By Ken Wieland from Philadelphia, USA (Gurdwara Bangla SahibUploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ken Wieland from Philadelphia, USA (Gurdwara Bangla SahibUploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sikhs are commonly confused for Muslims in the U.S. and become the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The first California homicide victim in 2016 is an American following the Sikh faith. The deceased, Gurcharam Singh Gill, of 68 years of age, was stabbed until he died at a convenience store. This murder is just one of many attacks which followers of the Sikh religion has suffered due to prejudice.

It is not only attacks from bigots which plague the Sikh community, even law enforcement sometimes targets them for appearing similar to Muslims. Shah Noor, another Sikh American was grilled by police officers in California when he stopped at a convenience store to buy groceries. During questioning, one police officer even touched his service gun. The incident was clearly a case of racial profiling.

When Muslims attack on American soil, the inevitable backlash happens. One thing is noticeable: the hate crimes are not only restricted to Muslims. They affect Sikhs and just about any other person with similar racial features- like brown skin.

Islamophobia first reared its ugly head on 9/11. It has then targeted indiscriminately a number of individuals. Sikhs, since they wear a turban- a necessary show of faith- are frequently confused for Muslims in America. The former pray at gurdwaras and not at mosques. Even the gurdwaras are mistaken for mosques by right wingers. One gurdwara located at Buena Park in California was heavily vandalized a few days after the shooting at San Bernardino. Graffiti was sprayed on its facade, which included the misspelled word “Islahm.” There was also abusive language directed towards Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The shooting at San Bernardino was done by individuals involved with a group which did a number of horrifying acts all over the world, including the Paris November 13 attack.

A man arrested for vandalism of the Buena Park Gurdwara Singh Sabha subsequently issued an apology to the public. Other assaults, however, did not end on such a positive note. A Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was shot in cold blood on September 15, 2001- just four days after the hijacked planes crashed into World Trade Center towers. Frank Roque killed Sodhi in a supposed retaliation spree for the September 11 attacks. Sodhi is now considered as one of the first victims of the backlash that followed the 9/11 attacks.

The incidence of violence against Sikh Americans has forced a few Sikhs to form “The Sikh Coalition” in 2001. They seek to combat xenophobia against their community.

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