Westchester Reacts: Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting

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Westchester reacted Sunday to a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that reportedly killed seven people. Above, members of the New England Sikh Study Circle pray at their new temple in Westborough, Mass. last weekend. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck

Seven people were killed and at least three wounded in a shooting Sunday morning that took place at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin located outside of Milwaukee, according to published reports. Though the reported incident took place several hundreds of miles from Westchester, local Sikhs are taking time to emotionally process the event.

Among those killed was the gunman, described by witnesses as a heavyset tattooed white man armed with a semi-automatic pistol, according to CBS News. The man shot and wounded a police officer and then aimed at another, who shot and killed the gunman, the report said.

Westchester has two Sikh temples, or gurdwaras, one located in Chappaqua and the other in Valhalla. Ruby Singh, whose husband is the president of the Sikh Gurdwara of Westchester in Valhalla, said that the congregation usually meets on Friday nights, so they have not had a chance to address the issue together.

Singh said she and her family have personally reflected on the incident and they are taking it hard.

"It's really disheartening to hear something like this, especially at a place of worship where people should feel safe depending upon whichever religion it is," she said. Singh said it was especially upsetting to hear that, reportedly, a 48-hour prayer session was just concluding at the time of the incident.

According to CBS News, the shooting took place while children were gathered at the temple for a birthday party.

Police believe the gunman acted alone but have yet to confirm his identity, according to CBS, and the FBI will be taking over the criminal investigation, assisted by local police and other agencies.

The NYPD is taking extra measures to makes Sikhs feel safe in the five boroughs, increasing police coverage around Sikh temples in New York City, according to a report by NBC. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said there is no specific threat against New York City but the measures are being taken "out of an abundance of caution," the report said.

According to CBS News, Sikh advocates said there has been a rise in anti-Sikh violence since the Sept. 11 attacks, noting that Sikhs are sometimes mistaken for Muslims because of the beards and turbans they wear.

The majority of those who practice the monotheistic faith live in India, but there are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S. 

Despite her family’s sadness about the shooting, Singh said, "We’re sure that the spirit of our religion still won’t be shaken no matter what happens to us.”

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Comments (2)

Francis T McVetty:

Tom, you maybe surprised and revise your statement about Muslims, after reading the Koran. When a majority of the people DON'T condemn the acts of the minority then they are ALL to blame.
On the other hand the Sikh's and their religion is a peaceful religion. There is no hate, no imposing of their religion on others. Ruby Singh's statement ,"We’re sure that the spirit of our religion still won’t be shaken no matter what happens to us.” is so touching. God bless you and your faith.

Tom Kissner:

This tragedy calls for all of us to stand together against bigotry. There is no place in America for "ethnic cleansing". We are better than that! While Sikhs, with their beards and turbans, are often mistaken for Moslems, there is no conceivable excuse for gunning down Moslems, either, since the overwhelming majority of Moslems in America are peaceful and law-abiding.
The few hate-mongers among us who spread lies about persons of the Moslem faith, or other religions, need to become much more enlightened about the guiding principles of the world's major religions...particularly their own!

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