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Who are the Sikhs?  CNN profiles little-understood religious minority in the U.S.

Who are the Sikhs? CNN profiles little-understood religious minority in the U.S.

In the wake of a gunman's murder of six Sikhs attending services at a Wisconsin temple on Sunday, CNN's Erin Burnett gave a brief history of a religion most Americans know very little about — Sikhism.

There are nearly 750,000 Sikhs in America.  It is a monotheistic faith the preaches peace and charity above all else.

Sikhism originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit, meaning disciple or student. Sikhs believe in the equality of humankind, the concept of universal brotherhood of man and One Supreme God (Ik Onkar). Sikhism is considered one of the world's more universal religions, and protecting the religious and political rights of all people and preventing discrimination is an integral part of the Sikh faith.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Sikhs started to make their way to the United States for a better life and to escape British oppression in India.  Many of them went to England and Australia, but the majority made their way to North America via Hong Kong.  Many became farmers.  The first temple was set up in California in 1906.

A second wave of Sikhs made their way to the United States in the 1960s, when the government raised its immigration quotas and encouraged trained professionals to move to the country.  Many Sikh engineers and doctors answered that call. Many have served in the military since World War I, but their religious turbans and beards were banned in the 1980s. Currently, only three Sikhs have been granted an exemption.


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About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
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