Monday, 13 August 2012

Wisconsin Gurdwara Shooting ~ Thoughts

On the 5th of August a Neo-Nazi Army veteran entered a Gurdwara in Wisconsin and shot and killed six innocent people.

If you don't know about this, look it up. There are numerous news articles about it. Here's a few random ones pulled out from google. I'm sure there's better ones. Educate yourselves.

  • The mother of the killer apologises:

Now, I don't want to go into the facts. That's what news articles are for. If you want to know the killer's name, or how the events unfolded, go and read a news article. I want to focus on the actions of the various communities affected by this sensless act of violence. This post is going to be quite bitsy. It won't flow well. It's not an essay or an article. It will just throw out some ideas, because right now, that's what my mind is doing.

Before all, may Maharaaj Jee bless all those who were afeected by this tragic event, and may They keep us all in chardikala.

Firstly, I want to make sure that everyone watches this video. It is truly beautiful. The short speeches are heart touching. The unity shown by the people is this video is so inspiring. It's unreal. In today's world, where we are so filled with divisions, boundaries and hate, this sort of thing is so rare. Please listen to the voices of America.

Most Sikhs will remember that, just after the shooting, their social networking sites and mobile phones were drowned with messages and posts about the shooting. There were moments or confusion and panic. There were constant updates as new information leaked out. But do you know what was so beautiful? Before anyone knew anything, when all we knew was that a gunman had entered a Gurdwara and shot at the sangat, before we learned about any deaths, we were already receiving text messages asking us to do Chaupai Sahib paaths and Ardaasa for the Panth. The entire Sikh population all around the world was united in their concern for their brothers and sisters abroad. I won't ever forget the feelings I felt during that time. It hit me hard, and showed me that, as Sikhs, we truly are one family. Even though I was sitting in a Gurdwara in the UK, my heart was in Wisconsin. A bullet in the heart of my brother is a bullet in my own heart.

But afterwards, the unity was not just shown by American Sikhs. It was shown by all Sikhs, all around the world. It was shown by all Americans, regardless of their faith or race. It was shown by non-American non-Sikhs who were horrified and saddened by this hate crime. There have been candlelight vigils everywhere, in every country. In America, all communities, regardless of their religion, have got together and held vigils. And these vigils have been interfaith events. All were united to support the Sikh community, and allto made it clear that no one will stand for hate crime.

The Muslim community, Christian community, Jewish community and undoubtedly many others have all made statements and speeches in support of the Sikh community, and sought ways to help and support the Sikh community. Jewish religious leaders were receiving phone calls from their congregations asking what they could do to help the Sikhs. Muslim leaders immediately jumped behind the Sikhs. In the video I posted above, a Muslim man tells a Sikh boy to wear his turban with pride. Christian leaders spoke out against the killer. Humanity, compassion and respect crosses all boundaries. They have all emphasised that this is not an issue for the Sikh community. It is an issue for humanity. It should touch the hearts of all of us.

Soon after the shootings, in a statement, the Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization CAIR said: 

"While details of the attack and the motivation of the attacker are still emerging, American Muslims stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters in this time of crisis and loss. We condemn this senseless act of violence, pray for those who were killed or injured and offer sincere condolences to their loved ones."

Needless to say, ignorance is an issue. It always has been. After 9/11 there have been many attacks on turban wearing Sikhs, because they have been mistaken for members of terrorist groups or organisations. Sikhs are not terrorists. Sikhs are peace loving people. This was an act of terrorism. The white supremacist was a terrorist. He killed people because of their skin colour.

I can't stress how important it is to realise that this is about humanity. Yes, Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims, and we are attacked because of this. We are attacked because of our turbans and our beards. And it's a tragic thing. But let's make this clear - Muslims are innocent people too. Imagine if this shooting had taken place in a Mosque. It would still be wrong. We should still have united against it. This is why repeatedly stating that Sikhs are not Muslims will not solve the problem. People will then start attacking Muslims instead. It's important to make it clear that no group can be held responsible for the acts of a few individuals. Humanity is important. Don't forget about it.

I was incredibly touched by America's reaction to this act of domestic terrorism. Obama ordered that US flags should be lowered half way to show respect to those who were killed. America stood together and supported all those who were affected by the killings. The flags weren't lowered for six Sikhs - they were lowered for six Americans. Despite the ignorance which is still prevalent in America, Americans showed that they value the life of every American, regardless or race or religion. They all beat together as one heart, and they all mourn together.

President Obama issued a statement: 

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.”

Lieutenant Brian Murphy. The 51 year old man was shot 9 times, and he still waved off fellow officers who attempting to rescue him and indicated they should assist others who were still inside. He was critically injured. I have so much respect for him. This is love. This is compassion. Love for human life - willingly risking your own life to save someone else's.

Let's not forget the innocent victims of this sensless attack. My heart is with the friends and families of these innocent Sikhs. Every human life is valuable. I'll leave it to you to imagine how much sangat attended the funerals of these Sikhs.
Bhai Seeta Singh - Granthi/Gurdwara Priest
Bhai Parkash Singh - Granthi/Gurdwara Priest
Bhai Ranjit Singh - Raagee/ musician
Satwant Singh Kaleka - President of the Gurdwara 
Subegh Singh - Member of Sangat/ worshipper 
Parmjit Kaur  - Member or Sangat/ worshipper

I want to finish on this note - the Sikh community has been so strong and so SIKH during this time. By that I mean that they have not shown anger or hate. They have shown love and concern. They have not pushed anyone away. They have welcomed people with open arms. They have truly lived by the message of Guru nanak Dev Jee. In the wake of this senseless tragedy, the Wisconsin Sikh Sangat is teaching us an amazing lesson of strength, courage, compassion, and resilience.

Oak Creek police chief, John Edwards: 

"In 28 years of law enforcement, I have seen a lot of hate. I have seen a lot of revenge. I've seen a lot of anger. What I saw, particularly from the Sikh community this week was compassion, concern, support," he told the vigil standing in front a row of people holding signs that spelled out: practice peace. "What I didn't see was hate. I did not see revenge. I didn't see any of that. And in law enforcement that's unusual to not see that reaction to something like this. I want you all to understand how unique that is."

Finally, the Sikh community will never forget this tragedy. The gurdwara was repaired. They removed the bloodstained carpeting, repaired shattered windows and painted over gunfire-scarred walls. But Sikh Temple of Wisconsin members left a single bullet hole to mark the memory of a white supremacist’s deadly rampage.

As human beings, it's our job to make sure that hate is erased from our communities. It's our job to make sure that ignorance within our own communities is wiped out. We need to instill love in the hearts of our children. We need to go out and educate. We need to love. We can't just demand peace. It's our job to bring peace. Vaheguroo.


  1. Thank you for sharing your true feelings. Yes we Sikhs are one family, and also one family with all citizens of the world.

  2. Sikhism is considered to be one of the most highly organized religions of the world, on the similar lines the Gurudwaras have been regarded as extremely well maintained, well structured and well-organized places of worship and religious activities, despite so many people visiting it every day.