The ugly bigotry that surrounds Islam is bleeding over to a group of Americans who have nothing to do with Islam: the 250,000 or so people in the US who identify as Sikh.
The problem? Americans seem to have no idea who Sikhs are. In a Daily Show segment aired Monday, people on the street were more likely to point to pictures of binoculars, a bird, and children playing hide-and-seek than a picture of a man wearing a turban as an example of "a Sikh."
Instead, when people see a Sikh man wearing a turban, they assume he's Muslim. And worse, because of Islamophobia, they often assume he's a terrorist.
Actor Waris Ahluwalia is familiar with this type of prejudice. He told The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj that he was kept from boarding a plane because he refused to take off his turban, a symbol of his faith. This wasn't the first time Ahluwalia had issues at the airport, either: "Almost every time I fly back to the US, I get a secondary screening."
He can't just take off the turban, either. Ahluwalia explained, "The turban is part of my religion. It's part of my faith. It represents who I am, what I believe in, the values that I hold dear and true. And those values are Sikh. Those values are American."
Ahluwalia isn't alone. In a panel with other Sikh Americans, Minhaj heard more stories of discrimination: "I've been called ISIS a lot recently." "Americans who see Sikhs automatically think we are terrorists." "The turban is what makes us the target."
In response, Minhaj jokingly suggested that the best way to combat prejudice may be a publicity campaign that shows Sikhs are "just like us."
But fundamentally, the issue is that people hold bigoted views toward an entire religion — in a way that's so broad that it's even bleeding over to other faiths.
Still, Sikhs on The Daily Show's panel told Minhaj that they're unwilling to say they're not Muslim and, as one Sikh man described it, "throw another community under the bus."
He said, "Even if it means things are harder for us, we believe it's the right thing to do." Another man added, "We need to be better than that as Americans. And that's what our Sikh values teach as well."