India in touch with US over gurdwara shooting

August 6th, 2012 - 10:38 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Aug 6 (IANS) India got in touch with US authorities and Sikh community groups started emergency response to Sunday’s shooting attack on a Wisconsin gurdwara as messages of condemnation and sympathy came from community organisations and US political leaders.

Hours after the shooting in a gurdwara in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which left six worshippers dead, the Indian Embassy issued a statement saying it is “seized of the situation and has been in touch with the National Security Council”.

Besides President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, several national and political leaders issued statements of condolence and support.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said in a statement issued by his office.

“At the same time, we are filled with gratitude for our first responders, who show bravery and selflessness as they put aside their own safety to protect our neighbours and friends,” the statement said.

Joe Crowley, a seven-term Democrat member of US Congress from a New York district including sections of Queens and the Bronx, offering “my heartfelt condolences to the families and community of those injured and killed”, said: “Sikh-Americans are too often the victims of intolerance and hate. Today we all grieve for those lost in this tragic event.”

State Representative Josh Zepnick said many members of the Milwaukee area’s Sikh community are among his constituents and described himself as being “torn to shreds” by the attack.

State Representative Mark Honadel, whose district includes the temple, called the attack “craziness”.

The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organisation in the US, said it has been in touch with both the FBI’s Civil Rights Division and the White House and both have promised to continue to be in touch with its staff as they monitor the situation closely.

With over 25 million followers worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with over 700,000 followers in the US, the coalition said.

The Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (Saldef) said: “Houses of worship, like the gurdwara, are places of peace. Attacks at any of the nation’s houses of worship must be condemned by all Americans.”

The American branch of the World Sikh Council said Sunday was “a troubling day, not only for Sikh-Americans, but also for all Americans”.

“While the facts are still emerging, this event serves as a tragic reminder of violence in the form of hate crimes that Sikhs and many members of the South Asian community have frequently endured since Sep 11, 2001,” said South Asian Americans Leading Together, a coalition of 40 South Asian organisations.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US based human rights advocacy group, announced a $10,000 gallantry award for the Wisconsin officer, who risked his life to save Sikh worshippers in the shoot out at Wisconsin.

However citing “hundreds of hate crimes perpetrated against Sikhs and other religious minorities since Sep 11, 2001″, SFJ said it would “approach the US Commission on International Religious Freedom to suggest concrete measures to the Obama Administration for protection of religious minorities”.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, America’s largest Muslim community organisation, condemning “this senseless act of violence”, said that American Muslims “stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters in this time of crisis and loss”.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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