August 17, 2012
India Post 17
So Cal reacts with shock at Wisconsin gurdwara mayhem LISA ZIMMERMAN
LOS ANGELES: The events in Wisconsin have resonated sharply here in Southern California and the enormity of the tragedy has begun to sink in. I choose to write this in the first person, as an American of Jewish heritage and as a Caucasian just like Wade Michael Page, the shooter who is thankfully dead. America is a melting pot and our biggest strength lies in our diversity. It is here that we have the finest of the finest of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures â€Ś. all blended together as Americans. Post 9/11 was a rude awakening and all of a sudden, we realized how little we knew about our own people. This is best manifested by a spate of hate crimes directed towards Sikhs, Muslims, and other minorities. It also fueled racist fires lit by the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who revel in hate ideology. Being of Jewish heritage, I can well understand the predicament of the minorities, especially the Sikhs and the Muslims. For the Sikhs, to a lesser extent, history is being repeated in its own twisted way. Many amongst them fled India to escape the discrimination, the political turmoil, and state terrorism that had been unleashed in Punjab during the turbulent 80s. It may be recalled that as a result of the events in Punjab, the entire Sikh community came under suspicion elsewhere in India. This is precisely the situation the global Muslim community find
People wait for word on family and friends at the Sikh temple, the Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
themselves in today. Accompanied by my Sikh friends, I spoke to a number of people about their reactions to this tragedy. Imam Shamshad is the Imam of the Chino mosque. This mosque serves the Muslim Ahmeddiya community also known as Qadianis, after Qadian, a town in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab. It is here that this sect of Muslims evolved over a century ago. "This is a horrible tragedy and civilized society everywhere has no tolerance for such behavior. My heart goes out to the families and the victims. We will pray for them and for peace", he said in a telephone conversation with my colleague J.S. Bedi. Nobody knows the horrors better than Imam ShamShad. It may be recalled that the Ahmeddiyas had been declared non Muslims in Pakistan and had been targeted intensely by terrorists. Their
mosques have been bombed and devotees gathered for prayer have been murdered in broad daylight. This is in addition to the persecution and discrimination they are
"This is a time for all of us to come together as one and share the pain and the grief", he said. "What happened is horrible and our prayers go out to all those affected by this madman's actions" subjected to on a routine level in Pakistan. Nachhater Singh Bhullar and Saab Singh Bhullar of the Walnut
Sikh temple also condemned this act of violence. "This is an intense wake up call and where is the guarantee that this will not happen again, not just in a gurdwara, but also in a Hindu temple or a mosque, or for that reason, any large gathering of any minority group", they said. Mohammed Zafarullah is a prominent Bangladeshi community leader and also an eminent journalist. "This is a time for all of us to come together as one and share the pain and the grief", he said. "What happened is horrible and our prayers go out to all those affected by this madman's actions", he added. Rashpal Singh Dhindsa is a prominent philanthropist and a businessman running a trucking company. He expressed his shock and sadness at the turn of events in Wisconsin. Like the others, his opinion and views were no differ-
ent and marked by sadness. Likewise, others like Pravin Patel, and a host of other community members expressed their grief and offered their prayers for the victims and their families. Now comes the important question: where do we go from here? Obviously, we cannot expect the police to be everywhere at the same time, considering that these acts are random and we don't know when and where the next one is going to happen. Would it be unreasonable for minority groups to adopt their own protective measures by applying for gun licenses so they can carry guns legally? Especially in the case of the Sikhs, looking at their military history, it would be unusual to see Sikhs not rallying to protect themselves albeit, in a way that may seem controversial to certain schools of thought.
Wisconsin massacre - Some lessons JS BEDI
adly it took a massacre and the lives of seven people to put the Sikh community on the nation's front pages. In its own bizarre and twisted way the past Sunday's tragedy has done what we should have done years ago...educate mainstream America as to who we are and what the Sikh faith stands for. There are memorial services and candlelight vigils being held all over the country in memory of those who perished that day. However it is imperative to add that it does not end with an ardaas and lighting candles. We need to do a thorough introspection as to what went wrong and what can we do to prevent similar incidents.
First of all it is important that we create a national presence for ourselves. The best way to educate America on Sikhs and Sikhism is to make ourselves more visible in public...in politics, as city offi-
participate in mainstream America and let everybody know we are as American as anybody else. Every year Pasadena holds a Rose Parade featuring over 40 floats, each representing an orga-
Till date there has been no effort to contact the mainstream media like TV channels and newspapers to do a feature on the Sikh Diaspora. And, sadly, we now, have made it to the headlines under tragic circumstances cials, in the police, in the military, as city employees, and so on and so forth. Typically we congregate at our neighborhood Gurdwara every weekend and then disappear into our individual lives. We must
nization, community, corporation etc. How come there is no float representing the Sikhs? Participating in this parade is an excellent avenue to educate America on Sikhs and Sikhism, money would be better
spent on this than in writing checks to election funds of politicians. Till date there has been no effort to contact the mainstream media like TV channels and newspapers to do a feature on the Sikh Diaspora. And, sadly, we now, have made it to the headlines un-
der tragic circumstances. However all is not lost and let us learn a lesson from this tragedy. Let us seize this opportunity to do a thorough introspection and learn from our mistakes and move on in a positive direction so that this does not happen again
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