By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Harkirat Singh Soin remembers a day in 1999 when, after much contemplation, he finally took a seat in a barber's chair.
All his 18 years, he'd worn long hair, first in a top knot, then in a dastar, or turban. It was an expression of his Sikh faith and a distinct mark of his identity.
As his locks tumbled to the floor, Soin felt ashamed.
CNN iReporter: I am a Sikh, please don’t hate me
He thought of his upbringing in a suburban Milwaukee neighborhood by Punjabi parents who emigrated from India. He grew up on meals of homemade roti and daal makhani and sessions at Sunday school that instilled Sikh values. He thought also of how his mother had taken time to maintain her boys' long hair with love and care.
With every snip of the shears, he felt, he lost not just hair but parts of his being.
But he was tired of not fitting in, of being teased. Once when he was in elementary school, he was even beaten with sticks by neighborhood troublemakers, he says.
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - When 20-year-old Ashley Carter heard about a mosque burned to the ground in her town this week, she was shocked.
"I was very saddened," she told CNN on Wednesday. "I thought it was very evil."
So Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, texted a friend, suggesting they organize an event "promoting acts of love."
Read more about the intersection of faith and the Olympics:
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – Members of the Joplin, Missouri, mosque destroyed by a suspicious fire are sad and shaken, but resolute in their plans to stay in the area, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
"This is a very close-knit community," Kimberly Kester said on CNN's "Early Start." "I think we feel secure and nobody's going to move away because of this action."
A fire that broke out early Monday destroyed the worship house of the Islamic Society of Joplin, a small mosque serving about 50 families in the southwest Missouri city.
The mosque's community is no stranger to attacks, Kester said.
"We've had our mailbox destroyed. Our sign was burned. The sign has been shot with guns. People would sometimes drive by and yell at us," she said.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in 2011. Daoud Abudiab is president of the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tennessee, where he works as an administrator for a physicians' group.
By Daoud Abudiab, Special to CNN
Last year, my son and I attended the White House conference on bullying prevention. We heard stories of people being bullied for being black, gay, lesbian and Sikh. The stories were compelling and left me more critical of our culture, in which it is popular to act in ways that dishonor our traditions.
Some of my friends were interested in the details of my Washington trip. I commented on the diversity at the White House event. A friend made a joke about the composition of attendees reflecting a typical Democratic Party gathering.
I thought of it as a typical American gathering. But I have become aware that not all Americans honor my American citizenship.
Read: Missouri mosque destroyed in fire
In some circles, my Muslim faith is not even accepted as a religion.
(CNN) - A mosque in Joplin, Missouri, was burned to the ground early Monday, just over a month after an attempted arson at the Islamic center, officials said.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the latest fire. The mosque's security cameras were destroyed in the blaze, according to Sharon Rhine of the Jasper County Sheriff's Office.
"This incident should not stop us from worshiping our God," one member of the Islamic Society of Joplin told CNN affiliate KYTV. "We are going to find a place probably to continue our service to God."
Kimberly Kester, another member, said the blaze was so intense that the building's bricks were still sizzling hours after the fire.
Carl Junction Fire Chief Bill Dunn called it a "complete loss."
By Jeffrey Elizabeth Copeland, CNN
(CNN)–After barring a black couple from marrying in its Mississippi facility in late July, the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs released a statement Sunday apologizing for its actions.
“We, the church, realize that the Hendersons and Wilsons should never have been asked to relocate their wedding. This wrong decision resulted in hurt and sadness for everyone. Both the pastor and those involved in the wedding location being changed have expressed their regrets and sorrow for their actions,” the church said.
Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson planned for months to marry at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs but were asked at the last minute to move.
Their pastor, Stan Weatherford, made the request on behalf of some congregants who didn't want to see the couple married there, according to CNN affiliate WLBT. He performed the ceremony at a nearby church.
Sunday’s statement follows a string of apologies from First Baptist and its congregation for turning away the young couple.
“As a church, we express our apology to Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson for the hurt that was brought to them in the hours preceding their wedding and beyond. We are seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ, Te’Andrea and Charles, family and friends of the Hendersons and Wilsons, our church family, and our community for the actions and attitudes that have recently occurred,” the statement continued.
Editor's note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and author of the book "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era."
By Arsalan Iftikhar, Special to CNN
(CNN)–Imagine that you woke up on a beautiful Sunday morning to hear the news of a brown, bearded, gun-wielding madman who stormed into a Wisconsin church full of blond-haired parishioners and killed six innocent people.
If that scenario did occur, would most Americans have any problem calling that an act of "terrorism"?
Of course not.
Now imagine that the shooter was a white man and the innocent victims were bearded brown men and head-covered women. Suddenly, the discussion of "terrorism" gets a lot more complicated.
Of course, this is exactly what happened in a Milwaukee suburb on Sunday, when six people and the alleged gunman were killed at a Sikh temple.
(CNN)–Immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist acts, Sikhs came under attack.
Mistaken for Muslims for their beards and turbans, they became ripe targets for zealots seeking revenge.
The first person murdered in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks was a Sikh – a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, named Balbir Singh Sodhi who was shot five times by aircraft mechanic Frank Roque.
In the intervening years, the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, reported more than 700 attacks or bias-related incidents.
Some Sikhs had their houses vandalized; others were spat upon. In some extreme cases, Sikhs were set upon by groups of people and beaten.
Oak Creek, Wisconsin (CNN) - The FBI will investigate Sunday's rampage at a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb as a "domestic terrorist-type incident" that left at least six people and the gunman dead, the town's police chief said.
Another three people were wounded, including the first officer to respond to the scene, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. A second officer returned fire, killing the suspect, according to the chief.
All three of the wounded were in critical condition at Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital, spokeswoman Carolyn Bellin told CNN. The congregation's president was among the wounded, his nephew said.
And another man told the CNN affiliate WTMJ, "Nobody's angry here. We're just confused. Was this a random act? Was this directed at us because of the way we look?"
Police did not release information about the gunman, with Edwards saying, "That is being checked into and is part of the criminal investigation." Nor would he disclose specifics of why the attack was being classified as an act of domestic terrorism.
The Sikh religion originated in northern India around 1500 and has about 25 million followers, 700,000 of them in the United States, according to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Because of their customary beards and turbans, Sikh men are often confused for Hindus or Muslims - and have been the targets of hate crimes since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, said Surinder Singh, a spokesman for the Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta.
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.