Gen. Mike Gould, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, is again stirring the religious waters by referring to Sikhs as Muslims.
During a briefing of faculty, staff and cadets today, Gould mentioned the shooting in Oak Creek, Wisc., where six people were killed as having taken place at "a Sikh Mosque."
Sikhs are not Muslims, Mikey Weinstein says most emphatically.
Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says he has been contacted by 19 faculty, staff and cadets at the academy about Gould's gaff. "They're pretty horrified," he says.
"He might have just as well said a Christian Synagogue or a Jewish church," Weinstein says. "That [Sikh} is a completely separate faith."
A Sikh house of worship is actually called a Gurdwara, Weinstein says, something that the leader of a premier university should know, or at least know enough to look up before embarrassing himself and revealing his ignorance by saying otherwise.
"Nothing is more upsetting to Muslims that to be referred to as Sikhs," he adds. "The Air Force Academy's toleration of non-fundamentalist Christianity can be described as a wretched train wreck, and to have him refer to this as a tragedy in a Sikh Mosque is further evidence."
He says he contacted the academy's public affairs department so someone could point out Gould's error to him before further briefings were held and was asked by a public information officer, referring to Sikhs, "They're Hindus, right?"
"This is just unbelievable," Weinstein says. "It shows the lack of intelligence, lack of broad cultural diversity, the lack of understanding when you have this idiot leading the academy."
Lt. Col. John Bryan, an academy spokesman, says this:
During one of his first SUPT calls he inadvertently referred to the Sikh temple as a mosque. Lt Gen Gould is aware of this and will correct it in upcoming SUPT calls.
In the interest of advancing understanding, Weinstein provides the following lesson:
Sikhs as a distinct ethno-religious group:
- Largely from the Punjab region
- Belief in One Immortal Being (monotheism) and ten Gurus, unlike Hindus
- Historic opposition to the Caste System (one's "previous life's Karma" does not determine their social position, as was the case in Hindu society)
- Sikhs see themselves as an entirely distinct people, i.e. Punjabi Sikh (although in Punjab region intermarriage is common)
- Meat is eaten by the majority, although Kosher/Halal meat is banned. Dietary preference is the decision of the individual.