We have mentioned Sikhs before, brief, in . The above article, with its great image of the Sikh Captain America, explains how little Americans know about the faith and those who practice it. Let's try and fix that, shall we?
Sikhism began in the 15th century in a valley near what is now Lahore, Pakistan but was formalized in 1699. The central religious text is the Guru Granth Sahib, written from 1469 to 1708. It is a collection of hymns about the nature of God. The hymns teach that God is one, but infinite and impersonal. It is by meditation on the nature of God that the spirit advances. However, the Sikh do not claim an exclusive path to God, and allow that there are many ways to come to Her (I use a gendered pronoun only for readability, for the Sikh God has no gender being totally unlike us.) They do believe in reincarnation. Interestingly, they reject everything else that one normally associates with religion: holy days, ritual worship, ritual sacrifice, ritually prepared meals, clergy,and all forms of monasticism. They believe in living simple, family oriented lives free from anything that would alter their minds (intoxicants) or character (anger, greed, lust, attachment, or pride).
The most distinctive feature of the sikh is what are known as the Five Ks.
The Five Ks are:
1 Kesh (Long hair): a reminder that God gives all things
2 Kangha (small wooden comb): this represents not only an acceptance of what God has given, but the need to maintain it with grace.
3 Kara (steel or iron bracelet): a symbol that life is never ending and one must always keep in mind the teachings of the gurus.
4 Kacchera (undergarment): a symbol of self respect, proper sexuality, and preparedness
5 Kirpan (short dagger): usually 6 to 9 inches long this represents the call on the sikh to be ever ready to defend those in need.
In the western world some of these features have caused trouble. The dagger, in particular, is one that has to be overcome in many situations, but typically an acceptable compromise is reached. For example, in the UK a very small symbolic dagger is worn. Unfortunately, another is their head wear. Because of the long hair most Sikhs wear turbans. The turban has become associated with Muslims, and particularly radical Islam, in the West. So Sikhs experience discrimination with out actually being part of the targeted group.
The only way we are going to over come our hatred and fear of others, a very primitive xenophobia, is through education, dialog, and openness.
Personally I would trust a Sikh over most of the Baptist I grew up with any day.