On the Shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

…there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don’t know.
United States Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld

Daniel Kahneman makes use of that famous statement in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which is about the many ways humans err in their thought processes. I’ve been thinking about that a lot today while contemplating the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

I think it’s a safe assumption the shooter was targeting Muslims when he attacked the Sikhs at their temple. The event would have been no less tragic had the victims been Muslims at worship rather than Sikhs. The idea that a white-supremicist assassin would be so ignorant is not at all surprising, but is frustrating nonetheless. Ignorance upon ignorance.

Since September 11, 2001, many Sikh’s have been victims of hate crimes in the United States. Somehow their facial hair and turbans have lead some hateful people to assuming they are Muslim. This in spite of the fact that most Muslims don’t wear turbans.

I thought about doing a big overview of the religion and people, but since I haven’t yet studied Sikhism in depth, I think it is better to just share a few basic facts:

  • Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world
  • Sikhism was formed around the turn of the 16th century in the Punjab which is today split between India and Pakistan.
  • Sikh’s are neither Hindu, nor Muslim. The foundations of the religion began when Guru Nanak announced  “there is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” Sikhism is clearly influenced by both religions but also forbids certain practices from each of them.

Here is a short documentary about some of the difficulties some Sikh’s have faced in the United States post-9/11:

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