Millennium Post

Not sheikh, not Sikh, but human

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President in the US has  mourned the incident of shooting at a gurdwara in Wisconsin as one that happened at a ‘sheik temple’, at a fundraiser in Iowa. In spite of the rather visible denomination of Sikhs in the US and some success stories that typify the American dream, it is unfortunate that a President hopeful is unable to distinguish between Sikhs and the Arab sheikhs. Perhaps this is also indicative of the larger ignorance of ‘white’ America which perceives little and understands even less and that is why the turbaned Sikh – peaceful, lawful, tax paying and generally leading an agreeable life in the US – is mistaken as a vengeful Arab, mad at the Western civilisation and out to disfigure America and all that it stands for. Partly fuelled by the post 9/11 paranoia and partly by ignorance, many in the US confuse between the Arabs and the Sikhs. No wonder many Sikhs have been at the receiving end of mindless retaliation, especially from those loyal to hawkish and reactionary Christian sects, in the months after 9/11. After prolonged awareness campaigns and strict law enforcing acts, these incidents had dwindled and the Sikhs in the US has again started leading a  normal life. But the shooting incident inside a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, south of Wisconsin’s biggest city Milwaukee, which claimed the life of at least six people, has violently shaken the confidence of the community. Clearly, not all Americans have learnt to live by the basic American paradigm: which is that the US is for all and everyone has the right to live and practice their faith the way they do.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, has gone hammer and tongs over the incident and has sent missives to the Indian Prime Minister  urging him to ensure that the incident is investigated at the highest level. The point is that the writ of SGPC does not extend to the US and it is not, incidentally, a case that affects the Sikhs only. The shooting is an act of crime by all means and is to be addressed under the American law. The US must do all it can to take the case to its rightful conclusion. India, as a nation, would want to see the gulty punished, in case there are any other killers other than the one allegedly shot dead, and the Sikhs vindicated. This case should give the US government some ideas for better preparedness to prevent and tackle attack on minorities – any minority – in the future.
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