On January 6, 2010, Sikhs made an appearance on Stephen’s Colbert’s popular daily news spoof, the Colbert Report. Unfortunately, it was not in a good light. In fact, the segment showed a man wearing a beard and full patka while the voiceover describes him as a “terrorist midget.”
Yes, some may consider this funny, but at the same time, it doesn’t do our community any favors. Sikh youth are often targeted in schools because of the way they look. Having a patka displayed in this way to millions of Colbert Report viewers puts Sikh kids in more danger.
In a letter to the Colbert Report yesterday, the Sikh Coalition wrote
“Sikh children have been beaten, had their patkas burned on their heads and had their hair forcibly cut in hate attacks over the last three years alone. By associating this distinct article of clothing with “terrorists” on your show, you’ve placed all Sikh boys in even more danger. Thousands of your viewers have now been educated to associate this little-known headwear with America’s enemies. We ask that you please be conscious of this issue when commenting on terrorism in the future. Although we recognize that this was a joke, the very real effects it can have on our children can be devastating.”
Sikhs have long had an “image problem” thanks to post-9/11 media coverage of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. While we don’t expect our letter to garner an apology, we always try to do something to educate media about the consequences of their actions when mis-portraying Sikh articles of faith.
To read the entire Sikh Coalition letter to Stephen Colbert, click here.