We were jolted by news of another deadly mass shooting. This time the location was suburban Milwaukee, Wisc. The victims were worshippers at the local Sikh temple.
Six members of that community, along with the shooter, were killed. Several others were wounded, including a police officer. The shooter died in an exchange of gunfire with the police.
Details are still emerging, but a community of faith has been rocked, as has the broader community in which the members of the Sikh community live.
As a pastor who serves as a leader of an interfaith group located around Troy, Mich., that includes Sikhs as members and participants, I offer my condolences to the families, who have lost loved ones, and to the Sikh community of Wisconsin, who have been most affected by this act of violence.
Sikhs form the fifth largest faith community in the world. With some 30 million adherents and forming a majority of the population in The Punjab, India, it is a monotheistic faith that emerged in India in the 15th century.
It is a movement of religious and social reform that, at least from the outside, seems to reflect both Hindu and Muslim influences.
Since 2001, Sikhs have been subject to violence and prejudice because to some they look not only different, but possibly like Muslims (for some, the stereotypical Muslim has a turban).
We don’t know yet if this was the case – that the perpetrator thought they were Muslims. But whatever the case, a community of faith, mostly immigrants, was targeted and people were killed and terrorized.
As for the perpetrator, he appears to have white supremacist ties, which makes this a hate crime and possibly an act of domestic terrorism.
Indeed, I think terrorist is an apt word to use here. The purpose of this attack was to take lives and to terrorize a largely immigrant community.
American Sikhs are, for the most part, immigrants from India. Sikh men are distinctive in their dress — specifically their turbans.
Because Sikh males do not cut their hair or shave, they pull up their hair and cover it (both beard and head) with the turban. Thus the tendency among some to connect Sikhs with Muslims.
Although the word “senseless” is again being used to describe this shooting, this is an unfortunate usage of the word.
No violent attack on a faith community or any community for that matter makes sense. We don’t yet know the motives of the killer, but there was and is no justification for an attack, whether the attacker thought he was attacking Muslims or Sikhs.
It is time for us as a broader community to say no to violence of any kind. We must also say no to the kind of bigotry that can lead to such acts of violence.
There is an unfortunate stream of anti-immigrant and anti-foreign nativism present in America right now.
So, as we stand with our Sikh neighbors, let us remember that this attack on their community is an attack on all communities.
Bob Cornwall is Senior Pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Troy, Michigan.