In order to help humanize the Sikh-American community, as well as empower community members and educate others, The Sikh Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group, launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #MySikhAmericanLife on Tuesday. Members of the Sikh-American community took to Twitter to post photos of themselves and their families in everyday situations, iconic American settings, casual scenes, formal events, and more.
"Each time I read about another hate crime against the Sikh community, I'm saddened but also reminded that we have work to do to create awareness about our religion," Deepika Pujji, creator of the #MySikhAmericanLife hastag, told NBC News. "My husband, father, and brother are all patriotic U.S. citizens, who also happen to wear a turban and keep an uncut beard. They each have their own unique journey, as do all other Sikhs in America. This campaign is an opportunity for each of us to share our story with the hopes of building awareness."
In the wake of the Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings, leaders have warned of backlash against Muslims and those who are mistaken for Muslims. According to The Sikh Coalition, Sikh Americans are often targeted for bullying and intimidation because they wear turbans and beards as articles of their faith, even though the Sikh religion originates in the Punjab region of India, and Sikhs have been part of the United States for 125 years.
"Hateful rhetoric around the country is surging and people feel increasingly emboldened to verbally and physically attack people based on how they look or what they believe," Simran Jeet Singh, senior religion fellow at The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. "Sikhs are regular targets of such hate, and we believe it's important to take on xenophobia as a community."
"This campaign is a fantastic way to introduce ourselves to our neighbors in a way that is both authentic and humanizing," he said. "It also empowers members of our community to take a stand against hate and to engage in simple acts that spread awareness and compassion within our individual networks."