OAK CREEK SHOOTING/ Singh (Sikh Coalition): After September 11 we are more subject to discrimination
In the second mass shooting in less than a month in the United States, six people plus the shooter were killed in the Sikh temple of Oak Creek, near Milwaukee. The gunman, identified as army veteran Wade Michael Page, was possibly a neo-Nazi and seemed to target men with turbans in the temple. The Sikh are often the victims of hate crimes, especially after September 11, as they are often confused with Muslims because the men wear turbans. After the tragedy, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney expressed their condolences. The Sikh Coalition’s Executive Director Sapreet Kaur stated, “we want to thank Americans of all faiths and backgrounds for standing with the Sikh community in deploring this act of violence. We encourage your continued support of the Sikh Americans, who are both grieving this great loss and fearful of similar hate aimed at their family members and places of worship.” She continues, “We are mindful that law enforcement officials have not yet identified the tragic shooting in Wisconsin today as a hate crime… but we know that with great tragedy comes great responsibility to have a national conversation about the importance of religious diversity. No community should ever be terrorized because of its faith”. Ilsussidiario.net contacted Amardeep Singh, the Programs Director of the Sikh Coalition, which is a civil rights organization that aims to combat the prejudice faced by the Sikhs in America, for his opinion.
What do you think about the recent tragedy at the temple in Oak Creek? How has it affected the Sikh community?
It was a terrible tragedy that, along with taking seven lives, has also hit the morale of the Sikh community, with many people fearing other attacks and feeling that they will never be accepted. On the other hand, the positive side is that there has been a lot of support for our community, both from the response of the government and individuals.
Do a lot of people confuse you for Muslims? Does that lead to a lot of prejudice?
Yes, absolutely. Since September 11, the image of the turban has come to mean terrorist. This has been amplified over the past eleven years because of social programming. Undoing that social programming is indeed quite challenging. Not only do people not know who we are, but we also have to immediately explain that we are American, we are not terrorists, etc. The perception of us and our articles of faith have gotten worse because now we are battling not just ignorance, but outright hate.
What does your coalition do?