Local Sikhs react to Washington hate crime

Posted at 6:19 AM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 07:30:29-05
Members of the local Sikh community are reacting to a reported hate crime this weekend in Washington state, saying it brings back memories of the tragedy in Oak Creek five years ago. 
According to authorities in Kent, Wash., a gunman allegedly walked up to a Sikh man in a residential neighborhood and told him to "Go back to your country." He then shot the Sikh man in the arm. 
"I always shake my head and say not another incident," said Rahul Dubey who represents the Sikh community in the Milwaukee area and whose Godfather died in the attack at the temple five years ago. 
On August 5, 2012, a gunman walked into the temple in Oak Creek and opened fire. He killed six people and injured several others. One of the survivors of that attack is still in the hospital. 
"He only has communication with blinking eyes," said Nirmal Kaur Singh, a volunteer at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. "I've seen him a few times and looking at him, it brings back the memory the day it happened here."
She says she sometimes feels scared in public that someone will hurt her or her children. 
"When we were in Walmart, my kids were called terrorists," she said. "And my kids were you know really scared." 
She volunteers to help educate in the community and hopes that people will see Sikhism is separate from Islam and they do not support any kind of terrorism. 
"People who are thinking about doing these hate crimes, please my request is this: come and talk to us," she said. 
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with 500,000 practicing Sikhs living in the United States. 
Their central belief is that there is one God for all of creation. Male Sikhs often wear turbans and have long beards, something Singh says makes people compare them to Muslims. 
"They think we belong to Osama bin Laden," she said. "We are not. There are so many different kind of turbans in different countries." 
The origin of the religion comes from Punjab, an area of land where present day Northern India and Pakistan meet. 
Dubey says when hate crimes like the one in Washington occur, their temple actually receives a lot of support. 
"People start calling the temple and saying 'hey we are with you' people start sending flowers, people even come to the temple and say...'you guys are a part of this community,'" he said. 
But he still thinks a lot needs to change. 
"Get out of your comfort zone, hug that person, talk to that person, at least give a smile to that person because in the end we are all humans," said Dubey. 

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