by Ajaib Singh Paintlia, Ph.D.
Darby Children's Research Institute
For American Sikhs, the Aug. 5 deadly attack on worshippers at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, dredged up memories of other recent attacks against others of this community. This is not the first crime of mistaken identity.
Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first victim of this hate crime following 9/11 as he apparently looked Muslim or Arabic. Sodhi, who was a Sikh, was shot while pumping gas at a gas station in Arizona four days after the terrorist attacks. These incidents continued to target Sikhs in different parts of the country. The Sikh Coalition, a U.S.-based organization, has reported more than 700 hate crimes since 9/11. The latest attack in Wisconsin has shaken the Sikh community worldwide and in India. This article will brief readers about Sikhism as a religion and the lifestyle of Sikhs.
Why do Sikhs wear turbans and keep long beards?
The word Sikh means discipline or student who obey the order of his guru (or master). Most Sikh men wear turbans and keep beards. Sikhs do not cut their hair as it is the practice of allowing one's hair to grow naturally as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation, which is an outward symbol bestowed upon Sikhs by their 10th master, Guru Gobind Singh. The turban of a Sikh is an important accessory in the Sikh religion and worn as a sign of respect.
Principles of Sikhism
Sikhism is the world's fifth most popular religion and is of a monotheistic faith that supports equality and service to others.
There are 25 million Sikhs that live around the world and about 700,000 that live in the United States. Most Sikhs reside in India. Sikhism emerged more than 500 years ago in Punjab, India. It was founded by Guru Nanak, who taught a message of love and equality irrespective of people's caste and religion.
The first Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in the United States was built 100 years ago in California. Every day, the doors of Gurdwara open at 6 a.m. for prayers. A formal service includes the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism's Holy Scriptures.
The Sikh holy book, which is 1,430 pages long, includes writings of the Sikh gurus and about 15 enlightened saints from different faiths.
Gurdwaras around the world variously incorporate clinics, schools, guest quarters and community centers, which Sikhs say is a sign of the religion's values of service and equality.
Therefore, at the end of the service, congregants pray for the "well-being of the world" then head to the langar, the community kitchen, to serve free meals to anyone who wants one.
Contributions in the community
Sikhs are brave and peace loving people. They are known as soldiers who defended India from invaders. Look into their short span of history and you will find their sacrifices and hard work have contributed so much towards the building of the Indian nation.
In the end, I would like to pray for the peace for the souls who lost their lives. In addition, I would recommend educating our community and children at the school level to avoid these kinds of events in the future.
To learn more about the Sikhs, visit sites www.sikhnet.com, www.sikhcoalition.org, or www.sikhs.org.
Memorial service for victims
A memorial service will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Aug. 18 at the Hindu Temple for the victims of the Wisconsin Sikh Temple tragedy. The service will include a lighting of candles and a brief introduction of different faiths. The temple is located at 1740 Jervey Ave., Charleston. For information, call 478-2681, 270-4264, 813-4669 or 793-8386.