World View: Concerns Raised for Safety of Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus in America

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Kidnapped Iranian 'tourists' in Syria may be Revolutionary Guards
  • Relationship between Islamist radicals in Caucasus and Central Asia
  • Wisconsin's 'domestic terrorism' in Sikh temple raises concerns for Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus
  • China makes armed threat on al-Jazeera ship in South China Sea

Kidnapped Iranian 'tourists' in Syria may be Revolutionary Guards

Syrian rebels holding kidnapped Iranians in Damascus, shown in screen grab (Al-Arabiya)
Syrian rebels holding kidnapped Iranians in Damascus, shown in screen grab (Al-Arabiya)

Forty-eight Iranian Shia "pilgrims" were were kidnapped from a bus in Damascus on Saturday, according to Iran's state television. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians travel each year to Syria to visit a Shiite pilgrimage site, the Shrine of Zaynab, in Damascus. Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels have claimed responsibility for the abductions in a video that appeared on al-Arabiya television. In the video, an FSA officer showed ID documents taken from one of the men and said, "During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards." Iran is denying the charge, repeating that the abductees are Shia pilgrims visiting Damascus. However, analysts are pointing out that there are no women and children in the video, making it unlikely that the abductees are tourists. Al-Arabiya

Relationship between Islamist radicals in Caucasus and Central Asia

An analysis of the connection between Islamist radicals in Russia's southern provinces (North Caucasus) and countries of central Asia -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan -- reveals that there's less going on than speculation has suggested. The two regions are historically connected because Josef Stalin in 1944 deported North Caucasus ethnic groups to Central Asia. When Nikita Khrushchev allowed the repressed people to return, many remained behind. Thus, familial relationships between the two regions remain to this day. During the 1990s Chechen war, Islamist leaders in Chechnya established links with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and several hundred fighters from Central Asia fought the Russians in the Caucasus. However, ethnic ties, or lack of them, have been a more important factor than a desire for "pan-Islamic solidarity," and today there are probably no more than a few dozen fighters from Central Asia in the current insurgency in Dagestan, and their importance should not be overestimated. Jamestown

Wisconsin's 'domestic terrorism' in Sikh temple raises concerns for Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus

In the wake of the attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday, killing at least seven people, including the gunman, South Asians living in the United States are being urged to exercise extreme caution at places of worship. The message is being directed at Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and other South Asians. Sikh males are often confused with Muslims because they wear turbans to cover their long hair. CNN

The word "Sikhism" derives from "Sikh," which means a strong and able disciple. There are about 23 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the 5th largest religion in the world. Approximately 19 million Sikhs live in India, primarily in the state of Punjab. Large populations of Sikhs can also be found in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Sikhs are a significant minority in Malaysia and Singapore, where they are sometimes ridiculed for their distinctive appearance, but respected for their work ethic and high education standards.

Sikhism emerged in 16th-century India in an environment heavily permeated with conflicts between the Hindu and Muslim religions. It was somewhat influenced by reform movements in Hinduism (e.g. Bhakti, monism, Vedic metaphysics, guru ideal, and bhajans) as well as some Sufi Muslim influences. While Sikhism reflects its cultural context, it certainly developed into a movement unique in India. Sikhs regard their faith as an authentic new divine revelation.

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev, who was born in 1469 to a Hindu family. After four epic journeys (north to Tibet, south to Sri Lanka, east to Bengal and west to Mecca and Baghdad), Guru Nanak preached to Hindus, Muslims and others, and in the process attracted a following of Sikhs (disciples). Religion, he taught, was a way to unite people, but in practice he found that it set men against one another. He particularly regretted the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims. Guru Nanak's most famous saying is, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim, so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow the path of God." Religion Facts

China makes armed threat on al-Jazeera ship in South China Sea

Two Chinese warships approach the al-Jazeera vessel
Two Chinese warships approach the al-Jazeera vessel


Three weeks ago, I reported a story that had appeared on al-Jazeera about threats by three Chinese warships directed at an al-Jazeera vessel approaching the Scarborough Shoal. Almost all non-Chinese experts say that Scarborough Shoal is sovereign territory of the Philippines, although China is threatening to annex it through its vast military force. The full report of the encounter is now available online. The video of the "101 East" program is 25 minutes long, and the encounter with the Chinese warships is in the 4:30-10:00 period. Al-Jazeera


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