imagine that we'd live together
    Maybe not kiiiiiiillll each other, wouldn't that be nice?

    August 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • truth be told

      Given the power an atheist will murder millions. How does that fit into your beach boy jingle?

      August 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • J.W

      sativa is not an atheist obviously because their song says 'wouldn't it be nice if there was no god.' So they must believe that there is a god.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told wrote: "Given the power an atheist will murder millions. "

      mmm hmmm, and just where did you learn this truth? be truthful now.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • truth be told

      History

      August 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told wrote: "History"

      mmm hmmm, well maybe you'd better provide some examples in history. (Hint, I would stay away from those inquisitions – that was a nasty set of events on the part of the Catholics.)

      August 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • truth be told

      The inquisition pales in comparison to a chairman Mao and besides which those responsible were no more Christian than you are. Putting the t itle Christian on someone does not make them a Christian.

      August 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told wrote: "Putting the t itle Christian on someone does not make them a Christian." Well we hear that a lot these days because we have more "christian" extremism in the US than ever before. But the seeds for this extremism were planted long ago. The bible itself has much controversy between the teachings and words of its key figure and all of the other characters, so for me, it is no surprise that extremism has grown and continues to grow within "christianity". But back to your generalization. I can use the same argument: citing some a couple of the worst rulers in history that rid religion as a means to gain power is not a good way to understand atheism and when used to generalize, just shows foolishness.

      August 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Answer

      Christards all do the same bit..

      –> Deflect the bad away from their sordid lot and pin it on others.

      August 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      August 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • kindless

      Actually, atheism is wonderful for children and all people! And prayer is just a time-sucker-upper.

      Atheists have strong minds and are good at helping weak-minded people work through their struggles with other people or the imaginary forces or obstacles that men have made up. Atheists encourage people to take responsibility for their actions within society instead of having their misdeeds excused and often hidden within their religion (comforting their weak minds, but simultaneously disserving society).

      Break the matrix of deception by all religions.

      If the thought leaving your imaginary friends behind is just too much, or makes you want to go p00py, then try Atheism Lite™ (agnosticism) for a period of time to ease your way into a much more rewarding, peaceful life.

      It is written. RIF

      heavenSnot

      August 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • truth be told

      More people have been murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries.

      August 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • just wondering

      will kindless now be telling us how healthy murder is?

      August 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told said: "More people have been murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries."

      Lie. But, in the spirit of things, please give one reference to this. We're waiting . . .

      August 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • truth be told

      Sorry to keep an idiot waiting.
      Joe Stalin atheist 24 million murdered. Minimum estimate.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      truth be told wrote: Joe Stalin atheist 24 million murdered. Minimum estimate."

      Well even if those figures are good, then it is still a poor example. Although many historians state that Stalin was an atheist, he was, above all, a politician and a greedy sob. He was raised a catholic and restored the russian orthodox church once he gained firm control of the country. He rid the country of religion when the church started to get in his way – this shows all his actions were about power. Given his actions and att.itudes displayed before and after his struggle, he is a difficult figure to pin down in terms of his "faith". Plenty of christian rulers, even popes have had plenty of blood on their hands through the ages, so it serves nothing to try to attribute murder to atheism as a generalization.

      August 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • truth be told

      Mao
      Hitler
      Ho
      Castro
      Pol Pot
      North Koreans
      African dictators

      August 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • truth be told

      All atheists , all mass murderers

      August 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      truth be told

      A useless troll.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer does change things. Prayer changes otherwise rational adults into believing in imaginary friends.

      August 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Mao – Mao-ist (aka self-ist also a confuciust, the father is the head of the house and he was the head father of the house of china
      Hitler – Christian
      Ho – Mao-ist
      Castro – ok you got me their – but not really a dictator
      Pol Pot – Maoist
      North Koreans – Kim Il-sung-ist Kim Il-sung is god Kim Il-sung was raptured to heaven Kim Il-sung is still president
      African dictators – the majority are christian, the minority are self-ist

      believing you are a God or your leader is a God is not Atheistism

      August 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  9. J.W

    It is hard to believe that such racism could happen in Texas.

    August 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Harpreet

      Yes. It actually does happen.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.