I went to the memorial service and vigil at the Brookfield WI Gurdwara tonight. Several hundred people showed up. Naturally most of the Sikhs in the area were there, but so were many Hindus (very large number of Punjabi Hindus per my friend Dr Sood), several Muslims (including representatives of the Islamic center), church groups and community people.
Governor Scott Walker was there, as was the Lt Governor, the US attorney, the Mayor and other local politicians. Very strong show of support from the political leadership of Wisconsin (another set of politicians was at a separate memorial in Oak Creek).
The service was dignified. The Sikh speakers were very good and kept it short (no one droned on and on, the discipline was surprisingly good for a South Asian group). Only one stated that shooter may not have known who Sikhs are (perhaps hinting that the killer may have thought he was shooting Muslims, but this was not baldly stated). My feeling was that more people are beginning to think that this was a racist of the "White Aryan Resistance" type and they hate all outsiders, whether Sikh or Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or whatever. Though human nature being what it is, I do expect that many Sikhs will continue to believe that they would not have been targeted if they didnt look like Muslims to ignorant rednecks.
The general theme was "we are Sikh, we are American, we are proud". Presented with dignity, not overdone or off-key. One Sikh presented a capsule history of Sikhs in America. Another thanked the political leadership of the state and the community for this great and quick show of support. Politicians reciprocated with fulsome praise of the Sikhs, multiple apologies (Salala-stung Pakistanis may be jealous of how many times the word "sorry" was used by the US attorney and the governor) and insistence that this is not acceptable in "our America"... All of which did not seem forced or formulaic. I happened to stand next to governor Walker at one point and shook his hand and said "thank you for coming". He stopped and said with feeling that it was the least he could do. He seemed sincere saying it..(I can hear some people thinking "you naive sod"..but hey, I am just reporting what I felt)
"we are Sikh, we are American, we are proud"
Therein lies the problem. Having chosen to abandon their homeland and take advantage of the benefits of residing in another country, they should rather be saying "we are American, we are Sikh, we are proud". The country should come first, the religion second or preferably not at all. If they had that attitude they would probably still be alive as they would no longer be wearing turbans or other superficial and unnecessary accoutrements of their religion. I am not just picking on Sikhs and turbans, it applies equally to burqas, headscarves, crucifixes, skullcaps, beards and other religious paraphernalia designed to set the wearer apart from other people. Religion is the force that divides the world and causes these kind of atrocities to take place. God is one, but religion makes Him many.
This is most tragic for the individuals who died in the incident. One of those killed , had being away for 16 years from his family, waiting for his green card to come, so that he could see his children, who were few months to few years old, when he left for USA.
At the social political level, the concern of those Sikhs who wear turbans and thus can be targets of various hate groups, is palpable. One thing that would help Indian Sikhs in USA, to identify themselves as Indians first , just as Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc from India identify themselves as "Indian Americans' first and not as Hindu Americans, Muslim Americans or Christian Americans and not make their religious identity as the pre-dominant, exclusive identity.
This blog bothered me a bit. It is so casual and has no empathy for the event. This is typical to most of bloggers of Muslim origin in other papers like Dawn also when commenting about India or Issues related to Non Muslims. A superiority complex also comes with it. Please be mature when writing about a serious incident.