News / USA

American Sikhs Mourn a Tragedy Many Feared

American Sikhs Mourn A Tragedy Many Fearedi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
August 07, 2012 9:51 PM
Across the U.S., Sikhs are holding vigils for the victims of Sunday's massacre that killed six and injured three others at a temple in Wisconsin. Many say they feared such a tragedy. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports from a Sikh religious center in Rockville, Maryland.

American Sikhs Mourn A Tragedy Many Feared

ROCKVILLE, Maryland — A group of girls wearing richly colored headcoverings sit on the floor of a Sikh temple near Washington, DC, preparing posters for a vigil in front of the White House.
 
"Something with 'American' in it," one of them says, "like, 'Not a Sikh Tragedy, An American Tragedy." 
 
Across the U.S., Sikhs are mourning the victims of the massacre Sunday that killed six of their co-religionists and wounded three others at a temple in Wisconsin. 
 
The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Rockville, Maryland, is the largest gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in the Washington area. The shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, has left many people here in shock.  
 
"It's heartbreaking. We never thought this can happen, believe me," said Meeta Kaur Broca, a mother and IT specialist at a local firm. She said a gurdwara is supposed to be a sanctuary. "It's more secure than our own home. Our kids come here, they're walking, they're playing," she said. 
 
As the younger generation draws up the posters for the vigil, the head cleric, or granthi, comes down from the prayer room. "We need your help with Punjabi," one of the girls says in English. The cleric sits on the floor, takes a magic marker and writes out a slogan in the Punjabi script.
 
Bhai Gurdarshan Singh has led services at the Rockville gurdwara for the past 25 years.
 
In his sermon, he told the story of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, who encountered a tribal leader "who wore a necklace of human fingers" and showed off his murderous strength by hacking a branch off a tree. 
 
The guru then challenged him: "Can you put it back?"
 
"Powerful are not those who know how to destroy. Powerful are those who know how to unite," Gurdarshan Singh told worshippers seated crosslegged on the floor of the temple, quoting the founder of his faith. 
 
In an interview before the service, Gurdarshan Singh said he heard about the shooting while chanting prayers.
 
"And somebody whispered in my ears and told me this has happened. And it was difficult to digest how can something in a gurdwara, in a place of worship, happen. It's a senseless act," he said. 
 
Dr. Rajwant Singh is president of the suburban Washington gurdwara and chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education. He followed the news at home as details emerged of the gunman's white supremacist views.
 
He says Sikhs are often misidentified as Muslims because of their turbans, and that their worries grew after the September 11, 2001 attacks. "So there has always been in the back of our minds a fear, anticipating a tragedy like this to happen," he said.
 
There are about a half-million Sikhs in America and they are rarely in the spotlight. But Sikhs have played a part in the country's civil rights struggle - claiming the first Asian American elected to Congress in 1957. A World War I veteran who was a Sikh fought a battle for citizenship rights in the 1920s that went all the way to the Supreme Court - although the ruling denied him and other Indian Americans citizenship because they were not Caucasian.
 
The Wisconsin tragedy comes as many Sikhs are celebrating the centennial of the first American gurdwara built in 1912 in Stockton, California.
 

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid