Just what is Sikhism? In the wake of the mass shooting Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, many people have turned to the internet to find answers to questions about what this Eastern religion entails and how it originated.
Details about the faith are often little-known and its adherents have been lumped in with Muslims, despite the fact that the two religions share little in common. In the wake of 9/11, there was a rise in attacks against Sikhs, who wear turbans and long beards as part of their faith, WTMJ-TV and JSOnline.com reported.
“It really helps them stand out in a crowd, but also associates them with the images of Al-Queda and terrorism in the local media,” Kazneet Singh, managing director of the Sikh American Legal and Defense Fund, told WTMJ-TV.
The roots of Sikhism trace back to the 15th century in India, where it started as an offshoot of Hinduism. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, a concept represented in the phrase Ik Onkar meaning “One God,” The Huffington Post noted. The primary source of scripture for Sikhs is the Guru Granth Sahib, which they regard as the living Guru after the final Guru in human form, Guru Gobind Singh, passed away.
The Sikh place of worship is known as gurdwara, a place where men and women normally sit apart. Though there is no official clergy in the Sikh tradition, priests have become more common as a way to conduct services.
Sikhism has gained a reputation as a peaceful religion, one that emphasizes religious freedom, Kazneet Singh said.
“Throughout the history of the faith, you have seen the faith advocates for things that they necessarily don’t support religiously, but because of religious freedom that we support, have been on the side of those issues,” he said.
Sikhs have five articles of faith they wear or keep with them, including a specific undergarment and a small dagger. One of these articles is Kesh, or long uncut hair that many keep under a turban.
There are close to 500,000 Sikhs in the United States, and with more than 20 million adherents around the globe Sikhism is the worlds fifth largest religion.