Washington, DC: January 27:
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) has been able to secure a formal apology, last week, from National Geographic, following the broadcasting of images of Sikhs linking them to terrorism and Al Qaeda.
Furthermore, the program in question has been edited to remove the images of Sikhs altogether for any future broadcasts, ensuring further misrepresentations of the Sikh community will not occur.
The program, entitled “Inside Al Qaeda,” examines the Islamic terrorist network and the overall threat of home grown terrorism in America and around the world. Forty-six minutes into the broadcast, as the narrator discusses issues related to home grown terrorism, the images of two Sikhs visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC are shown. Although the program provides important insight into the issue of terrorism, it serves a great disservice to the Sikh American community by conflating them with Al Qaeda and extremists.
Earlier this month, SALDEF issued a letter to National Geographic asking for immediate removal of the images and an apology for the gross error. SALDEF stressed the danger of a reputable media outlet furthering misconceptions Americans have about Sikhs and Sikhism, by drawing attention to the rise in discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes against Sikhs who are wrongfully perceived as terrorists.
National Geographic issued a prompt apology, stating, “The images of the Sikhs should not have been in the program and we apologize for any disrespect or inconvenience this may have caused the Sikh-American community. We have edited the program to remove the images. We thank you again for bringing this to our attention, and we hope you accept our sincere apology.”
“We appreciate the prompt response and apology from National Geographic acknowledging their error,” said SALDEF Associate Executive Director, Jasjit Singh. “This experience highlights the need for Sikh Americans to be vigilant against inaccurate portrayals of our community in the media. Such inaccuracies promote misconceptions and increase the challenges our community faces.”
SALDEF has thanked Kanwarjeet Singh of New Jersey for bringing this issue to their attention and encourages others to similarly report incidents of media bias and distortion to SALDEF immediately.