The gory incident of Wisconsin massacre has raised the issue of safety of religious minorities in the land of opportunities, equality and civil liberties. When the news broke, everyone was in shock waiting for the Right-wing media to start blaming the Muslims. Mercifully, the attacker was killed in the shoot-out and his identity was revealed. He was a white extremist like the Oslo Butcher apparently misguided by “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam.” He had the hatred against Muslims driving his fury. The Sikhs became his victims mistakenly because they look and dress like Osama bin Laden.
The authorities have received tips that the shooter named Page might have links to the white supremacist movement, but nothing had been confirmed. Authorities are following up on numerous leads and are still reviewing exterior videos of the temple. Two neighbors of Page identified him in photos that showed him playing in the far-right punk band “End Apathy,” and the nephew of the slain president of the Sikh temple said the attacker had a 9/11 tattoo on his arm. The FBI was looking into whether it was domestic terrorism, which is the use of violence for political or social gain.
And this is not the first instance of a mistaken target of Americans’ fury. Immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist acts, Sikhs came under attack. Mistaken for Muslims because of their beards and turbans, they became ripe targets for zealots seeking revenge. The first person murdered in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks was a Sikh — a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, named Balbir Singh Sodhi who was shot five times by aircraft mechanic Frank Roque. In the intervening years, the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, reported more than 700 attacks or bias-related incidents. Some Sikhs had their houses vandalized; others were spat upon. In some extreme cases, Sikhs were set upon by groups of people and beaten. As the incidents waned, the community had hoped the worst was behind them — until Sunday, when a man shot and killed at least six people at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, wounded a police officer and was himself killed by another officer’s bullets.
Wade Michael Page, 40, an Army veteran, was the gunman and was killed by an officer at the scene, police said Monday. Witnesses said the gunman had a 9/11 tattoo on one arm. The United States is home to about 700,000 Sikhs, nearly all of Indian origin. The men are easily identifiable by their beards and turbans, a tradition that’s lasted for 500 years. But the attire and appearance have also meant that they are often mistaken for Muslims, and are targets of anti-Islam attacks.
Top State Department officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been working behind the scenes to assuage Indian anger following the attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin over the weekend by an Army veteran and alleged former white supremacist.
The incident has triggered outrage across India and the rest of the world creating problems for the State Department. India criticized the U.S. for failed policies and a growing trend of violent incidents against religious minorities. Protests broke out in several Indian cities in response to the news of the attack, some calling for stricter U.S. gun laws. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal wrote to India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself to urge the Indian government to press the Obama administration to do more to protect Sikhs living in the U.S. The State Department is working overtime to explain to Indians and condemn the incident.
The 9/11 attacks were launched by Osama bin Laden to pull the super power into Afghanistan. The attackers were all of Arab origins, mostly coming from Saudi Arabia. Yet, the American government took the bait and senselessly attacked Afghanistan, something OBL always wanted. No Afghan or Pakistani was ever involved in 9/11, yet Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan became the target of American fury. Ordinary Muslims living the West is as peace-living as the Americans or Europeans themselves. But the entire community is the target of hatred. Shall we assume that due to the act of one American, the entire people of the US will become suspect in the eyes of Indians and, particularly, the Sikh community? That clearly defies logic but this is something the Americans have failed to understand despite wasting more than a trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money.
- Sikh shock at US temple shootings (bbc.co.uk)
- Sikhs recall abuse since 9/11: ‘We’re collateral damage’… (guardian.co.uk)