Simran Jeet Singh, professor of religion and Senior Religion Fellow at The Sikh Coalition, reflects on his upbringing and faith, and the importance of cultural and religious literacy across traditions in America.
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Life Stories: Professor Of Religion Simran Jeet Singh | NBC Asian America
my name is sim Ranjit Singh I'm a professor of religion and this is my life story we all have multiple identities I'm Asian American I consider myself to be American I consider myself to be South Asian Sikh Punjabi Spurs fan a Texan we grew up in in a place where there were really no South Asians there were really no Asians and there were certainly no six and so we were the only turbaned family in San Antonio I have felt that I've been treated differently because of my ethnicity and because of my faith I don't think that's a surprise to most people when you look at me and you see the turban and the beard and the brown skin it's very clear that I fit a particular stereotype here in modern America I I look like what the TV's tell you is the enemy and and that affects how I am treated any time I'm in public in some instances it turns in to violence I've had that in some instances it's verbal assaults and sometimes nothing is said but the looks that you get tell you that you're being perceived as different and as dangerous and so all of these things sort of shaped how I interact with the world around me and I've sort of been conditioned to be very careful any time I'm out in public to look for people who might be out to harm me or who might see me as the enemy and want to do something about it I think the best way to describe the Sikh faith or Sikhism is from the very first entry in our scriptures Guru Granth sighs and that starts with the word ik Onkar and it means one and basically the very essence of Sikhism is that there is one God who is the same for everybody there is one divine light in everybody what that means is as a as an outcome of that it means that everybody is equal since it's the same divine right in all of us everybody is equal everybody should be treated equal and respected the second piece of that is love when you start recognizing God and everything you live in a way that sort of expresses love at all times and in our tradition there is not as much emphasis on afterlife the real goal is to find love within this life so the end goal in the Sikh tradition is love and the process for getting there is to practice love within your life at all times so I would say for people who don't know much about the Sikh religion those are sort of the things you really need to know and when you encounter a Sikh within the world that's what you can expect that the person will treat you with kindness and respect because they see God within you and they recognize that that interaction is an opportunity to practice love I think one of the unique problems we have here in America is that we we we aren't good about learning one another's cultures and traditions we don't have a good sense of cultural and religious literacy like you know we don't learn it in school people don't teach you about different cultures and practices and we therefore don't have an appreciation for the diversity in our world and and the diversity is what makes this nation great it is what makes us strong it's historically been true that when we have been appreciative of our diversity in this country we have been at our strongest we have been at our weakest when we start excluding different communities and alienating one another and so what we ought to do is start cultivating in our school systems in appreciation for our differences celebrating our culture's in a way that is inclusive as opposed to divisive that's what we're seeing right now this is going back to something I said before for me the change that one makes in the world is just as important as how one makes that change yeah so so for me if somebody asked me what advice I have for them in terms of making a difference on any issue I would say if you do it with the intention of love and service then you know no matter what you do it come out right that's that's sort of what I'm taught and that's the way that I like to hey NBC News fans thanks for checking out our YouTube channel subscribe by clicking on that button down here and click on any of the videos over here to watch the latest interviews show highlights and digital exclusives thanks for watching