USA: For Sikhs who belong to a temple just off the historic Bedford downtown, participating in the city’s Fourth of July parade is a chance to show people that beneath their turbans and head scarves beat the hearts of Americans.
The Sikhs of the gurudwara, or temple, located in a former Masonic temple, have been part of the holiday parade since 2007. Dozens of participants pass out cold water, toss candies and blare Punjabi music along the parade route.
The parade is a chance for the Sikh community to connect with the larger community as the parade winds from suburban Bedford to Bedford Heights.
“It’s very important” said Jasveen Kaur, who was in the basement of the temple, Guru Gobind Singh Gurudwara, on a recent afternoon, dipping vegetable fritters in hot oil in preparation for a nightly feast, which is open to anyone. “We are citizens of this country and we need to show our support.”
She said after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some people looked at Sikhs with suspicion. Some extended prejudices against Muslims to Sikhs.
The distinctly different Sikh religion originated in India’s Punjab region some 500 years ago. There are an estimated 25 million Sikhs worldwide, and about a half million in the United States, according to the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group.
“People don’t know who Sikhs are,” Kaur said. “Our religion taught us love everybody.”
Members of the temple, the largest Sikh temple in Ohio, say they enjoy good relations with the city and its residents. Recently, the temple invited the mayor and city manager to Sunday services, which draws more than 500 Sikhs from the region.
The temple is also helping to raise money for a bronze statue of baseball Hall of Famer Elmer Flick, a lifelong Bedford resident.
“As far as their commitment to the community, it’s excellent,” said City Manager Henry Angelo.
After the parade, the temple will put on a traditional vegetarian feast, which is open to the public.
Amarjit Singh Kang, the temple secretary and past president, said members are proud to be part of the American tradition.
“Even though we might look different than other people, we are Americans first, and we wanted to show that,” he said.