WASHINGTON–Wake before dawn. Meditate on the name of God. Tie turban. Visit temple. This is the daily routine of practicing Sikhs around the world — but a mysterious religion to many Americans.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, American Sikhs have experienced harassment, prejudice and targeted assaults. Many people mistake Sikhs as Muslims, some going so far as grouping them unfairly with terrorists.

Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest organized religion, and more than half a million Sikhs live in the United States. But 60 percent of non-Asian Americans in this country know nothing about Sikhism.

This from a report released Monday by the National Sikh Campaign and Hart Research Associates. The nationwide project surveyed 1,144 non-Asian Americans, with varying age and education levels. It was conducted online last August and September, and allowed participants to see photos of Sikh Americans and read highlighted text, something that a phone interview could not do.

“We are just tired of being the target, and we want to be understood,” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, co-founder of the National Sikh Campaign. “We want to make sure that we pave the way for a conducive environment for future generations.”

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion originating in 15th century India. An independent faith, many mistakenly consider it a cross between Hinduism and Islam. It shares many of the same values as better known religions, such as human equality, freedom, peace and acceptance.

Sikhs began immigrating to the United States about 150 years ago. There are currently more than 450 Sikh temples, or gurdwaras, around the U.S. Still, a National Sikh Campaign poll found that 80 percent of surveyed Sikhs said they have been identified as foreigners and either they, or their relatives, have been harassed because of their turbans.

The most recognized attack was a 2012 shooting at an Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara that left six dead. Other alleged hate crimes against Sikhs were reported in New York City when a man was deliberately hit by a car last year, and in 2013 when as many as 20 men attacked a Columbia professor, a Sikh.

Geoff Garin, Hart Research Associates president, believes these kinds of incidents could be avoided if people better understood the religion.

“The turban really stands out,” Garin said. ” It creates different expectations and impressions that become very prejudicial.”

The turban, worn by men and women alike, symbolizes the wearer’s commitment to Sikh beliefs and values. However, many Sikhs, such as Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, get targeted because of it.

Sachdev recounted how, in the 1970s, some people would give him deference, assuming he was a doctor “because of the turban.” But just a few years ago, three young men wouldn’t let him leave the bathroom “because they said [he] was an Ayatollah.”

“Osama Bin Laden was shown all the time on TV, and people started equating ‘Ayatollah’ to ‘Osama,'” Sachdev said.

Part of the 2014 survey showed participants a photo of a Sikh man, with only 11 percent correctly identifying his religious affiliation. Only 2 percent correctly identified a photo of a woman wearing the turban.

“Wearing a turban does not make someone a terrorist any more than wearing a hoodie makes them a hoodlum,” the Rev.Leslie Copeland-Tune, of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. said.

Speakers at the news conference agreed that the new report is a step toward improving America’s knowledge and perceptions of the Sikh religion. In fact, after survey participants understood Sikh’s main values, perception moved from neutral (mean=54.1 on a 1-100 scale) to warm (mean=71.6).

“There’s a tremendous opportunity to change people’s minds,” said Gurwin Ahuja, executive director of NSC.

For the full report, click here.