Tag Archives: Gurudwara

The Crazy Lone Gunman

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.)

Let the healing begin

The horrible shock and the stinging pain of the attack on the Gurudwara at Oak Creek, Wisconsin, will take time to subside, but the horrid memories of those directly impacted by the attack may never completely dissipate. If there is one thing that can go a long way towards the healing process to start is for the perpetrators of this heinous crime being brought to justice – thus providing a sense of closure for those affected which will help them reconcile with the gruesome incident that has transpired.

Bringing the perpetrators to justice also assumes prominence as it is realistic to assume that the deranged and disgraced army veteran had supporters and perhaps active accomplices who still pose credible threat to the community. These elements, if present, have to be dealt with and nullified for the rampant fear to ease and the trepidation to pass, not just within this tiny community but for the sake of all those vulnerable communities around the US. This will allow for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy and allow for the healing to begin after the trauma that was so mercilessly inflicted by a disturbed madman.

The attacker, identified as Wade Michael Page, has been called a neo-Nazi, a white supremacists among other things – and yet this notwithstanding, he has managed to find some sympathizers as pointed by some news reports. These points to the fact that there are others who feel the same way as he did and there are possible scourges that have to be monitored – and if needed – persecuted, although these agents of chaos are a big minority and are never likely to cause any real harm. However, even the possibility of an attack will strangle or impugn the principles of freedom and liberty that the great nation of USA has been built around and will singe the road to normalcy.

The champions of freedom and the upholders of the righteous must address this issue and protect the rights of its citizens to the best or risk losing leverage on the moral high ground it takes on international matters around the world. India is also expected to play its role as a facilitator and a concerned party to the cause owing to its large Sikh population with its actions largely being dictated by domestic compulsions. In this regard, regional Sikh entities like World Sikh Organization and the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), along with prominent religious entity like the Akal Takht and all the other places of worship the world over will play crucial role in allowing the population to cope with the evil that has been perpetrated against them.

If there is to be a positive that comes out of the tragedy that played out on that unfortunate day in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, it will come from the incident proving to be a strong precursor towards a “real change” that addresses the core issues that culminated in such a horrible incident. There are many possible steps that are being contemplated by the forces of change, but any hasty or stopgap measures will be a real let down. It is important to explore the primary factors and causes that have manifested in this deplorable incident. Be it a hate crime or a case of mistaken identity or even just a senseless murderer on the rampage, every leads should be pursued and all possible angles and probabilities be probed in its entirety to its logical conclusion. It will help in establishing a credible and effective deterrent for miscreants and other anti-social elements to make sure that the vulnerable feel more secure and the weak feel protected.

Although condemnation, outrage, sympathies and protests have been flowing in from all quarters and everyone is standing solidly behind the bereaved community of Oak Creek and the larger Sikh community as a whole, it will only make tangible and lasting difference if concrete results are seen on the ground and impacts visibility felt. There have been talks of better gun control laws, installing security cameras, increasing police protection at Gurudwaras and other places of worship, which although promising, is only a start and more needs to be done to convince those impacted and threatened that the authorities are committed to their cause.

It is often said that it is at times of real adversity that real heroes come to the fore, and Satwant Singh Kaleka, the President of the Gurudwara, and Lt. Brian Murphy of the Oak Creek Police Department, have emerged as heroes who saved the lives of others by putting their own lives in danger. Their heroism should be used as a fillip that drives result-oriented actions that ultimately emerges out of the rhetoric and symbolism that is expected and does serve a purpose. It is an election year in the U.S. where tough decisions and sweeping changes would be difficult, but there are many in the United States and around the world who expect that the government and the security agencies to do its best to avoid a repeat of such an atrocity against any community, creed, race or religion, anywhere.

For anyone who has been lucky enough know the Sikh personally would vouch for their selflessness, undying spirit, their zeal for life, and the unrelenting patriotism that they exhibit no matter where they are. The Sikhs are known as a hardworking bunch of people who add to any cultural diaspora they are part of. They are an affluent and influential part of not only the Indian society but have made a name for themselves no matter where they reside. Renowned for their fierce bravery, kindness, strong religious belief, and unwavering loyalty, the Sikhs have made their presence felt in the field of business, agriculture, academics and medicine et cetera. Their sheer grit and steely resolve will allow them to overcome this awful episode, and if by any chance the preachers of hate and violence thought that they have the Sikh community intimidated, they will realize how wrong they were. They will soon bear testimony to the legendary gallantry and unmatched perseverance of the Sikhs as they venture on a long road towards recovery and healing.