The stark reality that Sikhs in spite of being a part of the American system are still mistaken often for Muslims shows that the Sikh organisations in the US have not done enough to educate Americans about community's separate and distinct identity.
This highlight of a study by US-based volunteer organisation National Sikh Campaign has led the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to call for greater awareness in the West.
The study concluded that turban-wearing Sikhs were prone to be mistaken as Muslims in the US, where the majority knew nothing about Sikhs who live and work in their midst.
"This study exposes our own shortcomings, as we have failed to show ourselves distinct from the other communities," SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar observed in a statement issued here on Wednesday, adding: "We have a serious duty to perform, so that we do not become targets of hate crimes that are on in the West since 9/11."
Appreciating the effort of the NGO in image-making of the Sikhs the US, Makkar regretted that the community had identity crisis in a country where its members occupied important positions in the political system. "Sikhs have contributed to the US development and growth, and some are leading entrepreneurs. Still we have failed to explain ourselves to the Americans," said the SGPC chief.
He said the identity crisis exited, even though gurdwaras had come up in almost every US state and major American city. He asked the managing committees of the US Sikh shrines to campaign in their states for promoting Sikh identity and Sikhism and get social groups into the effort. "We have to remove the misgivings about our community. We are being mistaken for another community, branded terrorists, and being attacked. It is time we did something about it," he stated.
Makkar assured the US Sikhs that the SGPC would join their awareness campaigns and expedite the work on building International Sikh Centre at Yuba City in the US state of California, a project for which US entrepreneur Didar Singh Bains has donated 14 acres.
The SGPC president said this centre would take up the Sikh identity issue in the US, print literature at the facility, hold seminars, and deliver talks the American public.