Sikhs Welcome News of First Lady’s Plans to Visit Grieving Community

Sikhs (including Rajwant Singh -Center) at a vigil near the White House

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Washington, DC – Sikh community organizations welcomed on Saturday the report, which the White House confirmed to India America Today, that First Lady Michele Obama will travel to Milwaukee on Thursday, August 23 to “meet with the immediate family members of victims and the immediate family members of those who were seriously injured.”

US law enforcement officials earlier labeled the fatal incident on August 5 at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a gunman killed six and wounded four members of the Sikh community, including a police officer, an act of terrorism.

The following day, August 6, India America Today raised the question at the White House daily briefing, asking if the President would be visiting Oak Creek in the near future.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, replied, “As for the President’s schedule, I don’t have any announcements to make about upcoming travel.”

On Saturday, August 18, twelve days after the question was raised, the White House confirmed that the First Lady will be visiting the Sikh community on August 23, eighteen days after Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, opened fired at the gurdwara.

Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council and a well-known Sikh personality from Washington, DC, welcomed the gesture from the First Family, saying, “It is great to hear that First lady will be comforting the families devastated by the violence in the Sikh gurdwaras motivated by hate, and it is unquestionably a kind gesture.”

Calling the visit “reassuring and heartening,” Rajwant Singh added, “A visit of this sort restores the faith of the nation and brings everyone together.”

Commenting on the announcement, Manvinder Singh, director of the  International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy of the United Sikhs, said in a statement, “This news also comes at a time when the entire community is grieving not only from the loss of the six community members, but also the loss of Dalbir Singh, a Sikh from the Oak Creek community who was shot and killed while closing his store on Wednesday night.”

Less than two weeks after the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, another shooting death of a Sikh American in Milwaukee, Wisconsin saddened the community.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragic shooting deaths of the six Sikhs, President Barack Obama made calls to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, and trustee of the Sikh Temple Charanjeet Singh “to express his condolences for the lives lost and his concern for those who were injured.”

The White House in an earlier statement quoted President Obama as saying, “Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded.”

“My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family,” added the statement.

Over the past two and a half weeks, Americans of all backgrounds and faiths have come together across the country to reflect and remember the victims. (IATNS)

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