Monday, August 06, 2012

Sikh tragedy in Wisconsin

The day rises and vanishes into the night,
And the night also passeth,
The age thus wears off;
But the man knoweth not
That the mouse of Time is tearing at the string of life.
Like a herdsman thou hast come to the pasture-land,
In vain thou seekest to stay long,
For, when thy time is over, thou hast to go;
Collect then thy goods, O dear man

(Adi Granth: Guru V, Sri Rag)

Seven people, including the shooter, are dead after a massacre at a Sikh temple (gurdwara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. At a guess, this murderous fool thought he was targeting Muslims. Having had the chance to meet several Sikhs during my 2008 walk, and having had the privilege of working with Sikh students at my current job, I feel a personal sense of loss and can't imagine what sort of hurt the Sikh community, as a whole, must feel.

For those who don't know this: a Sikh temple is a place of welcome, as is any house of worship worth its salt. I had basically invited myself to stay at one such temple in Lynden, Washington, and the Sikhs there took my self-invitation in stride, greeting me with open arms, plenty of good food, and a place to rest for the night. I'll never forget that hospitality. Every day at my job, I look into the faces of bright-eyed, high-school-aged Sikh children, and now I find myself wondering just what the hell I'm going to say to them when I see them this week.

Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that was founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans - which are considered sacred - and refrain from shaving their beards.

There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.


The cup of idiocy overflows. Too bad the shooter was taken down so quickly.



Bratfink said...

So much hatred. :(

Elisson said...

Ignorance and hatred: a nasty cocktail. This is tragic.

Nathan B. said...

Absolutely tragic. I also remember that the first (and I think it was the only) hate-crime murder of an "other" in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was the murder of a Sikh; the murderer in his ignorance mistook him for a Muslim. Anyway, it's a great tragedy.

And I agree, Kevin, by the way, about young Sikh people. I've worked alongside many, and they have a dynamism and intelligence all of their own.