- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

Hundreds of Sikhs from across the region gathered yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate Khalsa Day, their new year festival, and many of them had one question on their minds: What do we do to be recognized as good Americans?
The Sikhs known for their long beards, colorful turbans and devotion to a unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region between India and Pakistan have been roughed up in the United States. The attacks have resulted from what Sikhs call "cases of mistaken identity" since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"It was a very scary time," said Sukhveen Kaur Ajrawat, who has lived in this country for 22 years. "If people think we are Muslims or we are responsible for what happened, it's just not right."
"How do we let Americans know what our identity is so this doesn't ever happen again," she asked.
"After September 11, Sikhs suffered tremendously in terms of racial profiling, beatings and harassments and in some instances murder," said her husband, Dr. Paramjit Singh Arjawat. "Because of the national tragedy, there was a lot of misdirected anger against Sikhs because of their appearance and unique identity."
In late September, President Bush met with leaders of the U.S. Sikh community, expressing sympathy for a Sikh store owner in Mesa, Ariz., slain by a gunman seeking retribution for the terrorist attacks.
The gunman saw the store owner's turban and beard and assumed he was an Arab terrorist. Witnesses said he yelled, "I stand for America all the way," before murdering the unsuspecting man.
A report commissioned by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium says there were 243 attacks on Sikhs and other Asian Americans in the three months after September 11. According to the www.attacksonsikhs.com Web site, there have been 277 attacks on Sikhs in the last seven months.
In Southern California, which has the nation's largest Sikh population the District has the fourth victims included a 51-year-old woman stabbed twice in the head by two motorcyclists at a stoplight and a liquor store owner beaten by two men with metal poles.
The Arjawats said the backlash was faced in Maryland as well. "The eldest of my two sons plays on the football team at Potomac [High School]," Mrs. Ajrawat said. "A few days after September 11, he went to a mall in Montgomery County and a group of kids said to him, 'You're a terrorist, go home.'"
A Potomac physician, Dr. Ajrawat is active in the Sikh community around Washington. He organized the celebration yesterday on the National Mall.
"This is a Vaisakhi rally," he said. "It is in remembrance of the day when 303 years ago Sikhs came to be as a nation, breaking away from the Hindu caste system and establishing equality of mankind, including the most downtrodden parts of society."
Dr. Raminder Singh Dhadli, who traveled from his home in Troy, Mich., to attend the rally, said that apart from their appearance, Sikhs are like any persons who have strong love for humanity. "Sikhs are freedom lovers and lovers of America," he said.

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