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Sikhism Promotion Mission Aims to Dispel Stereotypes

Swaranjit Singh was formerly a computer salesman.

Flushing Times Ledger, Dec. 26, 2002

"Swaranjit Singh will never forget when a little girl walking down Rockaway Boulevard a few days after the Sep. 11 attacks asked him if he was going to bomb Queens. 'I remember her face, her eyes. She was a very cute 5- or 6-year-old girl, and I felt really bad, it wasn't her fault,' Singh said. Immediately following that incident, Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and beard, said some police officers stopped him and asked him why he was walking on Rockaway Boulevard. Then a passerby showed him his middle finger. 'I decided I had to do something,' said Singh, a former resident of Queens Village who founded the Sikhism Promotion Mission. 'So on Jan. 1 of this year, I resigned from my job and started calling different schools, churches, the F.B.I., the Federal Aviation Administration, the police, to educate people about Sikhs.' "
"About 70,000 Sikhs live in Queens, many of them in Richmond Hill, said Singh. Nationwide there are about 500,000 Sikhs, with 200,000 of them living in the tri-state area. 'People don't understand at times,' Singh said. 'If you see a guy wearing a turban in this country, 99 percent chances are he is a Sikh, not a Muslim. Sikhs are not sheiks.' As part of the Sikhs' belief in 'natural living,' they are not allowed to cut their hair, Singh explained. 'No matter how many times you shave your hair, it keeps coming back,' he said. 'We believe in the will of God. Keeping long hair is living in the will of God.' . . . After a year of promoting Sikhism full time, Singh has moved to New Haven, Conn., and is working with a real estate franchise. In his spare time, he continues to give talks on Sikhism."