In contrast to the 2016 election, Democrats had a very good day in the scattered off-year elections of 2017. One of those Democrats is Ravi Bhalla, the newly elected mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, a small, densely populated city across the river from Manhattan.
Bhalla is a Sikh. Sikhism is an Indian religion that considers everyone to be equal and has a strong belief in service to others. It is not connected in any way, shape, or form to Islam. Most Sikh men do not cut their hair, which explains why they wear turbans. And the turban explains why many of Trump’s poorly educated supporters think Sikhs are Muslims.
That ignorance was on full display just days before election day, when flyers calling Bhalla a “terrorist” appeared in the community.
Those flyers, as the information at the top clearly shows, appeared to come from the campaign of one of Bhalla’s opponents in the election, Republican Mike DeFusco. But DeFusco claims he had nothing to do with the handouts, saying that someone had altered one of his campaign ads to include the “terrorism” line. According to The New York Daily News, the flyers were placed on car windshields all over town, and police are now looking for two suspects who they believe are responsible for distributing them.
Sikhs have been targets of the hateful, ignorant right since 9/11, thanks in large part to their turbans (not to mention their brown skin). While it is true that many Muslim men wear turbans, many more do not, and the turbans worn by Muslims look completely different than those worn by Sikhs. The anti-Muslim site Bare Naked Islam explained the difference between the two in a 2013 post, telling readers “you might be able to save a Sikh’s life one day.” (Or to put it a less polite way, “this will help you figure out which brown people you should or shouldn’t be beating up.”)
It is very likely that whoever is responsible for these flyers is fully aware of the fact that Sikhs are not Muslims — but they were probably counting on the recipients of the ad not knowing that. However, Hoboken is not West Virginia, and obviously, the residents weren’t buying what these racists were selling. Bhalla was elected with just over 34 percent of the vote in a six-way race.