Commemorating Oak Creek Tragedy

This week we commemorate that fateful Sunday when senseless violence struck in a quiet, peaceful Sikh house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

The media furor and attention against hate crimes that the incident generated has died down; the measure to regulate the sale of high capacity magazine guns has fizzled out.

Be it the Oak Creek incident, the Newton tragedy, the Boston Marathon attack, or other horrifying and gruesome incidents, all recede into the background after the initial shock and frenzy.

As Sikhs, we continue to feel particularly vulnerable. The Attorney General’s help ($500,000) to the families of the victims and first responders that are still suffering from the trauma of the Oak Creek tragedy, though appreciated, is not enough.

Many more measures have to be taken to address racial hatred.  The Justice department’s announcement that it will start tracking hate crimes against Sikhs is a much needed first step.

Spotlight-Commemorating-Oak-Creek-Tragedy-1Following the attack on the Oak Creek Gurdwara, the Sikh – American community was front and center stage on mainstream networks and Americans learned more about Sikhs during the weeks that followed than they ever had. However, Sikh-Americans continue to face assaults on their person and property.

On July 30th, a Sikh Gurdwara in Southern California was vandalized. The word “Terrorist” was spray-painted on the walls. Our bearded and turbaned appearances continue to cause confusion about our identity. It’s not right to merely point out we are not Muslims;  far be it for us to imply that an attack on ANY community is justified.

Despite the efforts to educate and inform the masses about the Sikh faith that is based on equality and respect for all, it is difficult to reach the fringe element that does not want to be educated, and for whom hatred has become a way of life, whether it is the White supremacists, the fundamental Islamists, or the random crazies. Kaur Foundation, a Washington DC based organization is approaching the issue by introducing Sikh studies in the K-12 curriculum, a long term approach that will make a difference.

As a nation we need to face the breakdown of the social fabric of our society that is causing this epidemic of hate and senseless shootings. Is it guns that kill, or people? Are movies and video games promoting a culture of mindless violence? Are we glamorizing anti-heroes?  Do we need new policies and petitions to ban guns to have a safe society?

The extreme measure of closing down 19 embassies in the Middle East because of a credible terrorist threat reinforces that extremist forces continue to be a real problem.  What is tearing the world apart? Has religion become a negative force?

We have to go beyond what the federal government, law enforcement authorities, even the UN can do to thwart the epidemic of hate raging in the world.  We cannot look to policy makers to bring about a change in our society.

Spotlight-Commemorating-Oak-Creek-Tragedy-2Values that teach respect for human beings no matter how different they are, or how little you know about them, has to be taught first and foremost within the family structure.  No community can afford to live in silos anymore. Respect and dignity for all has to be practiced not by words but by actions.

We have to create a global narrative of mutual respect. Using the resources that exist – Internet, Youtube, Social media, TV channels – and by creating new tools and opportunities that honor all faiths and traditions, we must as a human race open our homes and hearts especially to those who seem different.  United Sikhs is a shining example of providing sewa globally wherever the need arises.

We must break down racial stereotypes, end profiling, and share the message of Ek Ong Kar – One Creator manifested in the entire Universe – from every platform, in every language, to everyone until it is heard.

It is a long and arduous road, but the alternative will continue to be horrific.

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About Jessi Kaur

Jessi Kaur is the author of Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy, and The Royal Falcon, highly acclaimed children’s books. She is the editor of Sikhpoint, ( , a web magazine. A theater aficionado, she produced The Royal Falcon Musical, a show that won accolades as the first ever Sikh musical of its kind. She has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and seminars at conferences, Sikh youth camps and has been an invited speaker on Sikh tradition and culture in several interfaith and multicultural events including the Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona and Melbourne, and the Smithsonian Folk Life festival in Washington DC. Her third book The Enchanted Garden of Talwandi based on a childhood legend of Guru Nanak is coming out this year. Ms. Kaur taught English Literature at a Delhi University college before moving to California where she is a Human Resources Consultant for high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley. She is the founder of IGS NOW a non-profit spiritual organization that is committed to working in and towards global synergy, on the board of Kaur Foundation and the editorial board of Sikh-American Love Stories. She is serving her second term as a Fine Arts Commissioner for the city of Cupertino, California.

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  • Vikram Singh

    This article provided great insight into this issue by exploring an angle that is often overlooked and rarely mentioned by the media! Although the results may be long-term, targeting the root of the problem and teaching values of mutual respect and love might be the best way to prevent these types of incidents from occurring again in the future.