On last night’s episode of The Daily Show, news satire correspondent Hasan Minhaj met with designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia to discuss Islamophobia and its effect on Sikh Americans. Waris, who has appeared in The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Darjeeling Limited, was kicked off an Aeromexico return flight to the United States in February for refusing to remove the turban he wears as part of his Sikh faith.
Minhaj highlighted lack of awareness about Sikhs by approaching people on the NYC streets to show them four images and ask them to identify which one was a Sikh. None of the people shown being questioned guessed correctly.
Waris’s case made news headlines, but he’s far from alone in his struggle against ignorance and bigotry. Another example is a Sikh teen author of an anti-bullying book who was recently forced to remove his turban at an airport in Bakersfield, California. On Saturday, during a London visit, President Obama acknowledged that although it’s not his administration’s policy, the reality is that TSA officials have targeted Sikhs for secondary screenings based on how they look.
On The Daily Show Minhaj sat down with members of the Sikh Coalition to hear their thoughts and experiences. Trinity University assistant professor of religion Simran Jeet Singh said “I’ve been called ISIS a lot recently.”Tongue-in-cheek, Minhaj suggested different ways Sikhs could battle bigoted attitudes. One way: A “They’re just like us!” campaign, complete with Us Weekly style magazine covers of Waris doing mundane things like pumping gas and getting coffee.
A darker suggestion made was essentially that Sikhs should escape suspicion, harassment and bullying by throwing Muslims like him under the bus and letting people know “I’m not Muslim” at airports and elsewhere. “If I were you, I’d throw me under the bus so fast,” says Minhaj. The Sikh Coalition members and Waris let Minhaj know, in no uncertain terms, they would not do that.
Professor Singh says “It’s just not an option for us to throw another community under the bus, even if it means things are harder for us.” Waris added, “Hasan, you need to lead with love.” Watch the entire segment from The Daily Show here: