Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In the News: Commentary

A professor at Columbia University was attacked and ended up in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He was not an anarchist, nor an ultra conservative “war monger”, who, in this bastion of liberal identity was confined to irrelevancy. In fact, he seems to have no political identity. Rather, he was attacked based on his appearance. Wearing a beard and a turban, 31 years old Prabjot Singh is a Sikh. He was assaulted because he was thought to be Muslim, according to the police who are categorizing this as a hate-crime. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/23/newser-sikh-attack/2854043/.
Sikhs are not Muslim. They are not even Middle Easterners, for Sikhs almost exclusively come from India. Sadly this is not the first time that such a mistake was made. According to Wikipedia: “On August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others in a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN.[3”.

Those are the facts. Now for the commentary: As a scholar of religion and geography, I know the basic differences between Sikhs and Muslims. Yet too many Christians are unaware. The fact that these hate crimes have occurred in the United States suggests that we have failed to distinguish between Islamic and Sikhs. The world has gotten smaller—due to technology. In years past it would have been rare to meet someone of another faith.
That is not the case today. Part of what seems to distinguish Post-modernism from the past is the fact, that in America, Christian hegemony has largely vanished. There are many choices to choose from, and, in the so-called “market place of ideas”, Christians have not presented a cogent and unified message.
We as Christians need to understand what this means. If one religion group is attacked for their faith—even though they are thought to be another religious group—then any religious group can be attacked. This could have been an orthodox Christian with a full beard, who may look “Islamic”. Or it could be an unassuming Protestant wearing a cross around their neck, or on their lapel. The world has changed – and is changing—therefore we can no longer assume that as Christians we will be fine.
It seems as if the world is turning dark, as moral authority is abandoned. Thus there is a need for someone like myself who understands the religious and geographic background and implications, and can assist Christians in developing a more unified response which shows the world that we are still relevant.