70% of Sikhs are identified with another religion.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: There is an alarming trend of bullying aimed towards children of Sikh descent across the US, with as many as 66% of such children being the subject of discriminatory behavior by their classmates, says a new report released on Capitol Hill.
The study, entitled “Go Home Terrorist — A Report on Bullying Against Sikh American School Children,” finds that two-thirds of Sikh students are derided with terms like “Osama,” “bin Laden,” and “terrorist,” in what the study calls a lingering residual consequence of the 9/11 attacks nearly 13 years ago. In some cases, Sikh students have had their turbans pulled off, and have been victims of physical abuse by their classmates.
“This is our seventh report in seven years in whole or part on school bullying,” said Amardeep Singh, Director of Programs at the Sikh Coalition, in a statement. “Consistently, the majority of Sikh children from the coasts to the heartland say that bias-based bullying is a part of their experience in school. We need the help of educators, administrators, lawmakers, agency officials, the media, parents, and children if we are going to end this troubling dynamic.”
The findings of the report were presented by the Sikh Coalition, a nationwide religious advocacy group speaking on behalf of all American Sikhs, during a briefing in front of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus and the American Sikh Congressional Caucus.
The results of the study are alarming, but not necessarily a complete surprise. Last year, Stanford University released a report saying that 70% of Sikhs were ‘identified’ as belonging to another religion. In nearly all cases, the religion they were mistakenly classified as were Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and even Shinto.
The national average on bullying in schools geared at children between 12 and 18 years of age is 32% – the study says that Sikh students experience as much as twice that amount. The report focused on Sikh demographics in the four major metropolitan areas that are known for having a heavy concentration of Sikh residents: Boston, Fresno, Indianapolis, and Seattle. Across those four cities, 50 Sikh students were interviewed and focus groups, representing over 700 members of the community, were surveyed between 2012 and 2013.
Indianapolis had the highest rate of Sikh bullying, at 55.8%. Fresno followed close behind with 54.5%, Boston came in third with 48%, and 45.5% of Sikh students in the Seattle area admitted to being bullied because of their religion.
Lawmakers have pledged their support of the Sikh community, with Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) saying that he will do all he can to ensure that Sikh children are no longer subjected to bullying in schools. Honda represents California’s 17th Congressional District, one with a heavy Asian American population and with two Indian Americans – Democrat Ro Khanna and Republican Vanila Mathur Singh – vying to replace Honda this November.
The Sikh Coalition’s Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur, also said in a statement “We have a long-term, institutional commitment to ensuring our children reach their full human potential. We will keep working with Sikh parents, youth, educators, media, and lawmakers until we solve this problem. We have no choice. Our children are our future. We’re committed to making it even brighter for them everywhere, including in the classroom.”
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