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New Study Reveals Most Americans Don’t Understand Sikhism

The National Sikh Campaign (NSC) and Hart Research have just released “Sikhism in the U.S.: What Americans know and need to know,” the most comprehensive study to date of American perceptions of Sikhism and Sikh Americans. NSC plans to use these findings to develop various initiatives to combat harmful misperceptions about Sikhs that result in bullying and violence, especially problematic since 9/11.

“[These] findings must compel the Sikh community to act, to educate the majority that are unaware and build an image of Sikhism that is understandable to our American neighbors,” said Shawn Singh Ghuman, NSC Communications Director. “The goal of the National Sikh Campaign is to use this research as a building block for a greater PR effort to generate awareness about Sikh Americans and the positive contributions we make.”

Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion, with over 500,000 Sikhs in America. Yet the study found that sixty percent of Americans surveyed did not know anything about Sikhism or Sikh Americans. Only 11 percent of those surveyed actually knew a Sikh person.

Only two to eleven percent of respondents were able to identify people in photographs as Sikh men, women, and children. The turbans in the photographs made many feel “wary,” “nervous,” or “cautious.”

Various educational messages were also tested and the most effective were found to be those that highlighted the similarities between Sikh and American values, especially that of equality. People were also receptive to learning about the Sikh turban and what it means.

“Ultimately," said Gurwin Singh Ahuja, NSC co-founder, "we want to give young Sikhs a future where tying their turban in the morning is not a cause for concern."

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