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The Islamist war against Sikhs is arriving in Europe

A police officer walks in front of the Sikh temple in Essen, western German where an explosion took place at a wedding on April 16, 2016. German police arrested two teenagers with Islamist backgrounds on April 21, 2016 over an explosion that wounded three people at a Sikh temple, labelling it a "terrorist attack". / AFP / dpa / Marcel Kusch / Germany OUT        (Photo credit should read MARCEL KUSCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Terror attacks in Germany are becoming remarkably unremarkable. So when a bomb went off in the German city of Essen, near Düsseldorf – and killed nobody – it barely registered. The three teenagers who detonated the device were all members of a Whatsapp group called ‘Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate’, so their intentions seemed pretty clear: they wanted to wage war against the infidels of the West.

But their target – a Sikh temple – was striking. While initial reports suggested there was ‘no indication’ of a terrorist incident, any Sikh reading the news would have understood the motive, just as any Jew or Christian would have understood precisely why Islamic extremists target synagogues or churches. It was a religiously motivated attack, designed to remind Germany’s Sikh community that they should also be fearful.

It’s a common claim that Christian persecution at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists is overlooked. But after the murder of the French priest Father Jacques Hamel in Rouen earlier this month, it’s hard to brush aside the fact that Europe is becoming a religious battleground. The persecution meted out by Islamic State to many minorities in Syria and Iraq is arriving on our shores – and it is a gruesome spectacle. Jews and Christians have felt the brunt, but the Essen bomb was a reminder that Sikhs are also facing up to the menace of Islamic extremism.

Sikhs and Muslims have a long, tumultuous history. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak was a peaceful man who engaged in interfaith dialogue. He campaigned for women’s rights, opposed caste discrimination, and spoke up against atrocities committed by the Mughals, India’s Muslim invaders. Nanak’s followers came from both Muslim and Hindu backgrounds. But history took a turn when Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, was executed in 1675 for challenging an Islamic policy of forced conversion of Hindu priests. Foreseeing the difficulties ahead, his son Guru Gobind Singh decreed that Sikhs (who he called the Khalsa or ‘pure’) should always be ready to defend themselves and others against tyranny; India’s ‘sword arm’ was born, and to this day, Sikhs have a reputation for being good fighters.

The Guru’s supporters included individuals from Shia and Sufi minorities, sects within Islam. Yet his resistance to totalitarianism came at huge personal cost. Not only did he lose his father but his four sons were martyred, the younger two bricked alive for their refusal to accept Islam. Despite


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