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USA Most Americans Associate Turban-Wearers With OBL: Study


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Most Americans Associate Turban-Wearers With OBL: Study

Lalit K Jha

Reflecting the low level of awareness about Sikhs in the US, a new research today said an overwhelming majority of Americans associate turban-wearers with slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The study 'Turban Myths', conducted jointly by the SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Stanford University, revealed that 49 per cent of Americans believe "Sikh" is a sect of Islam; while 70 per cent cannot identify a Sikh man in a picture as a Sikh.

As if this was not enough, 79 per cent cannot identify India as the geographic origin of Sikhism, said the report released today in Palo Alto California.

It found that 70 per cent of Americans misidentify turban-wearers as Muslim (48 per cent), Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto. This is quite contrary to the fact that almost all men in the US who wear turbans are Sikh-Americans, whose faith originated in India.

"This research is critical to our community and confirms our real, lived experiences," said Jasjit Singh, executive director of SALDEF.

Sikh-Americans suffered the deadliest act of violence against a religious minority in August last year when a white supremacist stormed a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and shot dead six worshippers.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Sikh-Americans were targeted because of their turban.

"We also know that we most effectively bridge these perception gaps when fellow Americans come to know us as the teachers, doctors, coaches, Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and community servants we are," he said.

"This study provides a roadmap for creating the mutual understanding and recognition of shared values that can help us build an American community larger than ourselves, and one that includes Sikh Americans as full participants," he said.

The study was overseen by Stanford University researcher and Peace Innovation Lab co-director Margarita Quihuis. It involved surveys, social science research and extensive interviews of persons in the Sikh and civil rights community.

"The bottom line is that these misperceptions are caught, not taught. Good people make associations based on imagery and messages all around them - from the grocery store to television to the digital world.

"In this case the Sikh American community has an opportunity to fill those perception gaps with the truth, in a constructive way to foster peace," Quihuis said.
Aug 17, 2013
Atlanta GA USA
Sat Shri Akal

I remember the reporting by radio talk show hosts in Atlanta Georgia after the Sikh temple shootings. The radio "jocks" I heard were saying "These people are Sikhs, not Muslims" or "These guys are Sikhs, the most peaceful people you would ever want to run into.." Callers with any insight at all tried in their own way to be helpful by offering tips to distinguish the differences of headdress, as well as theologies. Most of this was well intentioned, but troubling nonetheless.

It was if the media was trying to say at best "These people are peaceful, leave them alone" and at worst, "Fools, these are not Muslims, you are harassing the wrong ones."
Educating Americans about the differences between Sikhs and Muslims is a delicate proposition for me. It is fine to explain what Sikhism is, who Sikhs are but I would rather not contrast us against Muslims, unless I can do this WITHOUT casting Islam in a bad light. Why? It is not up to me to judge any individual or religion. This is the very thing that I love about Sikhism.

I do think more westerners ARE learning about Sikhism greater numbers. There have been features I have found in the Huffington Post and other publications. I think it is also important to put the issue of managing Western /American perceptions in it's proper perspective as well. Show an unlabeled map of the world to most 25 year olds in America and ask them where Texas is or India. You would probably get similar answers in any corner of the world.

The good news though, is Sikhism has a unique opportunity to come to the forefront of the world stage, not because so much of what Sikhism is, but what it is not. Sikhism is not dogmatic. It does not spread or shine at the expense of other beliefs. It does not advocate violence, or hate, all are welcome.


Aug 18, 2010
World citizen!
Even Hollywood is joining in! The Inside Man (language alert):
Inside Man (4/11) Movie CLIP - Vikram's Questioning (2006) HD - YouTube

We need to do more around us, that includes me. When there is a personal connection, people take that on board much better. I recently took a group of my non-Sikh colleagues from work to a local Gurdwara for kirtan and langar. They loved it :)


Jan 26, 2011
I am not sure...I don't wear a turban and I am also sometimes labelled as a Muslim. I am not against Muslims but I don't want to be labelled as a Muslim at all. Its not my job to educate others that not all Muslims are terrorist when on my personal level I have not come across or seen enough Muslims come together to condemn Islamic terrorist attacks. I also don't hear Muslims leaders condemn these attacks on a big scale or actively label those as misguided cults because they do not have the political will or reason to do so for we know political will must come from the masses.
For those of you who knew about my plan to make a documentary about this same subject, it's been hard road for me mentally in this last few weeks. I am encouraged though to see that a lot of work that is already out there. *(t)Urban Myths* along with *(t)Urban Legends* were among the tittles I considered too. I might just give this a miss as I don't want to be duplicating with other works out there.
I honestly don't see anything wrong with explaining yourself for who you are and stopping right there. It would be noble to try to explain that Muslims are not bad but I think the onus is on the Muslim community to do a better job, not us.
If they can come with fatwas to forbid this and that at their whim and fancy, why can't they come out with a fatwa to go against these terror attacks? If they can come up with a fatwa against a writer (Salman Rusdie) and artists (in Denmark), where are the death sentences when it comes to mass murderers of the innocent men, women and children? Forgive me, all this just does compute in my mind.

Just thinking out loud.
Last edited:
Nov 14, 2008
was reading same article on Yahoo ,

from Comments there it seems that nearly everyone have pretty good view abt Sikhi .

  • We need to wake up in this country. Sikhs are solid contributors to our society. They fought beside us valiantly in WW2 and distinguished themselves as loyal soldiers and valiant warriors. In our town, Sikhs are quiet, respectful and courteous neighbors. We should treat them better- they have a score to settle with the Muslims and particularly Pakistan. Even if they didn't we should treat them better.

    Collapse Replies (1) Reply

    • Wedjet 1 day ago 1

      It's not just your town, it's every town. Hard working, loyal, brave, intelligent and picked on by people who are of far less value to society than they are.

  • Sam Shakusky 1 day ago 1

    1) Sikhs are NOT muslims! 2) If you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation ask a Sikh for help--it is part of their religion.

    Collapse Replies (1) Reply

    • Antiman 1 day ago 5

      Unlike a muslim who would stab a filthy infidel in the back.

  • Maria 1 day ago 1

    OMG!! People, please get educated on the Sikhs because they are a very peaceful and kind culture!!! There is a community of them living in my town and they are simply the nicest, most modest people you can find!!! And elderly Sikh man is often standing by a major road in my town, just waving hello to the traffic!! They do not deserve this!!!!

    Collapse Replies (1) Reply

    • Rick Lujan 1 day ago 1

      @ Maria i also have an elderly gentleman who walks and waves at people well derssed and with his turban many a times i have spoken with him and one can feel his aura of peacefullness within himself gotta love him and his fellow Sikhs

  • williams 1 day ago 4

    The dead giveaway is quite simple. If the man has a turban and a well combed beard, and speaks better English that you do, he's Sikh. Additionally, since Sikhs have suffered holocausts at the hands of Muslims, if the Muslims ever attack, have a Sikh as a best friend, because he will fight them to the death.

    Collapse Replies (3) Reply

    • John M 1 day ago 1

      Sikhs have defended themselves, and many other groups against Muslims over the centuries. They are historically very great warriors and the Sikh units are some of the most decorated in the British and Indian armies...

    • blueman 1 day ago 3

      Sikhs are mainly from Chandigarh, in northern Indian. Most Americans don't know that pakistan and Bangladesh were part of Indian. Low caste Indians converted to islam, because they were not accepted equally in India created both countries. They were the India's #$%$. pakistan became India's most dangerous enemy till this day. It's the perfect example of what happens when you don't treat people right.
      But Sikhs are nice people, so are India's in general. I had the pleasure of living in India for 8 months. Everyone want to sell me a ticket to Nairobi...

    • Julie 1 day ago 0

      I had not heard that they were converting to Islam. Buddhism, yes. Islam, no.

  • Hello 1 day ago 4

    I live in Wisconsin! The Sikhs are peaceful, they help out in the community, help people to understand who they are and they try to fit into our society w/o being judgemental unlike the Muslims!

    Expand Replies (7) Reply

  • Firm 1 day ago 5

    Sikhism has nothing to do with Islam. The Sikhs are peaceful, decent people. It's a shame that they get mistaken for Muslims because of the beards and turbans.

    Expand Replies (5) Reply

  • DanielB 1 day ago 1

    I worked on the West Coast Waterfront. A good number of the truck drivers were Sikhs.
    Never had a single problem with any of them. all were hard workers putting in long hours.
    Really decent respectful people. I would be happy to live in their neighborhood.


  • Gregory 1 day ago 3

    Sikhs, many of whom are from the Punjab are good people. A lot of them went through hell when India and the Punjab were partitioned. They have a lot of history of fighting Muslims and Mughal oppression.


  • DanielB 1 day ago 2

    Look down the list of comments and you will see that everyone who has had any dealings with the Sikhs have a lot of respect for them. This includes myself. Jesus said to treat others as you would wish to be treated. In my experience the Sikhs do this better than most Christians.

    Expand Replies (2) Reply

  • Rick Lujan 1 day ago 2

    People WAKE UP if Americans cant tell them apart is because they have their blinders on ..... My best friend and family are Sikhs and the love they have showed me is like my own family and that's no LIE just ask anybody who's been befriended by a Sikh and they will verify my story it's time for America to take off their blinders and RECOGNIZE

    Expand Replies (1) Reply


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
I would use great caution posting comments from any web site that has posted articles related to controversial topics. Do not forget there is a subculture on the Internet that can make a controversy out of anything.

1. People self-select the articles and sites where they post comments. So any one site is not a reasonable cross-section of opinion. They are all slanted one way or the other.

2. When you read comments keep in mind that the invisibility of the Internet gives a certain personality type permission to be abusive and insulting. Insults are a reflection of that person's need to feel more important by demeaning another person or group. Things can spiral out of control quickly when 2 or more types join forces and post a stream of negative comments.

3. Education has next to nothing to do with the content of posts. A recent study found that professionals, including accountants and engineers, were even more likely to take advantage of their invisible identities to be abusive online ... reasons given included, "I can get away with it on the Internet but not in my off-li3ne life at home or work."

3.a Often people who take the time to comment come with agendas that are based in free-floating anger and hatred and will post to be heard and not to add to knowledge and understanding. This includes posters who are paid by hate organizations and political parties to target news sites and post hate messages under cover of anonymity. It also includes individuals who are mentally ill.

4. Many sites are not well-moderated. Therefore, abuse bordering on online crime and defamation are permitted to be posted. Well-known sites are not excluded, including established news organizations.

5. Some unknown number of posters are wind-up artists with no particular agenda except to be offensive. I saw an example last night. A self-identified 'native American Indian' (member of an indigenous/tribal group) in the US wrote very insulting comments about Sikhs, but the comments were posted at the end of this story appearing on news site from India. How likely is that? A relatively small number of people in the US read India sourced news. An even smaller number will take the time to comment if they do read India sourced news. How can I take such a comment at face value? It is more like the poster was a Sikh-hater from India, than a native American Indian !!!!

Bottom line: It is good to read positive feedback on the yahoo site. However, the site may be better moderated than most. I would not want this thread to escalate into cross-posting negatives.

Posting comments is an open invitation to a flame war. So I will be keeping a close eye on what gets posted here.
Aug 17, 2013
Atlanta GA USA
Jaginder ji,

You seem deflated a bit. I hope I did not dampen any enthusiasm you had for your project. Go with your gut. As far as educating people goes, you can live anywhere on Earth and be misunderstood, mislabeled, loved, despised, hugged, attacked and ignored, no matter what religion or color you are.

Carry on!

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