Guest post by Inderpal Singh Mumick
Another senseless shooting, this one in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Every few weeks or months there seems to be a random shooting somewhere in America. The story line never seems to change much. A “sick” person, acting alone, decides to take the lives of many. In July, twenty people met an untimely end in Aurora, CO. Their “fault” – wanting to see the first showing of the latest batman movie. A year ago, Gabrielle Giffords was injured, and six innocent victims died just because they came to meet with her. And last month, Oak Creek upped the ante further by taking the unjustified, cold-blooded shootings to a place of worship. Six people are dead simply because they went to pray at a Gurudwara (Sikh place of worship).
Personally, the tragedy hit home like none other to date. This was a shooting in a Gurudwara, the place I go for peace. Much more than just a place to pray, the Gurudwara is a part of life. When our first son was born, my wife and I went to the Bridgewater Gurudwara to ask for God’s blessing, and to find out the first letter of his name, as is customary in Sikhism. The Guru Granth (holy book of the Sikhs) opened to a page starting with “K”, and we named him Kieraj. When our girl was born, we did the same (“R” led to Ruhani), and repeated it for our youngest son (“S” became Saran).
Was it an attack on the Sikhs, and our way of living? Were Sikhs being discriminated because of our unique identity? Sikh men wear turbans, and all Sikhs do not cut their hair. Was it meant to be an attack on Muslims? Many people in the western world confuse Sikhs to be Muslims. Either way, it was an attack on a place of worship, and an attack on one place of worship is an attack on every place of worship.
As a society, we need to reflect on what is going on in our beloved country that is leading to such hatred, craziness, and terror, so that we can find ways to prevent more tragedies.
I know I speak for my whole community when I say that our hearts go out to the innocent victims who gave up their lives on that unfortunate day, and to Lt. Murphy who acted with valor, and did not hesitate to protect his fellow Americans though they looked different from many other Americans, and worshipped in a different way. May WaheGuru (God) bring a speedy and painless recovery to him, and to the other injured individuals who are hospitalized.
The only way we can move forward is to think of the positive. One positive outcome of this horrid event is that various communities have come together like never before. The pastors, the bishops, the imams, the monks, the rabbis, and the community leaders have all shared the pulpit to deplore the violence and to ask for tolerance and love.
However, coming together is not enough. Education is the key to preventing future tragedies. We need to educate our law enforcement officers, the TSA, the airlines staff, the judiciary, the armed forces, the legislatures, and the teachers. Most of all, we need to educate school children and others in the younger generation. It is the younger generation that has the power to ensure that peace and tolerance will push out hate and ignorance. In Berkeley Heights, NJ, where I live, students are assigned a project in middle school where each student researches one religion, and presents it to the class. They make posters and powerpoints to share their learning. My two sons were the only Sikh boys in their middle school and therefore looked different from everyone else; yet they have been well assimilated into the school and into the community. Our daughter has just been elected President of her class. Kudos to Ms. Judith Rattner, the superintendent, and Mr. Frank Geiger, the principal of the middle school. I encourage every school in the country to adopt such a project in their curriculum so that they can foster a positive and tolerant environment.
Sikhs may dress differently, but are very much a part of our mainstream society. They are scientists, engineers, doctors, police officers, teachers, army men, businessmen, executives, governors, and prime ministers. The first Asian American congressman, Dalip Singh Saund, was a Sikh. Nikki Haley, the current governor of South Carolina, was born a Sikh. The current prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh. Sikhs are hard working, peaceful people who believe in one god for all. Sikhs believe in equality amongst all people, regardless of race, religion, caste, and gender; thus, our Sikh values have much in common with our American values.
It is our duty as a community to eradicate the hatred that has been built against Islam, especially after 9/11. If Sikhs are being attacked because of being mistaken as Muslims, it begs the question: Why are we tolerating the hatred against Muslims? Muslims, like any other faith in this melting pot of America, have also made countless contributions to our society. Salman Khan founded Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org), helping educate children around the world for free. All three of my children use the Khan Academy regularly, as do their friends and classmates. The most well known actor in India today is Shahrukh Khan. His blockbuster movie “My Name is Khan” is an eye opener on how Muslims feel in America, and the challenges they face.
At a memorial service in Oak Creek, WI, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said,
“In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted and victimized simply because of who they are, how they look, and what they believe. That is wrong. It is unacceptable. And it will not be tolerated.”
The people who carry out the heinous acts are “crazy.” If they survive the attacks, as they did in Arizona and Colorado, they are declared too mentally ill to even stand trial. At the same time, these “mentally ill” people are able to purchase guns and ammunition. Why is it that a mentally ill person can buy guns and tons of ammunition? Will we give a pilot license to a mentally sick person and allow him to fly an airplane. Will we allow a pilot to keep his license if he becomes mentally ill.
Eric Holder has called for a national discussion on changing laws to prevent future shooting attacks. Should we require a certification of mental stability to buy a gun or to buy ammunition? Should there be a re-certification every few years?
Let us have a debate, and let us work to prevent future shootings by “The Crazy Lone Gunman,” who, unfortunately, has made himself a familiar presence in our society.
(This post was originally published at http://mumick.blogspot.com and has been republished here with the author’s consent.)