Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Response to Recent Shootings at the Wisconsin Sikh Temple

By Evita Mouawad

Most Sikhs living in the United States were not surprised by Sunday’s attack on their temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a gunman opened fire killing seven people and injuring three others. The FBI is treating the attack as a domestic terrorist incident, while recent media reports have described the shooter as a US Army veteran and a lead guitarist in a racist hardcore rock band.

Since the events of 9/11, the Sikh community has been feeling particularly vulnerable in the country. Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Washington-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education, released a statement to the Associated Press saying: "This is something we have been fearing since 9/11, that this kind of incident will take place… It was a matter of time because there's so much ignorance and people confuse us [as] being members of Taliban or belonging to [Osama] bin Laden."

Family members of the victims gather at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin - Photo by Reuters

Sisters Against Violent Extremism strongly condemns the attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Violent incidents such as this one --and the many others we have witnessed this year, from Toulouse in France to Kandahar in Afghanistan-- reveal a growing sense of intolerance towards other cultures, religions and ethnicities in a world that is constantly under threat. This feeling of insecurity, coupled with misinformation and a lack of trust in others, will inevitably lead to an increase of violent extremism and must be tackled on the community and educational levels.

Amardeep Kaleka, son of the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, center, comforts members of the temple, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wis. Satwant Kaleka, 65, founder and president of the temple, died in the shooting. He was among four priests who died. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Police officers described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt, black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm. This particular tattoo was the first piece of evidence to hint out that the shooting was in fact a hate crime. It must be said that most of us in Europe, America and the world tend to forget that the victims of 9/11 hailed from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, even Islam. In fact, several dozen Muslims perished in the attacks on the World Trade Centers, some were employees in offices, hotels and restaurants; others were NYPD cadets and firefighters who lost their lives rescuing victims.

Whether Sikhs, Muslims, Christians or Jews, the reality is that we are ALL affected by violent extremism in today’s globalized world. We must set violence and intolerance aside, and focus on the values that unite us as global citizens who share the common goal of building a more peaceful world for future generations.

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