The National Sikh Campaign (NSC) today announced the launch of We Are Sikhs, an initiative to improve awareness of the Sikh religion and Sikh Americans nationally and in local communities throughout the United States.
Through a major marketing, grassroots and public relations effort, We Are Sikhs will focus on increasing the Sikh American community’s presence in national and local news outlets, online platforms and within their neighborhoods. The initiative will utilize national and local television and cable advertisements, digital advertisements, an innovative website and social channels and community events to affect change.
“We are very proud to launch We Are Sikhs, a national effort to help inform our fellow Americans about who we are and why we are proud to wear the turban, a symbol of our community’s commitment to equality and serving others,” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, co-founder and senior advisor of the National Sikh Campaign. “Sikh Americans are pillars of their communities in every corner of our nation and we must work to proactively meet and connect with our neighbors.”
The ads, which will air on CNN, Fox News and on TV stations in Fresno, California, home to a large Sikh community, make no mention of the more than 300 hate crimes reported by Sikhs in the U.S. since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Rather, they feature Sikh families explaining how the world’s fifth-largest religion, founded in India, aligns with American values.
A fatal 2012 shooting of six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin deeply affected Sikh Gurwin Singh Ahuja, co-founder and executive director of the National Sikh Campaign. At the time he was the national field coordinator for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, he told Campaign Live that at the time he thought: “Man, if we had a 100th of the capability of the [presidential] campaign, maybe things like this wouldn’t happen.”. This lead to the formation of the National Sikh Campaign.
“Sikh values are American values, and Sikh Americans have been making positive and significant contributions to American life for more than a century. We run local businesses, sing our national anthem with pride, serve on local Parent Teacher Associations and lead Boy Scout Troops,” said Gurwin Singh Ahuja. “We welcome the opportunity to share our values of equality, diversity and service through We Are Sikhs. The American dream is fundamental to our identity here in America, and we believe deeply in the freedom to pursue one’s own success through hard work.”
The ads are meant to target everybody, Ahuja said. However, the digital ad “Who We Are” purposefully features younger Sikhs (recruited by a Los Angeles agency), whereas the cable news spots “Proud” and “Neighbors” focus on older Sikhs from the Maryland/Washington D.C. area (whom Ahuja found at local temples).
Despite these many contributions, 60% of Americans admit to knowing nothing at all about Sikh Americans, and 66% of Americans have never interacted with a Sikh American before. While this lack of awareness and interaction exists, the National Sikh Campaign believes there is enormous potential to enhance positive feelings and familiarity toward Sikh Americans through this effort.
The Sikh community has been the target of discrimination, intimidation, harassment and hate crimes since the 9/11 Attacks largely because of a collective misunderstanding of what the turban means in the Sikh faith. Sikhs wear the turban to show their willingness to serve others in the community and their commitment to equality for all people. 99% of individuals wearing turbans in the U.S. are of the Sikh faith. In many cases the hatred shown is by racist people thinking they are targetting Muslims.
To learn more about Sikh Americans and Sikhism, please visit www.wearesikhs.org.
The TV ads produced by AKPD Message & Media, polls carried out by Hart Research Associates, PR firm FP1 Strategies, a website created by Skyrocket and online spots and social media run by Yellow Line Digital. In some ways it is sad that there is a need for a campaign like this, but on a more practical level it is never a bad idea to show awareness of the nature of the sikh faith.