By Anita Snow | AP NEWS | US |
PHOENIX (AP) — Indian Sikh immigrant Rana Singh Sodhi still preaches love and tolerance 18 years after his brother was gunned down in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by a man who mistook him for a Muslim because of his turban and beard.
“I want there to be more awareness, more peace in the world,” said Sodhi, who spent much of the first year after his brother Balbir Singh Sodhi’s death speaking at schools and houses of worship. “I believe education is very important for our community. I made a commitment to reach as many people as I can.”
The community was remembering Balbir on the anniversary of his death Sunday with a special meal at a local temple.
Often working through the Arizona Interfaith Movement, Sodhi has been recognized by the state’s chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and by the White House under President Barack Obama’s administration.
The shooter Frank Roque is serving life in prison for the first-degree murder of Sodhi’s older brother at his Mesa, Arizona, gas station on Sept. 15, 2001. Balbir was the first of scores of Sikhs as well as Muslims targeted in hate crimes after 9/11.
Another brother, Sukhpal, was shot and killed 10 months later as he drove his cab in San Francisco. Authorities did not confirm the second killing as a hate crime, saying it appeared to be a stray bullet from a gang shooting, but the family doesn’t doubt he died because of his Sikh identity.
In the case of Balbir, at least, “I feel like we got justice,” Sodhi said.
Despite the loss of his brothers, Sodhi, now 52, said he considers himself lucky to live in a country that was founded by immigrants and that allows him to practice his religion, even while the Trump administration makes it harder for other newcomers to settle in the United States.
Three years ago, Sodhi forgave Roque in a telephone call to him in prison. After hearing remorse in Roque’s voice, he said: “If I had the power to take you out from prison, I would do it right now,” according to a highly publicized recording of the conversation.
Sodhi said the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1985, one year after anti-Sikh violence killed thousands of people in their native India. They first settled in California, then Arizona.
Read full story, ‘Sikh preaches love 18 years after brother killed over turban’ (AP News, 15 Sept 2019), here.
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‘I’m divorced, so Sikh men don’t want me’ (Asia Samachar, 16 March 2019)