Alone let him constantly meditate in solitude on that which is salutary for his soul, for he who meditates in solitude attains supreme bliss.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji

bhai sahib satpal singh khalsa

Bhai Sahib Satpal Singh Khalsa

Sikhism is a relatively young and modern religion as compared to other major religions. In the 15th century, the religious scholar and founder of this religion, Guru Nanak Dev, who was born in Punjab, established Sikhism. It was a time of great ferment and creative activity in the world. Sikhism flourished amongst the three big religions of the world – Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Sikh religion teaches the presence of a universal God, love, equality and goodwill. Sikhism rejects all discriminations based on caste, creed, gender, color, race or national origin.

The modern day problems of Sikhs are myriad. Some are of philosophic nature dealt with by religious scholars in all religions like the inter-relationship of One and the Many. The rival missionaries are creating some problems. Many missionaries envious of the recorded revelation of Sikhism are attempting to confuse it. Sikh scholars in the 21st century are making efforts to end any future controversies about Kartarpuri Bir, (Original Holy Scripture and Living Guru of the Sikhs-Guru Granth Sahib). Historic evidence is available that throughout the last six centuries, Sikhs faced much hostility from various Mughal emperors and other aggressors who tried their best to extinguish the Sikh religion. In this article, the author has laid emphasis on the present day challenges to the Sikh identity.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Sikhs have been targets of mistaken identity and hate crimes. In fear of protecting the sovereignty of the countries in the West, an increase in the number of laws promulgated are such that interfere with the religious identity and increased restrictions of the right to freely practice Sikh faith. In many cases, these incidents have stemmed from a lack of knowledge of the existence of the Sikh community and the human friendly Sikh religion.

The events of September 11, 2001 significantly changed the state of civil rights globally. Many countries tightened their borders, there was a marked global increase of arbitrary and illegal detentions, use of torture is on media record, and there has been a general restriction on and conservative interpretation of basic freedom rights. Commonly heralded as countries that were at the forefront of human rights, the United States and United Kingdom committed many human rights violations in conjunction with the Iraqi conflict, the Afghan conflict, and the war on terror.

Sikhs advocate that there is severe civil rights violation of the Sikh community especially when it comes to hate crimes, bullying in schools, employment discrimination, mishandling by security officers at airports, mistreatment by police, and verbal harassment. As Sikhs are also part of  diasporas the underreporting originates from a variety of factors, some of which are due to lack of trust of police, immigration status, language barriers, and general lack of understanding of the services and remedies available to address these problems. After the event of 9/11, Sikhs faced many difficulties. Reports collected from around the globe indicate that Sikhs were victims of racism, discrimination, and xenophobia, primarily due to a lack of awareness of about Sikhism and about their distinctive appearance. While it has been difficult for the Sikh community to deal with these trends, 9/11 also served as a wake-up call for the community that imminent action was required.

There is widespread discriminatory treatment of Sikhs globally at airports, where airport security officials treat the Dastaar (Turban) very suspiciously. In the West, the media has portrayed of men in turbans as terrorists. Sikhs are often required to remove their turbans while traveling. In an incident in November 2008, three famous Sikh musicians were dislodged of a US Airways flight in Sacramento, California when a pilot refused to fly with the three Sikhs on board. There were shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where six Sikhs lost their lives while praying at the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple).

Sikhs regularly face religious discrimination in relation to their kakaar (five articles of faith carried at all times by Sikhs), primarily because of wearing the Kirpan (a short steel or iron blade that is carried as one of five articles of faith). Many non-Sikh authorities view the Kirpan solely as a weapon as opposed to an article of faith. Post-9/11, Sikhs are rarely if ever allowed to carry the Kirpan on board an aircraft, and many Sikhs are harassed and even arrested for wearing the Kirpan in a public place. Numerous incidences of harassment or arrest involving the Kirpan have occurred worldwide, including in countries that have laws or court rulings protecting the right to wear the Kirpan. Assaults and physical harassment often happens in school, by children are bullied due to their dastaar or Kesh (long hair worn by Sikhs as part of their faith). Sikhs regularly report incidents of verbal harassment where they are called a variety of racial epithets.

As a minority community in every country, Sikhs are often refused equal protection under the law.  Due to their distinctive appearance, employment discrimination has also been a recurrent civil rights issue for Sikhs worldwide. The civil rights issues facing the Sikh community vary in severity from country to country, but the overall themes of discrimination are the same. These issues can be significantly affected through community empowerment, political participation, advocacy, education, and a continued commitment to the core concept of Sarbat da Bhala (for the good of all) and that most eloquent of Sikh maxims, to Recognize the Human Race as One.