Sikh Community Unites to Differentiate Between Sikhs and Terrorists
Temple members say this isn't the first attack on the Sikh community since 9/11, but the largest concern right now is for the estimated 10 children who witnessed the shooting on Sunday.
Oak Creek Centennial Church was filled Monday with dozens of grieving Sikh members in hushed conversation, holding hands and exchanging looks of frustration and sadness. And while Wisconsin weeps for the victims of the shooting, those feelings of mourning are extending beyond state borders.
“The Sikh community is in utter shock and disbelief at the senseless and tragic shooting which should not befall on any house of worship,” said Dr. Bhupinder Singh Sini said at a press conference conducted by members of the Sikh community. “Six Sikhs were gunned down.”
Sunday morning, seven people were killed at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. A 40-year-old Army veteran — one of the seven fatalities — has been identified as the lone gunman and an Oak Creek police officer was hit nine times and is still in critical condition at Froedert Hospital.
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But while many questions are raised about vengeance and anger, one message was made repeatedly clear throughout Monday's public statements — while someone might physically resemble those connected with terrorist acts, that does not make them a terrorist.
“We’d like to use this tragedy as an opportunity to tell the world what Sikhs are,” Dr. Bhupinder Singh Sini said. “Just the fact that they wear turbans and don’t cut their facial hair does not make them terrorists.”
Dr. Momoham Singh Dhaliwal took the stage and began with his thanks to law enforcement and the community, but made it clear that the Sikh community is a regular target for hate.
“This is not the first time that the Sikh community has been targeted since 9/11. Multiple acts of violence have been enacted upon us including several deaths,” Dhaliwal said.
As he continued, his voice began to crack, tears welled in his eyes and he said his biggest concern is for the estimated 10 children who witnessed the shooting.
“As a member of the medical community, I would like to also announce that we will have members on hand for any grief counseling," he said. "But I’m particularly concerned about … the well-being of our children who witnessed this horror.”
The broader community has rallied to the Sihks' support. A memorial relief Fund has been set up at Tri City National Bank to help the victim’s families. Donations can be made at bank branches. One group of supporters is collecting donations for the families online, while an independent web developer also wants to collect donations online.
Contributions are needed to cover medical costs, funeral expenses, psychological counseling and sustaining the lives of the victims.