Monday, August 6, 2012

A special note on the Oak Creek Sikh shooting

Ignorant, violent acts of intolerance need to be rejected by everyone claiming to be "American."

A senseless act of violence occurred yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A shooting at a Sikh temple (called a gurdwara) left six members killed and several others injured.

The shooter (who was also killed), Wade Michael Page, was discharged by the Army in 1998 under less than honorable conditions. Page has also been characterized as a white supremacist. It's unclear what his motivations were at this time, but the crime is being investigated as a possible act of domestic terrorism.

Since September 11, 2001, several hundred members of the Sikh faith have been unduly attacked. In fact, one of the first hate crimes perpetrated after the terrorist event was an attack against a Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was also killed by an ex-military extremist.

Sikhs are often mistakenly associated with the Muslim faith -- but they are their own religion, the fifth largest in the world, that have nothing to do with the faith of Islam.

Still, their ritual appearances -- notably a turban many Sikh traditionally wear -- is often seen by those ignorant of the faith as being Muslim, which has previously led to crimes like what occurred yesterday to be carried out.

But regardless of their appearances, whether people mistake them as followers of Islam or not, violence of this kind is unjustified, a grotesque example of detestable prejudice that must be found objectionable by any and every decent American citizen. Whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, or any other law-abiding faith in this country, no man has any right to act the way that Wade Michael Page did yesterday.

In expressing his concern for the events, President Obama stated that, "As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family." His political adversary, Mitt Romney, also noted that, "This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship."

Both men are absolutely right. Our American tradition is one of tolerance, of respecting every house of worship, not just a specific creed of a single faith endorsed by a plurality of Americans. That some refuse to accept this tolerance is disappointing; that others, driven by this narrow point of view, choose to act out in such violent ways is deplorable, demeaning to that ideal which we hold dear, what we call the American Dream.

The word "terrorism" is often thrown around loosely, without much thought given to what the word really means. Indeed, one of the more important criticisms in the "war on terror" is that terrorism is so narrowly defined that it could mean anything.

Yet I personally have no trouble saying that this act, this violent and intentional move to create fear in a community of peaceful worshipers, was one that fits the bill of "terrorism." Such ignorance, such hate, and such violence needs to end.

No comments:

Post a Comment