‘Gurudwara shooting reminds of bias crimes against Sikhs`

Immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist acts, Sikhs in the US came under attack.

Updated: Aug 06, 2012, 20:45 PM IST

Washington: The United States, home to about 700,000 Sikhs, where they are often mistaken for Muslims for their beards and turbans, have became "ripe targets" for zealots seeking revenge, a US media report said on Monday.

Immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist acts, Sikhs in the US came under attack, CNN reported, citing a series of attacks on the community.

The first person murdered in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks was a Sikh - a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, named Balbir Singh Sodhi who was shot five times by aircraft mechanic Frank Roque on September 15, 2001, it said.

"Our appearance looks like Osama bin Laden and those of Afghanistan," Suminder Sodhi, a friend of the Arizona victim, said at the time of the first attack. "But we are different people from Muslim people. We have different beliefs, a different religion."
"Mistaken for Muslims for their beards and turbans, they became ripe targets for zealots seeking revenge," CNN commented.

In December, 2001, two men beat store owner Surinder Singh 20 times with metal poles in Los Angeles. While attacking him, they said, "We`ll kill bin Laden today."

In July, 2004, Rajinder Singh Khalsa was beaten unconscious by six men in New York City, after they taunted him and his friend about their turban.

In January, 2009, Jasmir Singh was attacked in New York, with men shouting racial slurs.

In November, 2010, Harbhajan Singh, a Sikh cabdriver, was beaten by two passengers in Sacramento, California, with one of them calling him "Osama bin Laden."

In February this year, a Sikh temple under construction in Sterling Heights, Michigan, was defaced, with graffiti on the wall depicting a gun and a Christian cross.

In the intervening years, the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, reported more than 700 attacks or bias-related incidents.

As the incidents waned, the Sikh community had hoped the worst was behind them -- until yesterday when a man shot and killed at least six people at a temple outside Milwaukee, wounded a police officer.

Because many of the incidents go unreported and because the FBI does not specifically list them -- instead lumping them as "anti-Islamic" crimes -- exact numbers are hard to come by, CNN said.

Earlier this year, New York Representative Joe Crowley sent a letter to the US Justice Department to begin tracking crimes against Sikhs.

He asked that the FBI update its Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699), which does not have a designation for crimes against Sikhs as it does for some other groups.

"The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice," Crowley was quoted as saying by the report.