Crime and Religion: Tenth anniversary of attack on Oak Creek Gurdwara

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By Prabhjot Singh | Opinion |

The Sikh Community of Wisconsin and worldwide will be remembering on August 5 not only those who laid down their lives in an armed attack on Oak Creek Gurdwara but also a rare act of valour and dedication to duty by Lieutenant Brian Murphy.

Lieutenant Brian Murphy who while rescuing the injured also prevented any further loss of human life was seriously injured in the fire by the attacker.

The attack that sent shock waves everywhere left six devout dead and three others injured.

Many believed it was an attack on religious freedom for all. Some others felt it had been a mistaken perception of taking Sikhs for Muslims.

According to the Sikh Coalition, there are more than half a million Sikhs in the United States. The Justice Department, which before the Oak Creek shooting, had been through the FBI, tracking crimes committed against Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, atheists, as well as those with “other religion” or “multiple religions,” but did not track crimes against Sikhs. Now the crimes against the Sikhs are tracked.

“Whatever be the reasons or provocations behind the Oak Creek assault on the Sikh sangat, the gallant role of Lieutenant Brian Murphy will always be remembered,” says Professor Inderjit Saluja, a NY-based writer, author and journalist.

The Sikh community felicitated Lieutenant Murphy besides thanking him and the police department profusely for minimising the loss of human life in the attack.

“We want to eulogise his role by instituting a medal in bravery for religious freedom,” adds Professor Saluja, holding that those who lost their lives in defending the honour of the gurdwara are “martyrs” of the community.

Members of the Sikh community, had as usual, gathered at their local gurdwara for regular Sunday services. As they got busy with their prayers and other activities, including preparation of “langar”, an intruder, who was later identified as a white supremacist, arrived and opened fire on unsuspecting worshippers, leaving Paramjit Kaur, Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, and Sita Singh dead. Besides, three others were seriously injured.

The worshippers felt terrorised as they ran for shelter. Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was the first to respond to the distress call from the Gurdwara, tried to rescue the injured worshippers as the attacker continued to fire. Brian took a couple of shots on his body as the assailant got turned on him thus making other horror-stricken worshippers safe.

Brian Murphy succeeded in his act though he himself landed in hospital with grievous injuries.

The horror of the shooting not only shook Sikh communities around the globe but also other faith-based communities and advocacy organizations.

As August 5 marks the 10th anniversary of the Oak Creek tragedy, global Sikh communities and allies are getting together in remembering the victims. Since then a lot has happened. Though attacks on Sikhs, both as acts of terror and cases of mistaken identity, have been continuing unabated. Following a bipartisan resolution passed by the Senate, Sikh community, like all other faith communities, now enjoys full religious liberty, free from fear of violence and harm. The Department of Justice had since then started tracking crimes against Sikh community.

Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered  Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com  or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye

RELATED STORY:

A decade after Wisconsin Sikh gurdwara shooting, more can be done to stop white supremacists (Asia Samachar, 25 July 2022)

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