Norfolk Sikhs Educate Community About Religion by Donating Books to Public Library

July 14, 2006

Source: The Virginian-Pilot

On July 14, 2006 The Virginian-Pilot reported, "After years of keeping to themselves, local Sikhs have decided it's time to clear up misconceptions about their religion. And the Norfolk Public Library is one of their starting points. Dr. Baljid Singh Gill of the Guru Nanak Foundation of Tidewater, recently donated 11 books on Sikhism to the library. Now, library staff is working with the Sikhs to display the books at Kirn Memorial Library in downtown Norfolk. 'I think it's great that these materials will be here,' said Norman Mass, library director. 'This information is available to all of the people in our area.' Only about 100 Sikh families live in Hampton Roads, but they've been increasingly concerned about being stereotyped - and worse, becoming targets for hate crimes. Part of the problem, they say, is that Sikh men wear beards and turbans. But those customs unfortunately coincide with some stereotypical images of Middle Eastern terrorists, said Gill, 66, a psychiatrist at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Sikhs admit that being a close-knit community may have contributed to suspicions. 'We haven't made much effort to educate the community about who we are,' Gill said. While few in number here, there are more than 25 million adherents to Sikhism, making it the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, according to Encyclopedia Britannica."