Two weeks ago, the nation was shocked in wake of the Colorado movie theater shooting. For many of us, it became another reminder that what we think of as more enclosed “safe havens” such as movie theaters and places of worship (hold that thought) are just as vulnerable of targets for mass murder as more open places like malls and airports. Now, a Sikh temple (gurdwara) in Wisconsin has become a target for mass murder. Six people were shot dead and four others were injured including other members of the gurdwara and a responding officer. The fatalities were:
Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Prakash Singh, 39; Suveg Singh, 84; Paramjit Kaur, 41
The gunman was shot dead by one of the other responding officers. There was also another “person of interest” sought in connection to the shootings, but he was later released. The details that have come out about the gunman is that he was an Army veteran who left on an OTH discharge and belonged to a local white supremacist group. Just like in the aftermath of the Colorado movie theater shooting, President Obama and Mitt Romney offered their condolences to the victims, as well as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
My take on this really isn’t much different than in the aftermath of any other tragedy…or is it? Okay, so there’s the same ol’ “what an absolute tragedy this is” kind of response in mind, and given this was a shooting done by a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon, there’s also the “we need to take a serious look at our gun laws in this country” kind of response. Yes, it *is* “an absolute tragedy”, and we *do* need to look over our gun laws and bring some necessary reform. But the big issue out of this tragedy is the underlying prejudices that made this happen. The fact that this guy was a white supremacist sure is a giveaway, but take away the fact that the shooter was a white supremacist, the bottom line is that this was done out of prejudice against people who were “different”…and by “different”, I mean different skin color, different religion, different culture, etc. The fact that they were a different religious group had just as much to do with the shooting as their different skin color (i.e. non-white). But the fact that this was done at a place of worship isn’t the only give away. This is where a lot of controversy arises, but no matter how controversial it is to bring this up, this guy shot them because he saw them as “Muslims”!
It should come without saying that Sikhs are no more of “legitimate targets” than anyone else, but that can get very easily lost in translation just by legitimately bringing Islam (or in the eyes of Islamophobes, “the religion of evil”) into the picture. But yes, it is relevant to point out that this guy intended to go after whom he thought were followers of “the religion of evil” (i.e. Muslims) because of the Islamophobia that has risen significantly since 9/11. But Muslims aren’t the only targets of “Islamophobia”. Remember immediately after 9/11 when we were hearing these stories about “turban-wearing…brown-skinned people” who were attacked and in some cases murdered by white Americans? Well it turns out some of those victims were Sikhs, not Muslims! So not only were we blaming an entire religion for the acts of a few extremists within their faith, but also people who were “similar looking” to followers of “the religion of evil”. And it isn’t even remotely coincidental that the day after the Sikh temple shootings, a mosque in Missouri was torched. Therefore, anyone who brings up the “allegation” that this attack *may* have been targeted on Muslims at least have reliable evidence to back it up. In the context of prejudices particular religious groups face, Muslims and Sikhs become easily united. Of course, this hatred against Muslims and Sikhs alike may be better understood by many as flat out racism bundled with religious intolerance in which Muslims and Sikhs aren’t the only targets, but I digress.
To summarize perhaps the overwhelming majority of this post, the race and in its own way the religion of the victims as perceived by an intensely prejudiced white man played entirely into the shooting. I only have one question: When is it going to stop???