Today’s horrific shooting at a Sikh temple or gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, reminds me of the 15 September 2001 murder of Balbir Singh, a Sikh, in Mesa, Arizona, only a few days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
So far as I’m aware, the motivation of the Oak Creek gunman isn’t yet known. In any event, it hasn’t yet been publicly announced. But I notice that police have termed the Wisconsin tragedy a case of “domestic terrorism,” which seems to imply, if they’re using the term in its proper sense, that the incident was motivated by some specific sort of ideological agenda.
My tentative suspicion, if this really was an instance of “domestic terrorism,” is that, as in the case of Balbir Singh, this gunman confused Sikhs with Muslims.
I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect homicidal loons to be at all well read in comparative religion, to realize that Sikhism and Islam are entirely distinct faiths. (Heck, for that matter, the Huffington Post features at least one writer who professes to have a difficult time distinguishing Mormonism from Islam — and we almost never wear beards these days.) But American schools should probably put a little bit of effort, at least, into educating people on such things.
Of course, that’s not to say that going into a mosque and opening fire on innocent praying Muslims would be acceptable, either.
Murder is murder.
Though a minor thing in the face of so much sadness, I was considerably relieved when it turned out that the man who killed Balbir Singh wasn’t a Mormon. Mesa, Arizona, after all, has a substantial Mormon population, as well as one of the older temples in the Church, and that terrible possibility had occurred to me almost instantly.
I do think it very possible, indeed almost certain, that some such incident will someday occur at a Latter-day Saint chapel. There is, in certain quarters, that much hostility against us. And, alas, it only takes one person.
We did have a case, almost exactly two years ago, of a Latter-day Saint bishop shot to death in his church office by an ex-Mormon.
I myself, just yesterday, received a series of anonymous emails — each phrased somewhat differently, but all manifestly from the same person — pronouncing me a shameful liar and a fraud, denouncing me as not a real “scientist,” declaring Joseph Smith a charlatan, and prophesying that I’ll soon be utterly forgotten, that arrived at 12:20 AM, 1:52 AM, 2:16 AM, 3:23 AM, 1:57 PM, 6:16 PM, 6:19 PM, 7:27 PM, 7:50 PM, and 10:48 PM.
When the obsession is so obvious, one does, I confess, begin to grow just a bit concerned. Should something suspicious happen to me in the relatively near future, I hope that someone will bring these emails to the attention of investigators. And this isn’t the first such episode; I’ve received actual threats of serious violence from one specific person, which I’ve twice reported to police authorities. He’s on file with them, by name.
P.S. Just got another one. 8:02 PM today.
P.P.S. And another at 8:52, plainly referring to this blog post. That’s helpful. I was curious as to whether this one closely monitors my blog. I expect that more such notes will arrive, but my experiment has concluded, so they won’t be announced here any more.