The Japanese American Citizens League said in statement Monday that it is “shocked and saddened over the horrific mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin yesterday morning” and “extends its deepest sympathies to the victims, families, congregation, community, and law enforcement officer involved in the tragedy.”
The shooting left six temple members dead and three people in critical condition, including a police officer. The gunman, Wade Michael Page, who was shot to death by police, was an Army veteran and the former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band.
“While the motive behind this senseless act of violence is still to be determined, it is a tragic reminder that hate crimes have no rational basis, and any individual or group can be a target,” the JACL said in a statement. “The events in Oak Creek are a wake-up call to all Americans about the importance of tolerance and underscore the constant need for education about diversity and respect for the different cultures in American society.”
“The Japanese American Citizens League condemns this senseless act of violence, especially at a peaceful house of worship,” added Priscilla Ouchida, executive director of JACL. “The Sikh American community has been the target of hate crimes in the past. We hope that this tragedy will compel Americans to unite as a single community opposed to intolerance and hate.”
The JACL intends to establish a fund to assist the victims and their families in the aftermath of this incident.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sikh community, as well as the family and friends of those who were killed and injured today in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” David Lin, national president of JACL, said. “The entire JACL family stands in solidarity with the Sikh American community, and is prepared to provide whatever support we can.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said, “My thoughts are with the victims and their families as we try to understand what led to this tragedy. I have worked closely with the Sikh American community for decades and know of their tremendous contributions to our country. While the exact motivations of the shooter are still unknown, I hope that Americans of all faiths and backgrounds can come together to prevent incidents like this from ever happening again.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), past chair of CAPAC, stated, “No community should have to be faced with such terrible violence, especially one that takes place in a serene and peaceful place like a house of worship. I have been proud to closely work with the Sikh community through my career and am horrified that such senseless violence would fall at their doorstep.
“Yet, as we struggle to comprehend these tragic events, I know that it will be the strength and the character of the peace-loving Sikh community along with the selflessness of the larger American community that will guide us in these difficult times.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) connected Sunday’s shootings with an incident that happened in her district: “Just last year, two elderly men, both members of the Sacramento-area Sikh community, were murdered during an afternoon walk. The perpetrator remains a mystery today, but the motivation behind the crime is all too familiar.
“These senseless acts of violence have no place in our society, and the fact that it may have been based on the victims’ religious faith is especially appalling. It is my sincere hope that we come together as a nation to support the Sikh community in this time of tragedy, and work to stamp out hate wherever it may appear.”
Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) commented, “The morning after a peaceful interfaith Ramadan gathering in Woodland, this … Our prayers go out to all and especially to West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara and Fairfield Sikh Gurdwara in my district.”
She added, “ Just as the Chinese were mistaken for Japanese in post-Pearl Harbor hysteria, Sikhs are often the victims of misplaced prejudice towards Muslims. Bottom line: it’s all wrong.”
Yamada recently introduced AB 1964, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012, which strengthens the religious accommodation standard under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and ensures that employees need not make a choice between the observance of their faith and keeping their jobs.
“While AB 1964 will protect all religious practices, the bill specifically addresses the high levels of employment discrimination experienced by many Sikh and Muslim Americans who are required by their faiths to observe specific religious dress and grooming practices,” Yamada said at the time. “Relegating an employee to a stock room out of public view will no longer be acceptable as a religious accommodation.”
In a joint statement, the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) — Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, Asian American Institute in Chicago, Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C., and Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles — said, “Advancing Justice condemns this senseless act of violence, and stands in solidarity with the Sikh community. This is an attack not only against Sikhs, but against all Americans.”
The Asian American Journalists Association issued the following guidelines for organizations covering the tragedy:
• The word “Sikh,” according to multiple dictionaries, is pronounced “seek.” However, adherents of the faith use the pronunciation “sik-kh” (“kh” pronounced as in “Mikhail”).
• A Sikh temple is also called a “gurdwara” (pronounced GOORD-war-ah).
• Sikhism is the fifth-largest world religion and was founded in 1469 in South Asia. It is a monotheistic religion.
• There are 25 million to 30 million Sikhs around the world, most of them in India. According to the Sikh Coalition, about 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States.
• Observant Sikh men are religiously mandated to wear dastaars (Sikh turbans) and maintain unshorn hair (including facial hair). Observant Sikh women are also religiously mandated to maintain uncut hair.