"We are Sikhs" campaign fights an uphill battle against media that think they're Muslim

On Vaisakhi - a historical and religious festival in Sikhism celebrated on April 13 or 14 every year and is "the Sikh new year", a million-dollar awareness campaign launched in the United States aiming to quell confused hatred and attacks by explaining who they are and what they believe. I posted "Neighbours", "Proud" and "Who we are" (short variant) here earlier, while wondering why such a campaign would even be necessary.
Clearly, I am not the target market.
This campaign was funded by Sikh leaders and their families across a dozen cities in the United States and is a response to the angry and uninformed who react to their beards and turbans. Those are symbols of equality in a religion that opposes India’s caste system. If you think about it "we are all equal" is the most American of values, and that's exactly what the campaign aims to teach people.

On Monday night, a horrific terror attack was executed in Manchester, UK, where young girls and their parents were greeted by a bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

In the wake of that, I see why people need to be educated on Sikhs. As media in the United States and the United Kingdom keep misidentifying Sikhs as Muslims when they are clearly not. The most misidentified is a Sikh cabbie driver who spent all night driving people anywhere they needed to go, for free. One of the primary principles of Sikhism is to live selflessly and serve others, which explains why you find so many helping others in dire situations like this. Cosmopolitan women's magazine tweeted about the "Muslim Taxi Driver." If the media can't tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, why would the consumers of said media be able to? This ad campaign is ironically fighting the media that it is supporting, by buying ad space on the networks that often misidentify Sikhs.

The worst part about the Cosmopolitan gaffe is that the journalist who ambulance-chased her way to the free images she saw on Twitter had to be aware that the man was Sikh, since his name is "Singh". In stereo, as his twitter name is Singhlions.

The Sikh Press Association in the UK manned the battle stations on Twitter as well, asking the Mirror to please stop misidentifying the Sikh cabbie. One would think that the UK would be a little better educated on these things, considering their relationship with India in the past, but I guess tabloids are brain-dead everywhere.

I suddenly see the need for the campaign We are Sikhs. They might need to make one in England as well. It's astounding that journalistic media, even if it is just an air-head fashion magazine and a shitty tabloid, can spit out factual inaccuracies in articles and to millions of Twitter followers without double checking what they are writing. No wonder people's faith in mainstream media is at an all-time low.

In the UK the "Rocking Sikh" who sang "keep your gums off my Poppadums" was a controversial and award-winning advert back in 1988. What happened between then and now to make the United Kingdom collectively forget what religion the guys in the turbans follow?

Leave a comment

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.