Vigil honors Sikh Temple shooting victims

Sikh worshippers gather for a candle light vigil in memory of the victims of the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Candle lights glowed in the gathering dusk and chants filled the air as hundreds took part in a late afternoon vigil to honor the victims of the shooting rampage inside a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last Sunday.

The scene at Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh, a temple on 6431 W. Mountain Road in Las Vegas, was repeated across the country in memory of the victims of the shooting.

It was dubbed “Acceptance Of All,” an inter-faith service not as an acceptance of the violence, but a prayer for full acceptance of all peoples in this country.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, another prayer service will be held at 6:30pm at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, 4487 E Russell Rd.

Amarjit Pannu, a Sikh and a Las Vegas resident, said in an earlier interview with a local television station that Sikhs have become targets of hate, especially after 9/11 because most people confuse them for people of other religions.

“Some people call us Hindus. Some call us Muslims, but we are neither of them,” he said.

Wearing turbans and keeping their beards and hair long, Sikh men are easily confused for Arabs and other Middleast nationalities and the targets of hate.

“We are a part of this society,” said Amar Chadha, a temple board member at Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh temple, which had become the Sikh community’s refuge as well as a place of worship in Las Vegas.

There are 25 million Sikhs around the world, about 700,000 of whom live in the United States. They are part of about 3.2 million Asian Indians, and counted with Asian-Americans, the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S.

Other Asian-Americans, who have condemned the shooting, find solidarity with the Sikhs, many of whom are of Asian Indian descent.

The Wisconsin shooting, in which six died and three were critically wounded, have instilled fear within the Sikh community in Las Vegas.

The gunman, Wade Michael Page, 40, an Army veteran and a suspected white supremacist, was shot by police, but the FBI now say, he may have died from a self-inflicted wound.

Temple officials at the Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh say the congregation is fearful and they have taken measures to strengthen security.

“This was the best, the safest place on earth, but not anymore,” Amar Chadha, a Sikh temple member, said in an interview. “We face  discrimination every step, every moment of our lives.”

The temple, which normally keeps the gates open during the day, now lock them and added security cameras around the facility.

“Hatred is taught, goodness, one is born with,” said Teji Malik, a board member of the Interfaith Council.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., issued the following statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved one(s) of the victims of this tragic shooting, those that were injured, and the entire Oak Creek community.

“It is especially alarming that this act of senseless violence took place at a house of worship, and my thoughts are also with the Sikh community of Nevada and around the country as authorities work to bring those responsible to justice.”

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