Sikhs in US feel they are victims of mistaken identity
Washington, Dec 29: Sikhs have been mistaken for terrorists and radicals and continue to suffer after 9/11 terror attacks in the US, community members feel following the latest attack on an elderly Sikh man in California which is being probed by police as a hate crime.
"This is the latest episode of what Sikhs have been enduring when they are very peace-loving and hard-working citizens of this great country and not members of al-Qaeda or ISIS or any other radical group," member of the Sikh Council of Central California Ike Iqbal Grewal said.
"Sikhs have been mistaken for terrorists and radicals and continue to suffer after 9/11," he said. In the latest attack on Sikhs, Amrik Singh Bal, 68, of Fresno area in California, was assaulted by two white males in their 20s before dawn on Saturday morning while he was waiting for a ride to work.
He also suffered a broken collar bone in the attack. Sikhs are frequently conflated with Muslims and often wind up absorbing the backlash against Islam.
"There's nothing new about Sikhs being the targets of violence and intimidation in the United States: Followers of the monotheistic faith, which originated in South Asia in the 15th century, have been on the receiving end of xenophobic intolerance since they began arriving in the Pacific Northwest to fill logging jobs in the early 20th century," according to Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group.
That intimidation intensified in the months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment washed over the country, leading some to confuse the long beards and turbans worn by many Sikh men as a representation of Islam.
Others viewed it simply as an opportunity to attack individuals they perceived as being "un-American", Washington Post said. According to the Sikh Coalition, there were more than 300 cases of violence and discrimination against US Sikhs in the first month after the 2001 attacks.
"Over the last few weeks, the level of intimidation is worse than it was after Sept. 11th," Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s legal director, told The Post.
"Then, people were angry at the terrorists and now they're angry at Muslims, anyone who is seen as Muslim, or anyone who is perceived as being 'other'. "It's not just a case of mistaken identity. It's beyond that."