Dissecting “Sikhs are not Muslims”

In an Aug. 10 article of the LA Times, Scott C. Alexander lead with this introduction to his opinion piece, What ‘Sikhs are not Muslims’ really says:

Almost from the beginning of their coverage of the horrific and deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, CNN and other news media went out of their way to send a message to the American public: “Sikhs are not Muslims.”

But what were we to make of that message? If the temple’s members had been Muslims, would the attack have then been justified?

It’s a rather interesting question to pose because everybody with a brain who hoards even just a speck of sense in sociology and just fucking downright common sense knows that you can’t impose the actions of a terrorist group on the entire population of the religion or ethnicity that that group belongs to.

Dishearteningly enough, I have read in numerous reports that Sikhs have been continuously mistaken as Muslims ever since the Sept. 11 attacks. But why the flying fuck am I reading that for exactly? The reference is strung out of thin air and the fact that major news outlets are somehow finding ways to piece them into their articles is a sign of fingers pointed.

In CNN’s coverage of the shooting, for example, Surinder Singh, a spokesman for the Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta is quoted:

Because of their customary beards and turbans, Sikh men are often confused for Hindus or Muslims — and have been the targets of hate crimes since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

To this day, it still can not be proven that religion played a role in the shooting. Ever since the incident, however, there are measures that newspapers are taking to enlighten readers about the differences between Muslims and Sikh.

Take a gander at this illustration printed by Chicago’s RedEye:

Turban Primer, RedEye

Notice how one particular style is directly attributed to Taliban members, despite the fact that many Muslims wrap their turbans as such.

As someone who studies journalism, I’m usually one to defend why reporters decide to cover a specific issue the way they do; however, I’m throwing up the white flag in this case because I feel the coverage and protection of the Sikh community is actually doing more damage to other religions and ethnicities.

In cases like this, dissecting the cultures really undermines the tragedy. Major news outlets have gone out of their way to delve into the Sikh culture in order to let make crystal clear to the readers that these people are not Muslims. I mean, never mind the fact that the murderer was actually some Neo-Nazi white supremacist and probably didn’t really give a shit at what group he was shooting at.

About neilprotacio

Freelance journalist who just so happens to know what goes well with certain breads.
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