A turban does not equal a terrorist.
That’s the message behind advocacy group The Sikh Coalition’s new campaign called #MySikhAmericanLife, which launched Tuesday hoping to raise awareness of hate crimes against the religious group.
“People in the community are on edge and there is a sense of frustration,” said coalition member Simran Jeet Singh, 31, an assistant professor of religion at Trinity University. “We shouldn’t be attacked for how we look, or what we believe, but unfortunately that’s the sad reality and the campaign is needed to address it,” he told the Daily News.
The campaign encourages Sikh individuals to post photos on social media of themselves and their families in everyday situations.
Within hours of its launch, there were hundreds of pictures linked to the hashtag plastered across sites like Twitter. Members of the Sikh community could be seen together as families, in museums, at sporting events, weddings, on stage, in front of Christmas trees and a multitude of other familiar settings. Sometimes they held American flags. Sometimes they held each other.
Sikhism, is the world’s fifth-largest religion and originates from the Punjab region of India. There are about 25 million observers worldwide. The religion requires men to wear a turban and beards as a commitment to equality and justice.
Although members of the Sikh faith have been living in the United States for more than 125 years, they are often ignorantly mistaken to be of Middle Eastern descent and discriminated against as “terrorists.”
There has been an alarming rise in incidents especially after the Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings.
“A campaign like this allows us to address the ignorance without throwing another community under the bus,” said Singh.
In one recent attack, a Chicago man was viciously beaten in September. After knocking 53-year-old Singh Mukker to the ground his assailant yelled, “Terrorist, go back to your country, Bin Laden!”
Such incidents are more and more common Singh said. In 2011, as he ran in the New York City Marathon, spectators hurled stones and insults at him.
“I’ve had people yell racist comments at me and a couple kids started throwing rocks at me,” he says.
Singh also recalled how his best friend was once beaten by a group of 12 boys because of how he looked.
“It was the most brutal thing,” he said.
“#MySikhAmericanLife is grounded in loving my neighbors, no matter how they look or what they believe,” Singh said.