Local Sikhs look to educate and promote understanding of their culture

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) — The Fox Valley Sikh community is sending a message of peace, fearful anti-Muslim sentiment will affect them since they look almost the same as those who follow the religion of Islam.

Sikh leaders from Rockford, IL, visited Appleton Saturday to talk about the need to educate the public about their religion.

Baba Ji is president of the Sikh Global Campaign for Identity.

“Sikhism is not a part of Islam. They’re different,” he says.

Baba Ji says there’s a growing fear of Muslims in America and it’s the root cause of a lot of problems.

He says his mission is a complicated one because while Baba Ji doesn’t want Muslims to face hate, he doesn’t want hate and violence intended for Muslims to affect his community.

“What is in the United States, the Constitution says – justice and liberty for everybody – but we are not given justice here,”  Baba Ji said.

Sikh men wear turbans and grown beards just as Muslims do. Sikh women dress as Muslim women do. While similar in appearance, Sikhism and Islam are vastly different religions.

“Everyone mistakes us being [Muslim], ” says Oshkosh surgeon Gurjeet Kaleka. “My uncle actually died in Oak Creek a few years ago, so it does happen – it hit close to home.”

Kaleka is referring to a 2012 shooting near Milwaukee where a man looking to harm Muslims entered a Sikh Temple instead and killed six people.

“The problem is ignorance,” Kaleka says.

Baba Ji says Americans are growing fearful of American Muslims because of concerns over Islamic Terrorism. He feels that fear has been fueled by the recent presidential election.

That’s why he feels now is the time to spread the world about Sikhism, not to convert people, but so Sikhs aren’t mistaken for people of the Islamic faith.

Inderjit Waraich says all Aikhs can do is educate and hope that’s enough to quell hatred.

“Welfare of all – that is the basic teaching which is given to us. We don’t think of harming anybody,” he says.

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