Over a century ago, in a Washington town called Bellingham, a xenophobic mob attacked a community of recent immigrants from India. Most of the victims were Sikhs.
The incident occurred in 1907 at the height of the nativist movement in the United States and is remembered in history as the Bellingham Riot.
Last Friday, about 100 miles south of Bellingham, a gunman reportedly walked up to a Sikh man, told him to “go back to your own country,” and pulled the trigger.
The victim will survive his physical injuries, but the shooting was the latest in a string of crimes targeting religious minorities in recent months.
Jewish communities have been subjected to bomb threats. Muslim mosques have been targeted in arson attacks. Late last month, a gunman in Kansas took the life of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a Hindu engineer from India, after reportedly telling him to “get out of my country.”
In America, when a person’s religion, color, or national origin invites hatred and the risk of death, this points to an absence of accountability.
Hate violence is woven into the fabric of our nation’s history, but it does not augur well for our future generations if they read that 2017 marked the start of a new nativist movement. In this context, all of us — including the Trump Administration — have to ask ourselves whether we are doing everything in our power to create a more peaceful society.
Sikh Americans have faced threats and deadly attacks for more than 100 years — often because of our articles of faith, including turbans and unshorn hair — but we are an integral part of the American fabric, and our faith tradition offers guidance for confronting the hate that Americans grapple with today.
The Sikh religion was founded in the Punjab region of South Asia over 500 years ago. Guru Nanak, the founder of our faith, preached the oneness of God and humanity, emphasizing that all human beings are equal in dignity and divinity, regardless of their race, caste, religion, and gender.
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