(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)
After a series of four organized attacks launched by Islamist terrorists upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, many Sikhs were attacked in the US, because attackers wrongly believed that they (Sikhs) are Arabs or Muslims.
For example, on September 15, 2001, the 42-year old attacker killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona. The attacker, who apparently wanted revenge for September 11, mistook Sodhi for an Arab because of his turban, and his beard.
On August 5, 2012, an attacker named Michael Page killed six Sikhs and wounded four others at a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. All of the male victims wore turbans as part of their cultural and religious tradition. The injured included a responding officer, Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot fifteen times at close range.
On May 7, 2013 an elderly Sikh man, Piara Singh was attacked with an iron bar in Fresno, California in a possible hate crime.
On September 21, 2013 Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh professor was brutally attacked in Harlem by a group of 20-30 men who branded him as Osama and Terrorist. It is obvious that the attackers thought that Prabhjot Singh was a Muslim.
All such Sikhs have become subject to discrimination, because their attackers mistakenly believed that their targets are Arab or Muslim. Many of Americans and Europeans do not know that turban wearing Sikhs are not Muslims. This is in the face of the fact that Sikhs are living in the US and Europe for many decades.
Sikhs are not Muslims. There is sufficient information available on internet. (For example, this link provides information on this issue).
Here, I am making just a few points on this issue.
Many would say that Sikhs should not be interested in being identified as ‘not Muslim’. Sikhs should be interested in being identified as who they are, rather than who they are not.
If a specific question is asked to explain difference between Sikh religion and Islam, or Sikhs and Muslims, there is nothing wrong to explain it. If Sikhs are mistaken for Muslims, there is nothing wrong to tell that Sikhs are not Muslims.
Many people mistake Sikhs for Muslims due to their turbans, which often make Sikhs targets of anti-Muslim violence. It is often said that there is difference in Sikh turban and Muslim turban. A few web pages explain such view while trying to describe the difference between ‘Sikh’ turbans and ‘Muslim’ turbans.
Turban is a part of dress in many cultures. Even a few hundred years ago, most of male members of Indian society used to wear turbans. It had nothing to do with religion. Hindu Rajputs used to wear turbans. Hindu Jats used to wear turbans. Hindu Marathas used to wear turbans. Even today, many Rajputs, Jats and other Hindus wear turbans in India. So many Hindu saints wear turbans.
Those Hindus, who do not wear turbans in their daily life, wear it on special occasions, such as marriage etc.
Rasam Pagri (ceremony of turban) is a social ceremony common to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, conducted upon the death of the oldest member in a family, in which the oldest surviving male member of the family is given a turban in the presence of relatives and friends. The ceremony of turban indicates the shift of duty for the welfare of the family from the deceased to the surviving oldest male member.
We find mention of turbans in ancient Hindu scriptures. It means turbans remained a part of dress for thousands of years. Indians have been wearing turban even before the birth of Islam.
Balochs and Pathans wear turbans. It does not mean that they started wearing turbans when they became Muslims. Turbans were part of their dress even before birth of Islam.
If we study old pictures of 18th and 19th centuries, we can see that different styles of turban had nothing to do with religion. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs used to wear same style of turbans. Many Sikhs mistake pictures of old Rajput warriors for old Sikh soldiers. A picture of Amir Sher Ali, an Afghan ruler and a Muslim is widely publicized as that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in Punjab.
Even within Sikh circles, Sikhs wear different styles of turbans. Nihang turbans, called ‘Dumala’ are very different to Patiala Shahi turbans. Members of different Sikh sects wear round turbans. Many Sikh women wear turban.
Sikhs, who keep unshorn hair, wear turbans. However, a big number of Muslims do not wear turban.
Sikhs are required to keep their hair unshorn. Muslims are not required to keep their hair uncut according to Islamic rules. Though, many a Muslims keep beard and cut their moustache, majority of Muslims are seen without beards.
Though there is controversy whether Sikhs are allowed to eat meat or not, one thing is sure that a Sikh is not allowed to eat ‘Halal’ meat, the meat that has been slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the shari’a, the Muslim law. In fact, it is a big sin for a Sikh to eat ‘Halal’ meat.
According to Muslim tradition, women are expected to cover their face, though many Muslims say it is not compulsory. On the other hand, there is no such restriction on Sikh women. Instead, the third Guru of Sikhs, Guru Amardas Ji made it a rule that Sikh women should keep their face uncovered. Women with covered face were not allowed to come in the congregation.
The religion of Sikhs is a flag bearer of equality of entire human race and co-existence. The holy text of Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru of the Sikh people is a great evidence of co-existence. Guru Granth Sahib contains holy hymns of Sikhs and non-Sikhs. For example, Bhagat Ramanand Ji was a Brahman, a non-Sikh. Bhagat Namdev Ji, Bhagat Kabir Ji, Bhagat Ravidas Ji were non-Sikhs. Shiekh Farid Ji was a Sufi saint. The contributors of Guru Granth Sahib belonged to different social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. They spoke different languages. That is why Sikhs are friendly to people of different religions, cultures, languages, and races etc.
Sikh principles and traditions are compatible with the western values and western society. On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sikh religious principles and traditions have no disagreement with this Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the other hand, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, an organisation of Islamic countries adopted their own version of human rights declaration, called the ‘Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam‘ (CDHRI) in 1990. It has been signed by 45 Islamic states. The CDHRI was strongly criticised by the International Commission of Jurists, when it was presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1992. This declaration is an Islamic response to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948. The United Nations’ Declaration is the western understanding of human rights, which is compatible with Sikh values and traditions.
Terrorists and hate mongers can be found in almost every society, country and ideology. However, we have to see if a society, government or an ideology supports terrorist activities and hatred or not. So far as Sikh religion is concerned, there is no place of terrorism and hatred in Sikh beliefs.
ਭੈ ਕਾਹੂ ਕਉ ਦੇਤ ਨਹਿ ਨਹਿ ਭੈ ਮਾਨਤ ਆਨ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਤਾਹਿ ਬਖਾਨਿ ॥੧੬॥
(੧੪੨੭, ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ).
One, who does not terrify anyone, and who is not afraid of anyone either; says Nanak, listen, O mind! call him a wise person. (1427, Guru Granth Sahib).
Two Sikh-Gurus were executed on orders of Muslim rulers. The fifth Guru, Guru Arjun dev Ji was martyred in Lahore city (now in Pakistan) on orders of Muslim ruler, Jahangir.
The ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji was martyred in Delhi on orders of Muslim ruler, Aurangzeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was asked to convert to Islam. When he refused to embrace Islam, he was tortured in prison. In order to intimidate the Guru, the qazi, Islamic magistrates made a plan to torture to death, the Sikhs arrested with the Guru before his eyes. They thought that the Guru would embrace Islam out of fear on seeing the Sikhs murdered.
The qazi decreed to cut Bhai Mati Das with a saw first of all. The qazi asked Bhai Mati Das, “Brother, embrace Islam and enjoy the pleasures provided by the government. Moreover when you die as a Muslim, you will go to heaven where there will be streams of milk, many kinds of wine to drink and beautiful women to enjoy. If you do not embrace Islam, your body will be sawn into two.”
Bhai Mati Das replied, “I can sacrifice hundreds of such heavens for my faith. I need neither women nor wine. I see all the happiness in the path of the faith.” By the order of the qazi, the executioners sawed Bhai Mati Das across from head to loins.
Then, the qazi asked Bhai Sati Das to convert to Islam. When he refused, the executioners wrapped Bhai Sati Das in cotton, poured oil over it and set fire to it. Thus he was burned alive.
The Qazi pronounced his Islamic order that Bhai Dayala must either accept Islam or embrace death by being boiled in a cauldron. Bhai Dayala heroically accepted the latter. He was put into a big cauldron full of water which was later heated to the boiling point.
When Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji refused to convert to Islam at any cost, he was then beheaded in Delhi in 1675.
Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh were the two younger sons of the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. They were arrested along with their grandmother on orders of Muslim governor, Wazir Khan of Sirhind city. Wazir Khan asked both the sons of the Guru to accept Islam. He promised them to give lots of money and rank if they renounce their faith and embrace Islam. The two innocent children faced their adversary courageously, determined to stay firm in their faith.
When they refused to renounce the faith and embrace Islam, the Qazi, Islamic magistrate ordered that they be bricked up alive. The sons of the Guru remained faithful as brick cemented upon brick rose about them forming a wall which rose chest high to suffocate them. As their air supply diminished, the wall gave way and collapsed. Then, the heads of the innocent 7 and 9 year old sons of the Guru were severed from their bodies.
Thousands of Sikhs were martyred when they refused to convert to Islam. For example, Bhai Mani Singh, the priest of Sri Darbar Sahib, mostly known as Golden Temple these days, in Amritsar Sahib City, was ordered by the Governor of Lahore, Zakaria Khan to convert to Islam. When he refused to give up the faith, he was ordered death by dismemberment. He was executed at Nakhaas Chowk, Lahore in 1734.
Thus, Sikhs are not only non-Muslims, but also victims of Islamic extremism.