In this op-ed for Religion News Service, Simran Jeet Singh writes about his time teaching Islamic studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. What makes Mr. Singh’s story particularly unique is that he is of the Sikh faith.
As Singh explains in his piece: “I had long since learned what ‘looking Muslim’ meant in post-9/11 America. I knew firsthand the violence that came with misguided understandings of Islam, and as a Sikh especially, I felt compelled to do something about it. It’s precisely what sent me down the path of studying religious communities and addressing the racism they experience. I decided to make allyship with Muslims and those affected by anti-Muslim hate a centerpiece of my life.”
Here are more snippets from his fascinating account:
— Because my path seemed so obvious to me, I never considered my field of study to be odd. Only when I began interviewing for jobs did I realize that some might find it strange for a Sikh to teach Islam. “How can you teach a religion you don’t even practice?” people would ask, including the president of a university during a job interview.
— People were angry when I spoke out about a 14-year-old Muslim boy in Texas who had been wrongfully accused of bringing a bomb to school. Local law enforcement handcuffed, detained and questioned him for 90 minutes without permitting him to see his parents. My tweet of solidarity with the boy became part of the story on “Good Morning America” and CNN International. Some called our university president’s office demanding I be fired. My university supported me, as it did when I got a credible death threat and had to involve authorities. And the time right-wing outlets published defamatory pieces that confused me with another Sikh man, landing me on the notorious Professor Watch List.
— What I learned by teaching Islamic studies will always be with me… the wonderful students, colleagues and administrators who welcomed me and listened when I shared my darker lessons as I have here. The sharing of our experience helps others see realities that would be hard to imagine otherwise. Through my own stories I hope they too saw what our Muslim neighbors and every minority goes through in trying to overcome the racial and religious supremacies so deeply embedded in the world around us.