Asian-Americans condemn shooting

A Sikh priest performs a ritual for the dead following the shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin that left seven people dead, including the gunman.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGASAsian-Americans across the country have expressed outrage at the shooting that left seven people dead, including the gunman, at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.

In Las Vegas, members of the growing Asian-American community, were saddened by the events, and expressed fears of what are now becoming frequent incidents of mass shootings.

“It’s sad,” said Rozita Lee, a member of the While House Commission on Asian and Pacific Islanders. “At a time when we’re just getting over the Colorado shootings, this incident happens.”

There seems to be a breakdown in moral values and it’s time people truly come together, regardless of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, she said.

“We’re supposed to be a Christian nation,” Lee said. “Yet, it seems like there’s little value of human life.”

San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus, a civil rights advocate for Asian-Americans said the attack was not only on the Sikh community but against all Americans.

“(We) condemn this senseless act of violence, and stands in solidarity with the Sikh community,” the Asian Law Caucus said in a statement.

It was also signed by several Asian-American civil rights organizations: The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), Asian American Institute (AAI) in Chicago, Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) in Washington D.C., and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) in Los Angeles.

“(We) extend our condolences to the families and all individuals impacted by the tragic shooting Sunday at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” the statement said.

In Washington, D.C., OCA, a national organization for Asian Pacific Americans, said  “this (is) most recent unfortunate act of violence against the Asian Pacific American community.

“Simply, an attack on any member of the Sikh community is an attack on America…we stand in solidarity with our Sikh brothers and sisters during this difficult time,” said Tom Hayashi, the OCA executive director.

Mike Honda, who represents Silicon Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives, said “no community should have to be faced with such terrible violence, especially one that takes place in a serene and peaceful place like a house of worship.”

He said he has worked closely with the Sikh community in California and know them as a peace-loving people.

“Yet, as we struggle to comprehend these tragic events, I know that it will be the strength and the character of the peace-loving Sikh community, along with the selflessness of the larger American community that will guide us in these difficult times,” Honda said.

Wade Michael Page, 40, an Army veteran and a suspected white supremacist, was identified by police as the gunman who allegedly shot people attending a Sunday morning service at the Sikh Temple in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek.

Six victims, ranging in age from 39 to 84 years old, died from the attack.  Three others were critically wounded, including an Oak Creek police officer.

Page was shot and killed by 32-year Oak Creek Police veteran Sam Lenda on the scene.

“He did not speak, he just began shooting,” said Harpreet Singh, relaying a description of the attack from the wife of his uncle, temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka.

Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, managed to find a simple butter knife in the temple and attempted to stab the gunman before being shot twice, his son said Monday.

Amardeep Singh Kaleka said FBI agents hugged him, shook his hand and told him his father was a hero.

‘‘Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover’’ in the kitchen, Kaleka said.

With their turbans and long beards, Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims or Arabs, and have inadvertently become targets of anti-Muslim bias in the United States.

The attack occurred about 10:30 a.m., when temple members were reading scriptures and cooking food in preparation for the main Sunday service and community lunch. The temple has more than 350 members.

According to press accounts, the gunman started shooting in the parking lot, killing at least one person. He then entered the temple and continued firing.

Page, born in 1971, joined the Army in 1992 and left the service in 1998. His service was marked by “patterns of misconduct,” though he received an honorable discharge, according to the Pentagon.

A background check showed Page had separate convictions for DUI in Colorado in 1999 and for criminal mischief in Texas in 1994.

According to Steve Almasy, a CNN Faith reporter, Sikhism, the world’s fifth most popular religion, is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others.

“Everyone is the same,” says Raghunandan Johar, president of the Guru Nanak Mission of Atlanta. “There is no distinction, no caste system.”

Navdeep Singh, a policy adviser to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says Sikhs believe in freedom of religion, community service and inclusiveness.

There are 25 million Sikhs around the world, Singh says, about 700,000 of which live in the United States. Most Sikhs are in India.

Most Sikh men don’t cut their hair and wear turbans and beards. Many American Sikh women dress like other Westerners or wear the salwar kameez, a traditional north Indian garment of a long shirt and loose-fitting pants.

Sikhism emerged more than 500 years ago in Punjab, in what is now India. It was founded by Guru Nanak, a non-practicing Hindu who was against rituals and praying to idols.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on

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4 responses to “Asian-Americans condemn shooting

  1. Satwant Singh Kaleka is the father of the Emmy Award Documentary Film maker, Amardeep Singh Kaleka!

    The Emmy Awards committee would have said:
    Our hearts go out to the victim’s family…

  2. Brian Murphy is an Irish-American hero! Erin Go Braugh and Semper Fi, Brian James Murphy!
    Savan Nick “Sam” Lenda is a Polish-American hero!
    Satwant Singh Kaleka
    ——————–AND A——————–

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