Sikhs & Fourth of July

July 5, 2007

Author: Gurjit Singh

Source: World Sikh News

Many Americans are struggling with questions that will perplex not just the Sikhs but anyone back home in India: Are Sikhs Muslims? Are Sikhs Arabs? Does Osama Bin Laden have anything to do with the Sikhs? A teenager accosting a Sikh and telling him to "take your turban back to the desert where you might actually need it" to hailing out to a Sikh driver by saying "Arab, get out of here" are incidents which happen many a time in the US.

Sikhs understand what 4th of July would mean to an American. They themselves experienced this as a collective on the Vaisakhi of 1699, when the Guru founded the Khalsa. Complete freedom from fear, freedom from slavery, freedom from discrimination. Total independence. All Sikh men were lions, and all women were princesses!

As religious minorities grow in numbers with immigration, as generations settle in, and as new religious and cultural centers begin to develop critical mass, religious immigrant communities are gaining footholds in civic life in the United States. These communities are being changed by what the American political process demands of them to have their voices heard. And they in turn are influencing how America sees its own ethics, politics, and religious commitments. The Fourth of July is an occasion best suited for us to ruminate on the issues involved.