Is there a Gurdwara in your neighborhood? Do you know what a Gurdwara is?
It is where Sikhs come together to worship. However, it is much more than that. It is a community center of sorts, offering free food, shelter, and company to those in need. You don’t have to be a Sikh to enjoy these gifts. All you need to do is come in, be respectful, and ask.
This generosity raises a very important question…
Why are members of a religion so focused on helping those in need so constantly persecuted in western countries, specifically America?
No Good Reason
To be perfectly blunt, it’s because people think they look like Arabs, more specifically, Muslims. You see, ever since terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, Muslims have been unfairly discriminated against. Both Muslims and Sikhs have beards and wear turbans. That’s all it takes for some people, regardless of the fact that the two are completely different. Regardless of the fact that Muslim and terrorist are not synonymous in the first place.
Just last month a Sikh man was attacked in California in what was believed to be a hate crime by teenagers who thought he was Muslim.
A few years ago, there was a mass shooting at a Gurdwara in Wisconsin by a white supremacist, who thought it was a Mosque. Six people were killed.
Were the people commit these heinous acts able to see past their own hate and ignorance, they would see the hypocrisy of their actions.
The More You Know
The only way to combat ignorance is with knowledge. With that in mind, here are a few things you should know about Sikhism.
Langar: The practice of offering free food to anyone who requests it is called Langar. The meal is vegetarian so as to be accessible to as many people as possible. The meal is simple because it is not meant to be a point of pride.
Equality: The Sikh religion was born out of Hinduism. It broke away from Hinduism partially because it rejects the Indian Caste system of social hierarchy, instead believing that all are equal.
Five K’s: The five K’s are Kesh (uncut hair, wrapped in a turban), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (an iron bangle on the dominant hand), Kachera (specific underwear), and Kirpan (a short dagger). These are objects that many Sikhs wear to show their faith. While some wear them all, many only wear a couple.
Self-Service: Helping others is one of the foundations of the Sikh religion. Moreover, service to others with no expectation of reward and for no personal benefit beyond the act itself leads many Sikhs to volunteer outside of their own communities.
If you’re ever in need of assistance, you now know you have another place you can turn. A place you may not have considered before due to preconceived notions. Perhaps if we got to know each other a little better, we would realize how much we miss out on when we build walls instead of bridges.