To My Sikh Friends
To my Sikh friends in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I say "I am heartily sorry."
I am sorry that a man was so filled with irrational hate that he killed your friends and family members: Prakash Singh, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Suveg Singh, and Paramjit Kaur Toor.
Unfortunately what he did is symptomatic of a problem that runs deep in America. Fortunately, he is an extreme symptom rather than a common one. But he is a symptom.
His crimes are his alone, but they and the responses we see in the media say something about us. They show that you and others—Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Amish, Lubavitch Jews, to name some—remain foreign to most of the rest of us, regardless of your birthplace or citizenship, regardless of your lives in our communities and your contributions to them.
So I am sorry that we know nothing about your religion, and that our ignorance allows us to put anyone with a vaguely "Near Eastern look" into the same bucket, one on which we affix the label "terrorist" or just "dangerous"—or perhaps only "different enough that I would rather maintain my distance."
I'm sorry that, seeing your turban or seeing others turn to prayer during the day, we see a sign of our fears rather than a sign of faithfulness. I'm sorry that you bear the burden of proving to us that you are peaceful neighbors. I'm sorry that the news media don't think it convenient to list the names of those murdered.
I sorrow that we are not better neighbors. I sorrow with you in your loss. We will pray for you; please continue to pray for us.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.