The Sikh Religion And Its Recent History In The US

sikh temple shooting

In the wake of today’s tragic shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left at least seven dead, we’re taking a look at the religion that was apparently the target of such an attack.

Sikhism is the the fifth-largest religion in the world with more than 30 million people across the globe. Its traditions originate with the society and culture of Punjab — a region in northwest India.

Since 9/11, Sikhs have been targeted by some who have mistaken them as supporters of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. In reality, they have nothing to do with that.

  • Sikhs are often compared to Muslims, but according to members of the religion, their beliefs are different. According to SikhiWiki, a website dedicated to the religion, in Sikhism everyone is equal. Most notably, women are reportedly afforded equal rights in the gurdwaras. Women can even lead the congregation, according to SikhiWiki.
  • In 1984, at least 3,000 Sikhs were lynched or burned alive after then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, according to a CNN report from 2009. A reader wrote in to say the Sikh bodyguards killed Gandhi in retaliation after Gandhi’s troops invaded the Golden Temple in 1984. According to the BBC, about 250 dissidents died when Indian troops stormed the Sikh militant stronghold in 1984.
  • More recently, Sikhs have been subjected to increasing harassment post-9/11, Sikhs have told the media. According to the Sikh coalition, more than 700 incidents involving Sikhs in the U.S have been reported since the attack on the World Trade centre.
  • On Sept. 15, 2001, 49-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot outside his gas station in Mesa, Ariz. Frank Silva Roque, the alleged shooter, mistakenly believe Sodhi was Muslim, according to the Southern Poverty Law centre.
  • On Feb. 19, 2002, an 18-year-old in Palermo, N.Y. was charged with felony criminal mischief as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal mischief for allegedly helping destroy a Sikh temple, according to Southern Poverty Law centre.
  • On April 10, 2002, four teenagers in Oswego, N.Y. were charged with a hate crime for reportedly burning down a Sikh temple in 2001, according to Southern Poverty Law centre.
  • On May 14, 2002, an 18-year-old in New York was sentenced to four to 12 years behind bars for setting a Sikh temple on fire in 2001, according to Southern Poverty Law centre.


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