Sikhs Reopen Gurdwara, Obama Administration Promises Protection

Half-mast flag on top of the White House

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Oak Creek, WI – Life for the Indian American Sikh community began limping back to normal on Friday, as the Sikh temple of Wisconsin reopened for community services with hundreds paying tribute to the deceased, as Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the Obama Administration’s commitment to not only investigate in detail the Oak Creek tragedy where six people were shot dead, but also to make sure such tragedies do not happen again.

In his remarks at the memorial service for the Oak Creek victims who died on August 5, 2012 when a 40 year old man entered a Sikh gurdwara shortly before Sunday services and opened fire, Holder described the many contributions of the Sikh community in America, saying, “There are public servants like Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian American ever elected to Congress; and Bhagat Singh Thind, a hero who fought for America in World War I, and then fought to become a US citizen.”

The Attorney General recalled that Sikhs were early immigrants to the West Coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, arriving to work in lumber mills, on railway lines, and as agricultural laborers, who then went on to build and strengthen communities around the country, from Yuba City to New York City, from Miami to Milwaukee, to Washington, DC.

Addressing the Sikh community, Holder promised that, “Your loss will fuel the ongoing work – being led by this Administration, by our nation’s Department of Justice, and by our law enforcement community – to seek both answers and justice, to advance the investigation that’s now underway, to identify and implement the solutions that we need to prevent future tragedies, and to build on the unprecedented steps that have been taken to respond to threats – and to prevent violence and discrimination – aimed at our Sikh and other religious communities.”

Since the day of the tragedy, President Barack Obama has kept himself updated on the developments, according to a statement from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

On Monday, August 6, the President ordered that the US flag be flown at half-staff until August 10, 2012, and during a bill signing event, President Obama responded to a question from journalists on the incident.

“If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another,” Obama told journalists at the White House.

With the Obama Administration doing its part, Americans of all faiths and ethnicities have come together in recent days to reflect and remember the victims of the fatal shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the sentiment is being reflected in vigils held across the US.

At one candlelight vigil held Wednesday evening in the shadow of the White House, Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, a Sikh priest, prayed to the Almighty while addressing the audience, “Please bless everyone so we can see your Light.” (IATNS)

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