It was Sunday, a day of worship. Nobody could have expected the tragic violence that was about to occur in a place of peace. On August 5th 2012, Wade Michael Page burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin slaughtered six people. Page’s sister blames the shootings on his alcoholism. After, further investigation, Page has been linked to numerous white supremacy groups and is known to have played in a white supremacy band. It has been said that Page may have mistaken the Sikh worshipers for Muslims.
Many people mistake Sikh people for Muslims people because the men of both religious groups traditionally wear turbans. Even though, their clothing might look the same they still do not have the same beliefs. Some Americans associate turbans with fear, angst and even hatred. 22 year old, Jaideep Singh, a Sikh who migrated from India to Minneapolis in the early 90’s, and former MCTC student said that, “The turban is who we are, it’s our pride, it brings us out one in a million, in a world we will always stand out and it’s a beautiful thing to be different in our minds.” Sikhs believe in a single God, that God is neither a man nor a woman, in treating everyone equally (race, gender, class etc.), in making an income in an honorable way and in abiding by the Guru’s teachings. Sikhism is the 5th most popular religion in the world, with over 20 million followers.
I asked Singh how the shooting affected the Sikh community and its people. He said, “Pain, at first. Like every tragic events, there are very very upset and angry people. The word ‘revenge’ was never used. We don’t think it’s the right thing to do something horrible to anyone. At a time of pain is when people come together and try to make sense of things.” Singh attended one of the many ceremonies held around the nation to help cope with this calamity. Singh stated, “The best thing that can happen after a tragic event is knowing you have people who truly care that you are hurt. It was our Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Muslim neighbors that came out to our gurdwaras (Sikh place of worship) all over the country. To show us we are not alone.”
What can we take away from this terrible hate crime? The need for education. Maybe if we all took time to understand each other’s religions and beliefs, there would be less hate crimes or even crimes in general. As the world keeps changing, people need to keep changing with it and learn about cultures, religions, beliefs, and different customs. In the United States of America, we have fought for the great privilege of having freedom of religion. Citizens should not have to worry about getting killed when we are in a place of worship whether that be a church, a mosque, a gurdwara, or a temple– it does not matter. America is one big melting pot of many different cultures and instead of hatred; we all need to take the time to understand each other. Education is the only way that we can keep such tragic violence out of our places of peace.