Sikh or Sheikh: Why the Latest Romney Gaffe Is Being Blown Up in the Media

During a fundraiser on Tuesday, presidential candidate Mitt Romney mistakenly referenced a “sheik temple” rather than a “Sikh temple” when speaking of the tragic shooting in Wisconsin that took place earlier this week. Was Romney’s slip-up just a result of him being tired and worn out after a long day of campaigning, as some claim? Perhaps, his gaffe could have very well been an honest mistake.  

A sheik is a term in Arabic for an elder or religious leader. Sikhism is a religion with roots in South Asia and no affiliation with Islam.

Romney had actually correctly said Sikh temple at an event in Chicago earlier that day – a detail which some media outlets are failing to mention in an effort to paint a certain picture of the Republican candidate. 

Politicians make mistakes all the time when speaking publicly. Vice President Joe Biden, for example, has become well-known for his countless gaffes. If someone has not already auto-tuned Biden on YouTube, they totally should. There isn’t any auto-tuning in this clip but it is pretty entertaining nonetheless. 

Many people probably would not have even noticed Romney’s blip if not for the huge media backlash. Although I hope that Romney knows the difference between the words "sheik" and "'Sikh," it would be unfair to make assumptions about him and his potential as president. 

What does Romney’s gaffe have to do with recent crimes and violence targeting minorities? 

His slip-up brings a lack of awareness about certain minority groups into the spotlight. It raises questions about whether or not Americans are well educated on people of diverse backgrounds and religions. 

After the shooting in Wisconsin, members of the Sikh community across the country spoke out about being the targets of violence and hate crimes because of misconceptions about their religion – a trend which some claim has increased since 9/11. They believe that they are often mistaken for Muslims because Sikh men wear turbans and grow a beard. 

In an article on PolicyMic this week, Syra Sharif discusses how she considers the numerous incidents against Sikhs and Muslims to be an indication of a rise in hate in America against minority groups. Unfortunately, hate crimes are nothing new in the United States. I am not so convinced that there is an increase in violence against minorities, the incidents may just be receiving more attention in the media.

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Brittany Pavon Suriel

An Atlanta native, Brittany currently lives in New York. She speaks Spanish, French, and Arabic. Studying at the American University in Cairo in 2007 sparked her interest in Egypt and the region. Most recently, she has become passionate about food and educating others about leading a healthy lifestyle.

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