Grieving and Praying for Sikh Temple Shooting Victims

By Davi Barker

By coincidence or providence my wife and wore orange yesterday. When news of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin reached us we saw no connection between these two events. As details surfaced and Twitter exploded with prayers and gun rights debates I found myself tired, even sickened with politics. Sickened by a population too ideologically lock stepped to allow the aggrieved time to mourn the dead before leveraging tragedy for political agenda.

The President of the Milwaukee Gurdwara, Satwant Singh Kaleka, tried to save his congregation. He attempted to tackle the shooter, but was shot and killed instead. I thought of the Kirpan dagger, one of the few things I know about Sikhism. Practicing Sikhs carry one at all times, both as a symbol of the power of Truth to cut through falsehood, and as a tool to defend the powerless. It’s similar to the curved Jambiya dagger in Yemen. What a courageous exemplar of his creed, the Saint-Soldier.

I am embarrassed to admit that I knew almost nothing else about the Sikhs, this community that has borne the lion’s share of the anti Muslim sentiment because to idiots they look more Muslim than Muslims, this community that we have formed coalitions with explicitly to promote mutual understanding of one another.

My wife and brought flowers to our local Sikh Temple in the East Bay, the Gurdwara Sahib in Fremont, to express our condolences and sincere affections. I was asked cover my head with an orange cloth and to remove my shoes just like in a mosque. I was asked to perform ablutions with water, just like in a mosque. We were brought into a grand hall where men and women sat on the floor, made prostration, and offered prayers, just like in a mosque.

Many people were wearing orange, which made me wonder if my wife and I appeared to have worn orange on purpose.

The brother guiding us through the Temple invited us to make prostration, which of course a Muslim cannot do to a man or idol. Being unfamiliar with their religion I asked if I could offer prayer as I was accustomed. I raised my hands in supplication and the words came to me, “Ya Allah, may I live to see an era which recognizes the siblinghood of all humanity.” He offered us chai, but of course we were fasting.

I went home determined to learn something about Sikhism I did not know before. And so, I thought, why not start with orange. I quickly learned that in the Sikh religion orange is a simbol of “Shaheedee,” a Punjabi word which means “sacrifice in complete submission to the divine to point of not fearing death.” In short, martyrdom. “Shahid” in Arabic. Coincidence or providence.

Last night, before I opened my fast, I made dua that Allah accept the martyrdom of Satwant Singh Kaleka, and all the Saint Soldiers who have heroically lost their lives among the Sikhs.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press. This article originally appeared in

  • Mukhtar Chaudhry

    Brother David Barker has very emotional article to express the condolences on the unfortunate tragedy of Oak Creek Wisconsin. I was raised among the Sikhs in Amritsar Punjab and grew up with their kids and enjoyed the company and religious sermons with zest. And then I moved with my family to Pakistan and settled again in two sacred cities of Nankana and Sacha Souda district Sheikhupura.. They say you never can forget your birthplace no matter where on Earth you live. I miss my childhood Sikh friends but more their parents who were very considerate and loving to me. In fact one of the best and most loving kind our servant was a Sikh named Hari Singh. He was like a family member and a practicing Sikh. I used to accompany him to Sikh Sermons frequently arranged by rich Sikh leader named Essar Singh Mujahail of Amritsar. The Gianis were well versed orators and one could feel very much moved listening to them. I say it because I am a Muslim and the sermonic words deeply penetrated my intellect. And my departure with my family was not very peaceful that saw lot of bloodshed in 1947. I have never recovered from that shock, though I moved to the USA in 1959. I always wonder why people kill each other in the name of religion. Do they believe they will live forever? The Wisconsin episode has shocked me very much. I don’t know any of the victims nor their families but had nightmares ever since. Why! I don’t know.

    American society is not ideal but call it near ideal because all mix of races come here and get assimilated in time while keeping their own cultural values . No other society can match this kind of tolerance and broad mindedness. Period. There are knuckle headed people in every society that suddenly and unexpectedly shatter the peace of the community. Had the gun man known that by killing a few innocent people he can achieve the contemplative goals he entertained in his brain. I know Sikh community is very forgiving and will forgive the twisted supremacist.. I share my heartfelt condolences for victims and their families and that of Mr Page and pray to God that their souls rest in peace and give patience to their loved
    ones. Time will heal the wounds. Inshallah

  • Mukhtar Chaudhry

    Adding to the above comments, I like to donate an Old Urdu copy of holy Granth Sahib to and Sikh Museum. It was presented to me by Sardar Bahadar Boota Singh of Manawala district Sheikupura. He and family were our neighbors and had to move to Amritsar at time partition in 1947. Needless to say that the said book is very old and I have been safeguarding keeping it with me for the last 66 years. I am an old man and do not think my progeny will care for it. I will appreciate if someone from any of the Sikh Institutions will contact me. I will donate this holy Book with as much reverence as any Sikh could. It has been with me so long.

    With much appreciation and prayers for peace for every human being in this world.