Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting: Sikh Beliefs and Practices Explained


Any murder is deeply wrong, and religiously motivated murder is heinous. But the targeting of Sikhs is especially tragic when one understands Sikhism and its avoidance of religious conflict.


Sikhism originated in 15th century India, founded by Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji based on visions that led him to reject the strict caste system, iconography, and polytheism of Hinduism. Instead, inspired by a vision of divine love, he taught belief in a single, formless deity which is praised through study, prayer, and loving relationship. 

Modern Practices

Sikh practices were not standardized and codified until the 1930s. The most prominent aspect of Sikhism is the study and devotion to Gurus, including a tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, who is a messianic prophet figure. 

Sikh prayers and rituals reflect the religion's context in religiously torn India by rejecting the legalistic division of organized religions and embracing spiritual universalism. As their evening prayer, the Rahras, states:

"[O God] since I have fallen at your feet, I do not care for anybody else. I do not follow the religious ways preached by various religions believing in Ram, Mohammed, Puran or Qur'an. The Simritis, Shastras and the Vedas lay down different doctrines. But I do not recognize any of these. O God, I have written these hymns with your grace and kindness. All that has been said is in fact spoken by you."

The world's estimated 23 million Sikhs can be outwardly identified by a rejection of contemporary Western culture, including the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Men and women often wear traditional dress, including turbans and ceremonial daggers.

Sikhism Today

Sikhs are present in enclaves worldwide, with about 1 million present in the U.S. and Canada.   

Famous Sikhs include the current Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, and the first Asian American congressman, Dalip Singh Saund (D - CA). Sikhs are actively present in all areas of culture, sport, politics, academia, and science.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indian economist and civil servant Montek Singh Ahluwalia are Sikhs.