If you follow my Twitter then you probably saw this coming. Recently I’ve had several shocked, hurt, and upset tweets about what happened on August 5, 2012 in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A shooter, Wade Michael Page, entered a Sikh place of holy worship (Gurdwara) and shot towards innocent people. Six innocent Sikhs were killed and three were critically injured. Now what bothers me the most is that these were the most unnecessary lives lost. There is nothing in this entire universe that could justify this event.
The event caused a lot of media attention from channels such as CNN and FOX. It was also the statuses of many Facebook users and started Twitter trends such as the worldwide trend ‘Sikh Temple’ and others like #TempleShooting, #PrayForSikhs, and ‘Wisconsin’. But during this event Sikhs still maintained their loving traditions. They offered journalists free food and water as part of their langar tradition which I will explain later on in this post. But all of their hearts were broken during this tragic event.
The names of the people that are deceased because of this tragedy are:
— Seeta Singh, 41, male.
— Ranjit Singh, 49, male.
— Satwant Singh Kaleka, 62, male.
— Parkash Singh , 39, male.
— Parmjit Kaur, 41, female.
— Subegh Singh, 84, male.
Sons of Paramjit Kaur were devastated when they found that their mother had been killed because of a domestic terrorist attack. One of the son’s stated, “All it takes is one ignorant person to take someone’s world away.” Even though Wade Michael Page in numbers killed six and injured three, he hurt millions of hearts worldwide. His name will never be said again without a tone of disgust in it.
|Amardeep Mangat gets down to pray when he hears |
that his father, Satwant Kaleka, was shot during the massacre.
|When the Colorado shooting happened, everyone got together|
for support, well it's time to do that again
One reason this happened was because Sikhs have been mistaken for Muslims for years. We are our own religion, we have our own identity. There are 700,000 Sikhs in the United States and 25,000,000 Sikhs across the globe. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the entire world. Sikhs have turbans and long beards, but are one of the most peaceful groups of people on the planet. Sikhs do not believe in violence or hate, they believe in equality for all. We learn to defend ourselves through everything, and stand together as one. Our three golden rules are:
Nam Japo – Meditate in the name of god
Nam Japo – Meditate in the name of god
- Kirat Karo – Live an HONEST living. Whether you make one cent a day or one million a day. As long as you do it honestly you are worth everything.
- Vand Chakko – Share your income to people in need. There is no point in earning money if you can’t help people who can’t help themselves.
But despite Sikhism being its own religion, Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims will not stand behind each other when it comes to racial unjust. Ever since 9/11 Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims have been the target for racial discrimination. Let me just say one thing. Just because Osama Bin Laden called himself a Muslim does not mean he was a Muslim. Islam is a very peaceful religion and does not believe in terrorism just as Christianity does not. If one white Christian did a harmful thing would you start calling all white Christians terrorists?
Let me also get this straight. White Americans are NOT the only victims to terrorism. People of all religions, colors, and races have been victims to terrorism. Go through the list of the people that passed away because of 9/11 and you’ll find that hundreds aren’t the names of white Americans. When 9/11 happened I was five years old. I’m a New Yorker so this event has always hit me hard. And it hit every Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim just as hard. Whoever calls what happened at Oak Creek, Wisconsin a hate crime needs to do a little more research. This was nonetheless Domestic Terrorism, which was how CNN labeled it to be. Just because a white person wasn’t the victim this time, doesn’t automatically make it a hate crime. Sikhs are Americans too. Many Sikhs were born here, and even if they weren’t it doesn’t make them any less American. Don’t forget your roots Americans, immigrants built this country.
But to get back to my inspiration to write this blog post, Sikhs. Sikh Temples (Gurdwaras) always have their doors open during service hours. They encourage people of all faith and color to come and find peace within themselves and with God. After the prayer there’s something called langar, where everyone comes and shares a meal together. This meal is of no cost to anybody and is offered to everyone. A Gurdwara is more than a place of worship; it is a community and a family that always has its arms open for new comers. If any of you ever have the chance, I would really encourage you to visit the Golden Temple located in Amritsar, India. It is one of the most peaceful places in the world.
The sad thing about Sikh history is that Sikhs are always targets for hate crimes. Ever since 9/11 Sikhs have been misunderstood for terrorists, which is something they are not. Long hair and beards is a Sikh’s identity and his or her commitment to God. It in no way has anything to do with terrorism. Sikhs have been the targets of hundreds of hate crimes all across America, for no reason at all. Just a few examples of hate crimes towards Sikhs are (via Huffingtonpost*):
Sept. 15, 2001 -- Mesa, Ariz.: Four days after the infamous attacks of 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh, is shot and killed outside the gas station he owned by Frank Silva Roque. When police approached to arrest him, Roque says, “I'm a patriot and an American. I'm American. I'm a damn American.”
Nov. 18, 2001 -- Palermo, N.Y.: Three teens burn down Gobind Sadan, a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in New York, because they thought it was named for Osama bin Laden.
Dec. 12, 2001 -- Los Angeles, Calif.: Surinder Singh Sidhi, a liquor store owner in Los Angeles who took to wearing an American flag turban after 9/11 out of fear of being attacked, is beaten in his store by two men who accuse of him of being Osama bin Laden. [More from Real Sikhism.]
May 20, 2003 -- Phoenix, Ariz.: Fifty-two-year-old Sikh immigrant and truck driver Avtar Singh is shot in his 18-wheeler while waiting for his son to pick him up. As he is being shot, he hears someone say: “Go back to where you belong.” [More from Real Sikhism.]
Aug. 5, 2003 -- Queens, N.Y.:Members of a Sikh family are beaten outside of their home by drunk individuals yelling, "Go back to your country, Bin Laden."
March 13, 2004 -- Fresno, Calif.: Gurdwara Sahib, a local Sikh temple, is vandalized with graffiti messages: “Rags Go Home” and “It’s Not Your Country.
Jan. 30, 2009 -- Queens, N.Y.: Three men attack Jasmir Singh outside of a grocery store. Racial slurs are heard. A broken glass bottle is used. Singh loses vision in his left eye.
March 6, 2011 -- Elk Grove, Calif.: Two elderly Sikh men in traditional garb, out for a daily afternoon walk, are shot and killed. The perpetrator is not found.
Hate crimes aren’t always this big though. Sikhs have gone through several thousand hate crimes that can’t be reported such as getting the finger, being told to ‘go back to your country,’ and being called a terrorist.
Recently there was also a blaze in a mosque in Missouri that had encountered several attacks before as well. A few years ago an ignorant citizen had burned down the sign of a mosque. The community of the mosque decided to keep it together though and rebuild it. On July 4, 2012 another or the same ignorant citizen of Missouri lit the mosque on fire. Although the mosque contained 16 surveillance cameras, and a clear view of the suspect was taken, police still haven’t convicted the felon. But on August 6, 2012, less than 24 hours since the Wisconsin shooting, someone started a blaze inside the mosque completely burning it to the ground leaving the community heartbroken.
But now enough is enough, it’s time to make change. People do not understand the scary situation they are in. A few weeks ago there was a shooting in a movie theater, then there was a shooting in a Gurdwara and now a mosque was burned to the ground. What can happen tomorrow? The amount of ignorance and hatred in this country has gotten out of control. I think it’s time for people to further educate themselves and understand their surroundings before they take any serious or even simple actions toward someone. It’s time to stand together as one family otherwise we will as a country and as humanity fall apart.
Even though Sikhs are so mistreated they still go around spreading love and peace. For a group of people that does NOTHING but spread peace, the Wisconsin shooting was the worst injustice they could have ever got. Even through all they’ve been through the Sikhs believe in “Chardi Kala” which is a Sikh belief that means always staying happy and remaining positive and giving love; even through unfair bias, racial unjust, hate crimes, and being terrorized. Also remember that no matter what, you cannot tear Sikh pride down, and you will in no way change their faith.
Another one of my concerns is gun control. Wade Michael Page was discharged from the army for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice for being drunk on the job, and one time being absent when he was not allowed to be. But he still LEGALLY was able to receive his gun and pistol. James E. Holmes who killed 14 and injured 50 in Aurora, Colorado was pronounced mentally ill, yet he was still able to get his gun legally. Yes mental health is a huge issue and is the main reason these massacres happened, but the easy access people have to weapons is unacceptable.
I want to send my condolences to Oak Creek and everyone who is physically and mentally getting over this tragic and horrific event. My heart and prayers are with you.
I want to thank CNN for taking so much time to finally give Sikhs a chance to explain who they are to the public and what they stand for. What saddens me though is that it took a massacre for the media to finally take time to explain what Sikhism is, and how we stand for peace and equality for all. The amount of media that became involved was amazing but it’s not enough. We need to keep spreading awareness of tolerance and peace. We need to stay United as one. One of my favorite quotes is “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It is now up to us as humanity to stick up for each other, not bring each other down.
|Vigil in Chicago for the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting|
|Vigil in Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting|
I also want to give a huge thank you and god bless to Brian Murphy. Brian Murphy in my eyes is a hero. He took nine bullets from the shooter and still had the courage to shoo away other officers when they came near him, and signaled them to go save the people in the Gurdwara rather than him. He is someone who I look up to and I pray that I one day have the amount of courage that he showed that day.
Sikhs don’t believe in justice for just Sikhs, Sikhs believe in justice for all.
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Leave me comments and let me know what you thought. Do you agree? Disagree? All respectful comments are welcomed :) xox