Sikh Man Pleased to Be Mistaken for a Muslim

September 25, 2006

Source: Islamic Horizons Magazine

In its September/October 2006 edition, Islamic Horizons Magazine published an personal essay by Fateh Singh-Tarney, 62, a Vietnam War veteran: "I am a person very proud of his Western heritage and Mediterranean ancestry. I served in the United States Marine Corps in a combat role in Vietnam. I came back from Vietnam a quite demoralized veteran with moderate post-traumatic stress and rejoined a society in great flux: the anti-war movement; civil rights movement; the student movement; hippies and flower children. Despite personal and social turmoil in the late 1960s and early 70s, I got some college degrees and taught history and social science for the past thirty years. My long-standing curiosity about Eastern philosophies and religions, and developed a deep interest in the Sikh religion that originated in northern India about 500 years ago. I was attracted to the Sikhs’ reputation for brave resistance to injustice and oppression. I also liked the core values of the Sikhs: belief in one universal God; respect for all religions; honest work; full equality between men and women; community service to all mankind. When I first told my mother of my conversion to an Asian religion, it dawned on me that I was saying something quite ridiculous. All, not just some or even most, of the major religions of the world began in Asia... In high school, I read John Howard Griffin’s book 'Black like Me' (Signet; 35th anniv. Ed., 1996), the white reporter’s experiences traveling in the Deep South during segregation. Griffin, who had his skin darkened to look like a black man, became a direct victim of racial hostility. I never thought that almost 50 years later, I would tell a similar story."