Simran Jeet Singh: Sikh political leaders emerge around the world

We asked Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition, to consider what 2018 will mean for religion.

RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2018. Find all their predictions here.

(RNS) — In 2018, Sikhs will continue their rise into public representation and political prominence.

At the end of 2017, four Sikhs were elected into public office –  Preet Didbal, the first-ever female Sikh mayor in Yuba City, California; Ravi Singh Bhalla as one of the first-ever turbaned Sikh mayors in Hoboken, New Jersey; Manka Dhingra, a newly elected senator in Washington; and Satwinder Kaur, who now serves on the Kent City Council.

The emergence of Sikh political leadership is not just an American development – it’s a global one. In 2017, we saw Jagmeet Singh become the first-ever Sikh leader of a national political party in Canada, Tan Singh Dhesi become the first-ever turbaned Sikh MP in the U.K, and Preet Kaur Gill become the first-ever Sikh woman MP in the U.K.

The very first day of this year, January 1, 2018, will be marked by Bhalla’s mayoral inauguration in Hoboken. And it will set the stage for a noticeable increase in the representation of Sikhs in various spheres, from television and film to music and literature. Sikhs make up the fifth-largest major world religion, yet they remain largely unknown in the American context.

The tides are starting to turn though, and after more than a century in North America, Sikhs are starting to tell their own stories. In this sense, 2018 will be an empowering and ground breaking year for a community that has long felt invisible in America, despite their markedly visible identity.

(Simran Jeet Singh is a professor of religion at Trinity University and a senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization in New York. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)