White Supremacist Kills Six at Sikh Gurdwara

The man who shot and killed six people at a Sikh house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, yesterday was “a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Numerous media reports initially implied that the shooter, who had a prominent 9/11 tattoo on his arm and was killed by police, mistook the Sihk worshipers for Muslims. “Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sikhs have been victim to — by one count — more than 700 incidents of violence and murder at the hands of people who wrongly assumed they are Muslims,” The Week reported.

No solid information has yet been reported to conclude that he was targeting Muslims rather than Sikhs. Amardeep Singh, Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said in a blog post that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Sikh community realized “it wouldn’t do to simply say, ‘Don’t hate meI’m not a Muslim.'” The community has generally avoided that kind of rhetoric, he said. “The Sikh advocacy organizations that were organized shortly after 9/11, chief among them the Sikh Coalition, were very emphatic on the point that they were opposed to hate crimes directed against any group based on religious hostility,” said Singh.

Sikhism, “the world’s fifth most popular religion, is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others, Sikh officials told CNN. “Most Sikh men don’t cut their hair and wear turbans and beards,” the article said.

“Sikhs are not Muslims and Sikhs are not Hindus, but jumping to clarify difference leaves the unfortunate, if unintentional, perception that there is something wrong with those ‘others,'” said Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor at The Huffington Post. “Sikhs are not interested in being identified as ‘not Muslim.’ American Sikhs would rather their tradition be understood for what it is, rather than what it is not.”

A second “person of interest” who may have videotaped the slaying is being sought, The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported. Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s intelligence project, told JS that SPLC had been tracking the shooter since 2000, when he tried to purchase goods from a “well-known hate group” called The National Alliance. Its now deceased leader wrote “The Turner Diaries,” a book that “depicts a violent revolution in the United States leading to an overthrow of the federal government and, ultimately, a race war.” Beirich told SJ that the shooter “attended ‘hate events’ around the country.”

Last month, at The Huffington Post, Dr. Raj Persaud, a psychiatrist affiliated with the University of London, and Ramón Spaaij, a terrorism expert at La Trobe University in Australia, said there is evidence that mass killings are contagious. Citing a study that was published in the journal Archives of Suicide Research that tracked mass murders in Australia, New Zealand and the UK between 1987-1996, Persaud and Spaaij said there is “a complex web of multiple influences between the different incidents on the perpetrators, especially influenced by the colossal media coverage each tragedy received.”

Working from evidence that media reports on suicide can lead to a copycat phenomenon, the researchers concluded that “the same guidance and restrictions [recommended for suicide reporting] should now apply to media reporting of mass killings” because “of all kinds of mass murder, this type might be the most sensitive to and encouraged by media coverage.”

“It’s beginning to look like such blanket and graphic reporting is in fact encouraging some of the disturbed and disaffected all over the world to try their own hand at infamy, and a warped sense of power,” Persaud and Spaaij siad.

With this in mind, UrbanFaith is not reporting the shooter’s name. Instead, we’ll leave you with the Journal Sentinel victim list and ask you to join us in prayer for their families: “Satwant Singh Kaleka, the temple president, was killed Sunday after attempting to tackle the gunman. Kaleka’s brother-in-law, Deepir Singh Dhaliwal, identified the other victims Monday as: Sita Singh and Ranjit Singh, who are brothers; Subage Singh, Parmjit Kaur and Parkash Singh.”

What do you think?

Does it matter what group the shooter was targeting?

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