Posted at: 08/06/2012 12:52 AM
By: Dan Levy
EAST GREENBUSH - Police in Wisconsin are calling it a case of domestic terrorism. The FBI is investigating the shooting rampage at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee that has left seven people dead, including the suspected gunman.
Three more people are wounded, including a police officer who was ambushed by the gunman upon arriving on the scene around 10:30 A.M. Sunday morning.
About 200 Sikh families live in the Capital Region. As word of the massacre spread through the day Sunday, local Sikhs began sharing the pain, and anguish, and the resiliency that others of their faith are coping with in that grief stricken community just outside Milwaukee.
This time it happened in Oak Creek, Wisconsin at a Sikh temple where six people were gunned down after showing up for Sunday morning worship services.
"How can we prevent this?" asks Menands resident Dr. Manny Gujral rhetorically. "I don't know if anyone has the answer."
Dr. Gujral was at his Capital Gurdwara in East Greenbush when he heard the news. Even though a Wisconsin police officer shot and killed the gunman before finding out the motive, Gujral believes it had to be a hate crime because the Sikh community was specifically targeted, otherwise, he theorized, it wouldn't have happened at the temple.
"Just because this happened in Wisconsin, I'm not saying it can not happen here," Gujral asserts. "But that is not going to stop us from coming here and worshipping on a weekly basis."
That regular worship will continue is a given, but what about additional security concerns?
"No, no!" Manmohan Chahal, treasurer of the Capital Gurdwara, said emphatically. "We strongly believe that if it's God's will for (something to happen to me), some day it will happen."
"We think there's nothing to change," said another man with the same name, Manmohan Chahal, executive secretary of the gurdwara. "We got one person (involved in the shooting) who can not run your life. We don't want anybody to run our life. We want to live a normal life."
Dr. Gujral says the Capital Region community has been "very accepting overall" of Sikhs. He also says there's not enough data to conclude that hate crimes against Sikhs are on the rise, but he believes it is prevalent.
"You can't change everybody but you can still try and educate people so that they know who we are," Gujral states. "We are peace-loving people, we do our jobs and we have a nice life. We're not trying to force our religion on anybody. We just love our own religion and we want to follow that."
Words of condolence and condemnation continued pouring in Sunday night. In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama says he and first lady Michelle Obama are "deeply saddened" by the killing. The president also saying that "the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers."
The Sikh Association of the Capital District also put out a statement that says, in part: "Houses of worship are places of peace. Attacks at any of the nation's houses of worship must be condemned by all Americans. This type of crime strikes at the very foundation of religious tolerance, the principle upon which this country was built."
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Monday night (8/6) at East Greenbush Gurdwara, at 11 Michigan Avenue. The Sikh Association will be collecting donations for the families of the victims.