Sikh community begins campaign: ‘Sikh values are American values’

Sikhs from the central San Joaquin Valley joined Fresno Mayor Lee Brand on Thursday to announce the “We are Sikhs” awareness campaign.

The campaign will begin airing two television commercials locally on Friday, aiming to show others that “Sikh values are American values,” according to Amritpal Singh, a member of the campaign.

“I ask that you get to know your Sikh neighbors,” said Sharnjit Singh Purewal, general secretary of the Sikh Council of Central California. “You may find that you’re more alike than different.”

Campaign organizers said they also hope to raise visibility in the community by helping the Poverello House and establishing several high school scholarships in the area.

The campaign is part of The National Sikh Campaign that says although Sikhism is one of the largest religions in the world, most Americans know little about the community.

The nonprofit says since 9/11, hate crimes against Sikh Americans have spiked because of the misunderstandings about the faith. Local Sikhs are worried because of the hate crimes they have faced in recent years, including a 68-year-old man who was intentionally run over in December 2015 and the killing of a Sikh store clerk in January 2016.

In addition, 70 percent of Sikh youth in Fresno who wear turbans have experienced bullying and harassment, according to members of the campaign.

Brand said he fully stands behind the initiative and wants to work with the community.

Selma City Councilman Scott Robertson said the campaign is needed. Sikhs “don’t promote themselves,” he said, “but they should be promoted.”

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan