Just the other day, there was a YouTube video featuring a Sikh elderly man which went viral on the Internet. Reason: the man had been ‘mistakenly’ tagged as ‘Bin Laden’ and, as a result, the video received a lot of hate-commentary and dislikes. Later, of course, the man’s daughter and an NGO stepped in to clear the air. But, the damage was already been done.
The YouTube-video err is not the first against Sikhs. Ever since the 9/11 massacre, there has been rising discomfort and suspicion against identity of Sikhs in the West. This is certainly not good news, and puts a perennial question-mark hanging over their safety. After the YouTube-video fiasco, a young man, a Sikh has responded to rising intolerance against Sikhs and Muslims. His Facebook-post is just the apt response:
“They say the average American does not know the difference between a Sikh and Muslim. They tell me the average American associates a turban and a beard with ISIS, Taliban, or Bin Laden. That’s ok because the average Sikh does not have fear in their vocabulary.
We are not the victims of mistaken identity, we are in fact doing exactly what our identity was supposed to do. It was supposed to absorb hate and ignorance so others would not have to. See, you mistake us for something we are not however you do not know exactly who we are. Our heritage teaches us tolerance, to love the enemy and to protect even those we do not agree with. These seemingly progressive values, of equality, freedom of religion, justice for all that you thought were American are actually something Sikhs have been living, and dying for centuries over. Our history is full of examples how Sikhs protected others before themselves, put humanity first and their own life last. We are taught from a very young age that our identity comes with responsibility, it will come with its own set of challenges, and we are in fact ready for anything and more your hate can dish out.
We have learned through our forefathers that hate does not last, and love, and truth eventually overcome. You may feel big by attacking us, but with each blow you only strengthen our resolve. You have bullied our children in schools, attacked our places of worship all in your skewed misinformed and small view of the world. Yes we look different but we are not foreign to this type of treatment. Everywhere a Sikh goes they know they stand out, they know their identity comes before all else that is presented about them, and even in the face of extreme intolerance they are willing to not reciprocate the hate but shower love instead.
You think if you intimidate us we will go running ‘back to our country’ as you heckle commonly, however we will not go back but only dig our heals stronger to prove that not only are we not afraid but we have the resolve to overcome your anger. Our religion provides us the guidance that there is no other, there is no difference, there is no better, there is only divine light which shines in all.
A Sikh’s strength lies in their identity, it goes hand in hand with their existence. You might use images of the media to shape your world view through the bias lens, but we use spiritual power to shape our resolve. A Sikh will stay steadfast in a storm because we know the real battle does not rage externally rather internally is where the conquest really counts.
My hope is of a better America, where tolerance is not just a word that is thrown around, but actually practiced by every individual. Where diversity is not seen as a weakness but our core strength and what makes this nation great. Till then you will never see us hiding, the ‘Average Sikh’ will be out there with our turbans and beards easy to spot and ready for any challenge that may be presented.”
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