By Alex Moreno
Are you sure you know the differences between a Sikh and Muslim individual and their ideologies?
At the Horizon we found ourselves debating and assuming varying ideas about the Sikh religion and its members.
“Nearly 60 percent of Americans admit knowing nothing at all about Sikhs,” NPR’s Why American Sikhs Think They Need a Publicity Campaign said.
In Kent, Washington a Sikh man was shot in his driveway while working on his car.
He was shot in his arm after being told to go back to your own country by his assailant on March 3, 2017.
Thankfully the victim is expected to make a full recovery.
The Kent police chief Ken Thomas addressed the attack in a news conference broadcasted by KIRO.
“That this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing,” Thomas said.
Members of the Sikh community are pushing for the attack to be investigated as a hate crime.
The government agencies need to recognize what these hate crimes look like, so they can work to stop them.
Satpal Sidhu has been a Sikh resident of Whatcom County for over 25 years and is a Whatcom County council member.
When Sidhu first moved to Bellingham around 1988, the Sikh community was very small, only around 10 families.
In 1999 the community built a Sikh temple on East Pole road in Lynden, and now there are around four to five thousand Sikh people in Whatcom County.
Sikh people first came to Bellingham around 1904, mostly from the ship ports of Vancouver and San Francisco to work at the lumber mills, Sidhu said.
Bellingham had some of the largest lumber mills on the west coast at the time.
On Sept. 4 1907, around 400 to 500 rioters organized and removed a crowd of mostly Sikh immigrants from home and work into streets and beat them, Sidhu said.
“They were given an ultimatum by the local people that they had 48 hours to leave Bellingham or next time it will be worse, and the police or anybody didn’t say otherwise,” Sidhu said.
There was around 300 Sikhs living in Bellingham at that time, Sidhu said.
“Now the Sikh community makes up around 50 percent of the dairy farmers in Whatcom County,” Sidhu said.
The Sikh religion is the world’s fifth largest religion and has more followers than Judaism.
There are over 25 million Sikh members in the world, estimates the World Religion Database.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, which was founded in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The word Sikh means disciple in the Punjab language.
The Sikh religion rejected the caste system.
In the Indian caste system, the high class would wear a turban to segregate the lower castes. Guru Gobind Singh had all Sikhs wear a turban as to reject the caste system.
“99 percent of men in the U.S. with turban appearance are Sikh,” the Who We Are video released by the We Are Sikhs foundation said.
People saw Osama Bin Laden with a turban and beard and now associate turbans with the opposite of its representation in the Sikh context, Sidhu said.
In some sacred places of Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity, heads are covered, but Sikhs cover all the time, because of their belief of god being present everywhere.
The place of worship is called a Gurdwara and translates to doorway to god.
There is no official clergy in the religion but priests have become established, although a Gurdwara can still be completely member ran.
Sikhs believe everyone is equal in the eyes of god and all people of any faith, race, and gender are welcome into our Gurdwara, Sidhu said.
Come for a visit on Sunday to your local temple and say hi and speak with us. We always have free vegetarian food on Sundays, Sidhu said.
There are five articles of traditional garb to wear, established by the Guru Gobind Singh, for those who strictly follow Sikh teachings.
The five articles are; a kesh, being uncut hair usually in a dastaar or turban; a kangha, a small wooden comb; a kara, an iron bangle for the wrist; a kachera, a specific undergarment; and a kirpan, a short dagger.
In Italy it has been established that the Sikh people must follow the Italian prohibition of carrying weapons, despite that the kirpan is a religious, ceremonial, and sacred object in the Sikh religion.
A Sikh man appealed his court case in the Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest court in Italy, because he was fined the equivalent of $2,195 in result of his possession of his 7.8-inch Kirpan in Goito, northern Italy, Italian media outlets reported.
The kirpan is symbolic of spirituality and the constant battle of good versus injustice and meant to remind Sikhs of their duty to persevere everyday.
“The multi-ethnic society is a necessity, but it can’t lead to the formation of conflicting cultural groups,” the court said. “Public safety is an asset to defend and as such bans carrying weapons and objects aimed at injury.”
A two story Sikh Gurdwara is to be built on 591 Telegraph Road in Bellingham.
The building’s construction should begin in Aug. to Sept. and the name will be Singh Sabha Gurdwara.
The new religious building will help with the growing number of Sikhs in the Whatcom area.
The Sikh religion believes that all people are part of the same family; we all need to remember this.
“We have an obligation to make this world a better place before we leave,” Who We Are video released by the We Are Sikhs foundation said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have shown an increase in the number of hate groups since the election of Trump.
The Arch of Healing and Reconciliation, a 13 foot tall and 13 foot wide red granite arch, will be built in a park by the city hall of Bellingham and celebrated on Sept. 4, 2017, Sidhu said.
Little knowledge is a dangerous thing and we must educate people what the misconceptions about Sikhism are, Sidhu said.