Sikh News Manmohan Singh To Be US Sikhs' USP

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Sep 16, 2004
Manmohan Singh to be US Sikhs' USP

S Rajagopalan

Washington, July 14, 2005

The Sikh community in the US sees a wonderful opportunity in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit here this weekend on a totally different count: In clearing the air about the turbans and beards that Sikh men wear by his mere presence.

Sikh groups feel the media glare surrounding Singh's meeting with Bush, address to US Congress and other engagements can be turned to the community's advantage by disabusing American minds about Sikh turbans.

There have been well over 400 hate crimes directed at Sikh men across the US since 9/11, all in the mistaken belief that they are followers of Osama bin Laden simply because of their turbans and beards.

At least one Sikh organisation came forward on Thursday with a suggestion for the American media: Please include a primer on articles of Sikh faith while covering the Prime Minister's visit.

Says the Dallas-based 'Sikh Awareness': "In most cases, Sikhs were targeted simply because they wear a turban. The situation makes it painfully obvious that many Americans do not understand the basic principles and values of the Sikh faith."

Gunavendra Suri and GS Singh, the group's founders, believe that media images of the turban-wearing Prime Minister addressing the US Congress can go a long way in correcting the mistaken image about the Sikh community in some quarters.

A simple message that they want the American media to include in its reportage is: "The Sikh religion is the only organised religion that requires followers to wear a turban on a full-time basis. Almost every person wearing a turban in the US is a Sikh."

A full page ad in the Washington Post, welcoming the Prime Minister, will send out the same message more subtly, says Dr Rajwant Singh of the Sikh Council on Education and Research and a key interlocutor for the community with the Bush administration.

A host of Sikh advocacy groups have been waging a public campaign on the turban and racial profiling issues, but the community feels more efforts are needed since stray attacks on Sikhs continue to take place.

Just two days ago, a Sikh cab driver of New York filed a lawsuit against five men who attacked him brutally a year ago. Rajinder Singh Khalsa, 55, suffered a near loss of vision in his left eye and a crushed nose in the hate crime attack at the hands of the five men, who are in custody.

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