Wisconsin Temple Shooting: Sikhs Blame Ignorance About Religion; Killings Bring Debate On Gun Control Back To The Fore

 
on August 06 2012 6:07 AM

The FBI, probing the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting, in which a gunman killed six and critically injured three others on Sunday, hinted that it could be an act of domestic terrorism. Meanwhile, the Sikh community in the U.S calls it a crime of "hate and ignorance."

According to the authorities, an unidentified white male in his forties opened fire just before the services began. The gunman was later shot down by one of the police officers.

"We're treating this as a domestic terrorist incident," said the Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards, Reuters reported.

After preliminary investigations, the authorities have termed the killing as an act of "domestic terrorism."  Sources say the gunman had a tattoo of 9/11 attacks on his body, leading to the domestic terrorism theory.

A CNN report, quoting Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, an Oakcreek temple member, said that the attacker was a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm.  "It implies to me that there's some level of hate crime there," said Kaleka.

The Sikh community is shaken by the incident and blames the attack on the prevailing ignorance in the U.S. about their religion. Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims in the U.S. due to their appearance, even though Sikhism and Islam are two different religions based on distinct theological ideas. Turbans and long beards are mandatory for Sikhs, which renders them similar in appearance to Muslims, who normally cover their heads with caps or turbans. 

After the 9/11 attacks, there were media reports of Sikhs being mistakenly identified as Muslims and subjected to ill-treatment in the country. Sikh leaders say they have been the targets in hate crimes against Muslims.

According to a Reuters report, the Sikh Coalition in the country said it had received several requests for assistance "from members of the community related to employment discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying since the September 11, 2001 attacks."

The Milwaukee Sikh community had also complained to the police and state representatives last year about the rising hate crimes against them in the locality.

"People go to the freeway and show me the middle finger and people try to crash me on the freeway and I was working at the gas station, I think two years back, somebody comes to me and says you leave or I will shoot you," said Rana Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, whose brother was shot dead reportedly in a hate crime after the terrorist attacks.

"Sikh-Americans are too often the victims of intolerance and hate," Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat, said in a statement on Monday.

The Sikh religion originated in India more than 500 years ago. It is the fifth largest religion in the world and professes equality, peace and harmony among the people.

Gun laws in focus again

The Sikh temple shootings happened barely two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 in a Batman movie screening in Colorado. It has brought the debate on the gun laws in the country once again in the limelight. Organizations fighting against gun violence believe that easy access to guns and weapons is also a major reason why there has been a spate of  mass gun shootings by the criminals.

In many of the states in the U.S., there is no limit on the number of assault weapons that can be purchased and kept in possession by the citizens.

Wisconsin gun laws were altered a year ago, allowing citizens to carry a concealed gun with a license under the Personal Protection Act. The gun laws in the state are also deemed to be less stringent, allowing virtually anyone to possess and carry the weapon legally.

However, Nancy Pelosi, in an interview to the Huffington Post, said that despite the gun violence, chances of gun control are remote.

"The votes aren't there for gun control. We certainly aren't going to be able to do it in this Congress, and I don't know that we would be able to do it in a Democratic Congress because it takes a lot of votes to go down that path," said Pelosi. 

Although, there were isolated attempts by law makers to get in a law that would make it harder for people to buy unlimited ammunition from the Internet after the Colorado shooting, sources indicate that the attempt is unlikely to make any headway into bringing about a change in gun laws.

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