Nearly 60 percent of Americans admit knowing nothing at all about Sikhs. That lack of knowledge comes at a deadly cost. In the wake of recent incidents from the 2012 Oak Creek Massacre to a shooting of a Sikh man in Washington this March, the Sikh community is taking a more vocal stand against hate.
This month, the National Sikh Campaign, an advocacy group led by former political strategists, launched a $1.3 million awareness campaign, “We are Sikhs.” Funded entirely by grass-roots donations, the campaign’s ads will air nationally on CNN and Fox News as well as on TV channels in central California — home to nearly 50 percent of the Sikh American population — and online.
The ad, which aims to tackle misperceptions of Sikhism, shows Sikh men and women speaking about how values of their faith — tolerance, religious freedom and gender equality — align with American values. According to Gurwin Singh Ahuja, the executive director of the National Sikh Campaign, “These are core values of the United States, yet we’re often perceived as anti-American or as religious extremists. Our community is hurt by bigotry and ignorance, which is, in many ways, compounded by our own silence. To change these perceptions, I felt we had an obligation to share our stories with our neighbors.”