One of the USA’s biggest newspapers today showed an image of a Sikh man with a report on “Islamic terrorists”.
USA Today, which has a daily readership of over two million, shared the image to over three million people via their twitter account, along with a link to an article on new president Donald Trump signing orders to prevent Syrian refugees from entering the USA.
The picture of the as of yet unidentified man was not included in the actual article on the USA Today website, nor on any of their other social media pages. It is not yet clear whether the picture was used in the print version of the newspaper.
The inaccurate and dangerous depiction in the tweet was immediately pointed out by many on social media and quickly brought to the attention of the Sikh Press Association. Famed Sikh humanitarian Ravi Singh of Khalsa Aid criticised the organisation’s staff, whilst American Sikh community leader Professor Simran Jeet Singh labelled the tweet “inappropriate and harmful”.
Sikh Press Association press officer Jasveer Singh stated the incident must be addressed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of America.
“It was only last week that NBC news made a mistake similar to USA Today’s, and before that there is a long history of this type of mistake occurring regularly in US media. Considering the inaccurate connotation between the Sikh identity and terrorism has led to murders in America, you would have thought a massive media organisation like USA Today would want to be educated on this highly sensitive issue. Clearly not.
“This is something that the FCC needs to look into. There are many American Sikh organisations and individuals that can vouch for just what kind of fatal impact this kind of tweet can have. The Wisconsin Gurdwara (Sikh temple) massacre, where a radical white supremacist terrorist shot dead six innocent Sikhs, was only five years ago.”
Practicing Sikhs (male and female) are religiously ordained to keep unshorn hair and for the men to wear turbans, although many women do too. Ever since 9/11 this identity has often been mistakenly associated with terrorism because of a perceived resemblance to the likes of Osama Bin Laden, something which many Sikhs find ignorant. The first person killed in a self-proclaimed act of reprisal after 9/11 was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man murdered in Arizona.
Jasveer continued, “The Sikh Press Association have long since pushed for mainstream media organisations to cover the issue of the Sikh identity being associated with Islamic terrorism, but instead they seem to continue to propagate it. The problem is not Sikhs being confused for Muslims, it is the fact that many associate brown skin, a beard and a turban with terrorism, and these are three things that millions of Sikhs have.
“This is also an issue in the UK too, where only last December the BBC showed the Sikh symbol the Khanda in a news segment about the Islamic community of Britain, something they refused to apologise for or even admit was a mistake. News organisations like Russia Today, London Live and BBC regional radio have worked with us to produce news reports on the issue but we have approached many other mainstream organisations about this too.
“Thus far the biggest coverage it has received in America is a five minute comedy segment on The Daily Show. It is time these organisations stepped up and took responsibility, especially whilst there is a big drive to stamp out fake news. Relating the image of a Sikh to Islamic terrorism is the epitome of fake news.
“We hope that USA Today will approach us or another Sikh organisation to find an appropriate way to correct their dangerous mistake.”