Sikh Temple Shooting: What Is a Sikh?

The mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday brought attention to a little known and understood faith in the United States – Sikhism. To find out more, The Christian Post spoke Monday with Amardeep Singh, programs director for The Sikh Coalition.

The Sikh Coalition was formed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, to provide legal aid and advocacy for Sikh victims of discrimination and violence. Though Sikhs are not Islamic, the faith professed by the terrorists, they became victims of discrimination and violence after those attacks. Police have not identified a motive for Sunday's shooting that left six dead but the gunman, Wade Michael Page, was reportedly in a white supremacist heavy metal band.

Singh spoke about Sikhism, the tragedy and what he wishes Americans better understood about his faith.

The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

CP: What do Sikhs believe?

Singh: There are three principle tenets that a Sikh lives their life by. The first is to work hard and honestly; the idea is that working hard and honestly is honoring to the Creator. A second principle by which we live our lives is to share our bounty with those in our community who are in need. And the third principle is to remember God in everything we are doing. So even as I talk to you this morning, in the back of my mind I am remembering God.

We externally signify this commitment to compassion, love, equality and justice by wearing articles of faith, which includes the turban and our unshorn hair, which we believe to be a gift from God. The external articles are meant to be a reminder of our obligations; much like a police officer's uniform reminds them of the duties of a police officer, a Sikh's uniform reminds them of their obligations, commitment, to their faith.

CP: Is there another faith, such as Hinduism or Buddhism, that Sikhism is related to?

Singh: No. It's independent of any other faith.

CP: Is discrimination against Sikhs common in the U.S.?

Singh: Yes. Since 9/11, we've documented literally thousands of incidents of either hate crimes, discrimination, school bullying, airport profiling and the like, targeted against members of our community.

CP: What do Sikhs teach about Jesus?

Singh: We believe that our religion is not the only way to reach God. So there's generally a respect for the world's major faith traditions. An axiom in Sikhism is, if you meet a Christian, you encourage them to be a good Christian, if you meet a Hindu, you encourage them to be a good Hindu, if you meet a Muslim, you encourage them to be a good Muslim, if you meet a Jew, you encourage them to be a good Jew. The common beliefs of these faith traditions are very similar, in fact, and more brings us together than divides us.

CP: Do Sikhs believe in an afterlife?

Singh: We believe that our souls wander in transmigration until we reach union with God through our good deeds in our human form.

CP: If any good were to come from the shooting, what would you hope for?

Singh: More awareness about our community.

CP: Will Sikhs be doing anything in particular to mourn Sunday's tragedy?

Singh: Tomorrow (Tuesday) there is going to be a vigil in Oak Creek.

CP: Is there anything in particular that you wish Americans understood better about Sikhism?

Singh: I wish folks knew and understood that we've been in this country for more than 100 years and contributed to its development. Sikhs helped build the Continental Railroad. Sikhs served with U.S. forces in World War I and World War II. The largest security contractor for federal courts in this country is a Sikh-owned company. The country's largest peach grower is a Sikh American. We're just part of the fabric of this country and have a faith and belief system that is similar to most belief systems around the world in terms of the values of compassion and honesty.

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