"We are experiencing it as a hate crime," she said. "Every Sikh American today is hurting, grieving and afraid."
Coming as it does in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shooting spree, the attempt to find similarities in the recent shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin comes up short. For there's a contrast here: the Christian Right blamed secularism and left-wing politics on the Aurora, Colo. shooting, while the Left can justifiably blame the Christian Right and its Islamophobia on Oak Creek.
Tattoos on the body of the slain Sikh temple gunman and certain biographical details led the FBI to treat the attack at a Milwaukee-area temple as an act of domestic terrorism, officials said Sunday.
When you have an act of "domestic violence" against a specific
religious group, then ignorance takes over: the same ignorance endemic to the
Ku Klux Klan is the same ignorance attributed to America's Christian Right.
Fueled by unfounded fears of "sharia law" and bolstered by the
attitudes of people like David Barton (America and everything in it was founded
by Christians on Christian principles), Islamophobia has taken root and
endeared itself to those who see a turban and think "terrorist!"
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs are not Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
And there is very little any leader, any politician can do to assuage those unfounded fears:
In a statement, President Obama said he was "deeply saddened" by the news. "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," he said.The last sentiment should, no doubt, discomfit some Christian Right leaders to no end. Certainly Pastor Dennis "Get Out!" Terry* and Dominionist David Barton are seething under their quiet, we-love-everyone exteriors. The concept of "broader American family" does not compute, and Pat Robertson may chime in that Sikhism signed a pact with the devil long ago.**
Still the differences - as well as the galling similarities - of the Sikh religion to Christianity have religious leaders treating Sikhism with distrust, disdain and fear:
Sikhism as a religion does not exactly make "demands" of its followers, but more encourages or discourages.
- The adoration of One God
- Control over one's internal vices
- To be constantly immersed in the virtues of holy scripture
- To defend the persecuted and oppressed "irrespective of religion colour, caste or creed"
As for what is discouraged in Sikhism, the "vices" such as intoxication, adultery and pre-marital sex, parallel closely the "sins" of today's American Christianity. What is further discouraged, however, may be practiced (or even encouraged) by some Christ Right leaders:
- Blind Spirituality (no pilgrimages, no compulsory wear for women, rituals or fasting)
- Material Possessions: Wall Street is not very welcome
- Animal sacrifice (including Indian suttee. This also includes cats being bludgeoned to death and having the word "liberal" scrawled on them)
- "Non-family-oriented living" - no hermits, monks or celibates (Catholic priests are, of course, OK).
- "Worthless talk" - lying, bragging or slander - leaving out most Republicans
- Priestly class - no popes, cardinal or even bishops (a la Eddie Long)
It also discourages evangelizing: it hosts no street preachers nor for that matter pulpit pimps.
*"I don't care what the liberals say, I don't care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation...There is only one God and his name is Jesus. I'm tired of people telling me that I can't say those words.. Listen to me, If you don't love America, If you don't like the way we do things I have one thing to say - GET OUT. We don't worship Buddha, we don't worship Mohammad, we don't worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God's son Jesus Christ."
** a la senile dementia