Dharmic and Pagan Reactions to Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting

Dharmic and Pagan Reactions to Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting August 6, 2012

Yesterday a neo-Nazi by the name of Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and opened fire, killing six, and wounding at least three others, before being shot and killed by police at the scene. The shocking incident brought up past trauma for the American Sikh community, which has faced over 700 reported bias attacks since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. To the ignorant, Sikhs, with their beards and turbans, fit the stereotype of “Arab-ness” in the post-9/11 era and found themselves literally caught in the crossfire as American extremists decided to “retaliate” against Islam. The World Sikh Council – America Region, released a statement yesterday urging everyone to pray for the victims and their families, and thanking the first responders. The organization called this “a troubling day, not only for Sikh-Americans, but also for all Americans,” and promised to launch an investigation into understanding how this terrible incident happened.

Sikh Temple of Wisconsin

“In the coming days, along with Sikh advocacy organizations, we will be working with public officials, and law enforcement authorities, to understand the events of today and to help the community in whatever way we can. The Council will also be providing support mediums for our interreligious partners and the public as we sort out this situation. This shooting comes on the heels of another tragedy, as our country continues to recover from the senseless shootings in Aurora, Colorado.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh, expressed “that this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful,” calling the shooting “dastardly.” Also weighing in was Jathedar Singh Sahib Giani Gurbachan Singh, the current religious head of Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib, the supreme religious authority of the Sikhs, who opined that “this is a security lapse on the part of the U.S. government,” and called on American Sikhs to enact stricter security measures at their temples.

Meanwhile, American Dharmic and Pagan organizations have been issuing statements of prayer, condolence, and support in this time of tragedy. The Hindu American Foundation issued a statement saying they “join all Americans in shared shock, disbelief, and outrage” at the killings.

“Dharma traditions–the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Hindus–hold non-violence and peaceful co-existence as paramount values. It is a cruel irony that Sikhs, donning the turban as among proud symbols of a spiritual mandate to serve humanity as defenders of dharma against all onslaughts, find themselves sought out and victimized by ignorant assailants on too many occasions. We call on all Americans today to join Sikhs in mourning a senseless attack and to take this opportunity to not only learn about the sublime teachings of Sikh gurus, the Sikh faith, and the meanings of its external symbols, but also join hands to ensure that the gurudwaras remain sanctuaries of joyous worship and celebrated sharing of langar, or community meals, for generations to come.”

Another prominent American Hindu, Universal Society of Hinduism president Rajan Zed, pointed out that that “Sikhs had made lot of contributions to America and the world. Various faith and inter-faith groups nationwide should join hands to express support to the Sikh community and to spread the message of peace, love and harmony at grassroots level.” He is calling on all Hindus to say prayers for the victims and their families.

Within the Pagan community, learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary issued a statement calling for reflection and silence within their community to mark this tragic and senseless eruption of violence.

“As Pagans, we are particularly sensitive to the violation of sacred space and disregard for human life which occurred.  Furthermore, we cherish the pursuit of ongoing education as an antidote to the violence bred in ignorance and misunderstanding.  We call on each member of our seminary community as well as our supporters and friends to set aside a moment of contemplative silence today in memory of those who lost their lives, and in support of all who are suffering because of this tragedy.  In addition, we recommend that you seek ways to express support for Sikhs in your own community.”

Phyllis Curott a noted Pagan who serves as a trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, said she was “deeply saddened by the terrible shooting at the Wisconsin Sikh Temple.”

“There is so much hatred and fear in this country, in this world – and so much work for us to do to heal and transform it. Today, prayers and offerings of peace to my Sikh brothers and sisters, especially those whom I know and work with at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and to all in their community who suffer and grieve. Please join me in these offerings.”

Other Pagans who have made public statements include author of Temple of Witchcraft co-founder Christopher Penczak, who sent “magick and love and prayers to the victims and mourners of the Sikh Temple attack,” noting that  “at one time I almost joined a Sikh group,” and T. Thorn Coyle, who posted: “May Guru Har Krishan dispel your sorrow. We stand by your side.”  Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, which is also based in Wisconsin, offered “healing, protection, peace, condolences, [and] other support to all those impacted by the shootings today at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.” 

As fellow Patheos contributor Star Foster said earlier this morning, I want us to be better than this. That such hate and fear runs rampant can wound the very soul with its meaninglessness. I also want to echo Teo Bishop,  who hopes that “our collective response to the temple shooting tragedy be one of compassion.” At this moment of crisis and tragedy, we should stand together, firm in the notion that religious minorities in this country are, in the words of our President, “a part of our broader American family.” The Dharmic and Pagan family of faiths have deep and interweaving ties, and this moment should be a catalyst for greater outreach, interaction, and mutual support. Today we stand in unity with the Sikh community, you have our prayers, and our support.

ADDENDUM: Thorn Coyle adds: “Solar Cross Temple gave $100 to help the Sikhs of Milwaukee with medical bills incurred by the temple shooting. The officer wounded will also get some assistance. Can you help?” 

The campaign has already raised over 46 thousand dollars, and are now trying to hit a new goal of 75 thousand.

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51 responses to “Dharmic and Pagan Reactions to Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting”

  1. Thank you, Jason, for another very nicely-done post on this terrible topic.  Ironic, isn’t it, that humanity is capable, on the same day, of landing Curiosity on Mars and of gunning down innocent people gathered to worship?

  2. Thank you, Jason.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the son of one of the victims has set up a site to collect donations to help less fortunate families (not his own) with funeral costs.  http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/165156636.html#!page=1&pageSize=10&sort=newestfirst

    The site is http://www.wearesikhs.com
    MJS has been doing a lot of the on-the-ground reporting on this, so I’m trusting their report that this site is as legit as can be ascertained at this early hour.  If others have suggestions as to concrete steps that can be taken to show our solidarity, I’d love to hear them.

    I went ahead and donated, mentioning my religious affiliation and my prayers for their community.  I hope that will do something both for the families and to help let them know that people of many faiths will stand up with them.

  3. May I add another interfaith group to the mix standing with the victims, the Sikhs and all others opposed to such violence, the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. Thank for sharing dharmic and pagan reactions.

  4. Sad that such things still happen, it is just beyond me how many people are so dense that they don;t know that Muslims don’t wear turbans. Than again, Neo-Nazis are not known for their critical thinking skills.

  5. It’s not just the neo-Nazis.  Most Americans are not sufficiently educated to understand the difference.  

  6. I am speechless really. Minority religions have such a hard time here, such a hard time being treated fairly and equally. And it’s because of the mass ignorance and hate that is spread. Maybe this will wake people up. No one deserves what happened. But I am glad the murderer was shot dead, instead of getting a lifetime supply of free food, free healthcare, free housing and free clothing like we give so many murderers. 

  7. Fae, good to know about this campaign.

    There is another one that is so far getting more publicity (I guess) and is therefore more successful. Here is the call I just put out for it:

    Solar Cross Temple gave $100 to help the Sikhs of Milwaukee with medical bills incurred by the temple shooting. The officer wounded will also get some assistance. Can you help? 


  8. Thank you, Jason, for such a well-done post in a very difficult situation. I have to second Hecate_Demetersdatter: “Ironic, isn’t it, that humanity is capable, on the same day, of landing Curiosity on Mars and of cunning down innocent people gathered to worship?”

    Well said.

  9. The Sikhs in this country shine at tolerance and kindness. My prayers tonight go with them and their families.

    But it doesn’t matter what religion or appearance someone has –  I hope most people aren’t likely to kill anyone except in their own or their family’s defense.  The perp went out of his way to shoot at people whom he didn’t even know and weren’t doing anything towards him. Whoever he was, he was a murderer, probably having even intended to become a murder/suicide by cop. It’s very awful.
    If there’s anything I’d like to get across to the stupid bigots out there, the first thing wouldn’t be to get them to feel agreeable or to understand every other religion. No, the first would be  the basic idea behind of the “golden rule”, something everyone can understand.  

  10. “called on American Sikhs to enact stricter security measures at their temples.”. 
    I don’t know, when years ago some jerk targeted the Quakers, did people say “They should have worn more guns?” 

  11. The only critical thinking skill needed in this case that it is WRONG to go around shooting people.

  12. No, but I will say that after a UUncongregation in Tennessee was targeted, many of us took a few simple measures to not be quite so wide open to just anyone entering.

  13. What they should do is re-task some of the predator drones for our domestic terrorists, and deal with them the way we deal with Al Queda anywhere else in the world, and the way the Israelis deal with their terrorists. 

    Fix it so that the public leaders of these hate groups have a life expectancy of a few months after taking the job. Make sure that anyone involved in financing these groups, or selling them weapons, has their entire lives turned upside down and sent to prison forever. Infiltrate these groups so deeply that one neo-Nazi won’t feel comfortable talking about the weather with another one. Offer snitches so much cash that their own family members turn them in. Use this data-mining and electronic surveillance leviathan we have to make sure none of them will ever feel safe using a cell phone, or the internet or a credit card to advance their plans. 

    We spend trillions of dollars chasing down foreign terrorists, most of whom have no operational capacity to hurt us, and huge money fighting medical marijuana but for some reason we can’t seem to take homegrown terrorists seriously. We treat them as some unforeseeable and unstoppable force of nature. They’re nothing of the sort.

     These aren’t sophisticated operatives jetting around the world with nine passports or hiding out in mountainous tribal regions where no government dare set foot. They’re not plotting in some obscure language that only 10 guys in a basement in Langley can translate.  We know where they live. We speak their language, they’re very open about their ideologies and usually their fantasies of violence, and none of them are that bright. No system is foolproof, but having no system is guaranteed to fail all of the time, as it is now. It’s time to stop playing defense with these bastards. 

  14.  I will disagree with the presumption that none of them are that bright, but otherwise, sounds like a solid plan.

  15.  There are some differences between Sikhs and Quakers. The former being (essentially) religious warriors, for one.

  16. What you are advocating is lynch law.

    Instead I would advocate using the full weight of the already existing legal system against them, the laws we have if used correctly are strong enough.

    If they break the law, arrest and prosecute them. When they spout their hate, mock and vilify them. If they co-opt our beliefs for their own ends, rebut and confront them.

    But never, EVER let them think they are “warriors” or special. They are pond scum and should be treated as such

  17. But then you’re like “they should have more security measures to prevent the intrusion of violent individuals”. And then it goes to “Have you put up metal detectors yet?” and so on and so on.

  18. Home grown terrorists can hide more easily. Sometimes, they are current or former members of the military. And sometimes, you don’t  know that  they exist until they park a truck full of explosives in front of a federal building in your home town. I know it is a day I will never forget. My heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Also my hopes that the pagan communities will come together and grow stronger. United we stand, divided we fall.

  19.  There is nothing wrong with self-defense and self-protection, and one can increase security measures in common sense ways.  Many of us have had “Guardians” for our public rituals, and there is nothing wrong with this.  In fact, in the ancient traditions, there is usually a Guardian set forth because they people involved in the rituals sometimes go into different states of trance.  “Setting the wards” can include common sense protections.

  20. Yeah, but attaching the same viewpoint and purpose to another religion makes what you’re saying not relevant to the situation

  21. I never suggested that they should have been.

    But I am saying that, since Sikhism is not a pacifist religion, it can be argued that preparing to defend themselves is something we could expect from them more than from Quakers.

  22. I don’t know these people you feel you know will be doing terrible criminal acts.    
    And if you do, call those people in Langley, it’s possible they might be interested. At least alert your local force.  It’s entirely possible the only people who know anything really aren’t acting upon their information.

  23.  Nobody “should be” shot up for their beliefs, national origin, or race. 

    Psychos don’t understand what “should be”.

    We must arm ourselves and be vigilant, to face what “IS” instead of fantasizing about what “should be”.

  24. “They”, even with the drones and trillions spent, don’t know all the future perpetrators and can’t predict everyone who is going to do something horrible.  
    If you or anyone reading know who is going to do something horrible, don’t assume someone else is going to alert the authorities. It may have to be you, and quickly. 
    At least one terrorist action in this world was stopped by civilians noticing something was off and calling the cops.  Really.

  25. Back in the 1970’s I was for a few years a follower of Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh guru. (Its pronounced Seek not Sick as some news commentators have been saying it). We did yoga, chanted beautiful hymns and learned to cook vegetarian food. Beauty of dress and demeanor as well as health and devotion were the main tenets of the faith (“Happy, Healthy, Holy” as they put it). When will this country mature to the point that cultural and religious differences will be appreciated as strengths, not liabilities? When will the appalling number of guns be lessened? With so many weapons floating around gun carryers are tempted to vent their frustrations with deadly force against fellow Americans. This is not at all what the framers of the Constitution envisioned. A very sad day for America.

  26. The Quaker Amish are pacifists and didn’t change their religion despite horrible persecution and attacks. They’re holding the fort on a concept that is highly beleaguered rather than conform because it’d be easier. 
    My ideas  aren’t full-formed  but I feel that folks trying to shame any religion into following the country’s pattern of security theater are off the mark in some manner.  

  27.  Gaurdian = security.  Not much of a difference to maybe post a security guard during services.

  28. I understood all that fine. 
    But its not your religion to say what they should do or what makes sense for them.

  29. I think it’s isolation that makes people not love diversity and make them believe all they ever need to experience and know comes from what they’ve already seen and done.

  30.  I respect the Quaker/Amish convictions, but they are an easy target for any psycho with a desire to get fame by slaughter.

    If someone refuses to defend themself, are we to act shocked and horrified when they are made a victim?

    We know there are people out there with illogical malevolent intentions, which is why we take precautions against them (if only by removing ourselves from the areas these people tend to frequent.)

    It is basic survivalism. Why protect those who refuse to protect themselves?

  31. These murders are done out of total ignorance. The people
    of the Western world need to know below facts. Those who understand the facts
    will not do such crimes.

    According to the most ancient scripture,
    the Vedas, of the Vedic dharma (Hindu religion), and the Mahaa-bhaarat, Aryan
    is not a race at all.

    Aryan is one who accepts the authority of
    the Vedas and strives to live accordingly. Meaning, the real Aryans are all the
    Hindus that you will find among almost all races. E.g. the Hare Krishnas are
    Vedic or Aryans because they worship Vedic God – Krishna.

    Swastika is a Vedic/Aryan symbol that is
    used by the Hindus, and even the American Indians, since millenniums at the
    beginning of every auspicious event in life. Hindus draw Swastika at their
    homes’ main door steps for auspiciousness.

    In 19th century European
    Indolotists fabricated “Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)” that is scientifically
    proven a pure fabrication not without any truth in it. AIT says Aryans invaded
    in India from Europe and brought in the Vedic civilization in India. Not true.
    India is the cradle of the Aryan (Vedic) civilization.

    Hitler and their followers (Nazis or neo
    Nazis) are not Aryans, per the truth as stated in (1) above. Hitler misused
    religious symbol Swastika for his political and ulterior motive. Blind led the

    No race or skin color is superior or
    inferior in the eyes of the Supreme Being per the Vedas. The Vedas say that one
    needs to be humble if one wants to advance spiritually.

    I hope this info reaches to All Americans or the people in the western world.

    jai sri krishna!
    -skanda987@gmail:disqus .com

  32. Most Pagans believe in self-defense, and I think you would find that Sikhs believe the same.  However, this doesn’t mean that either are attack oriented. 

  33. Counter-terrorism isn’t about having perfect foreknowledge of an individual’s plans. It’s a science of threat assessment, intelligence, and coordinated efforts to continually disrupt the operational ability of terrorist organizations.

     Terrorists don’t “come out of nowhere.” They’re driven by a cause, which they’re usually quite proud and vocal about. Wade Michael Page made no efforts to keep a low profile or conceal his intentions. He was a fairly prominent member of the white power rock scene and associated with groups that openly advocated racial holy war and the collection of weapons to accomplish that. A number of private anti-hate groups maintain fairly detailed dossiers on Page and others like him, one of the basic elements of intelligence work our own government should be doing.

     These guys consider themselves to be combatants in a war with the United States and most of its citizens, as much as any Taliban fighter or Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg or Yemen. These domestic hate movements have the ideology and operational capability and demonstrated lethality of terrorist groups. They have all of the elements that allow us to designate foreign groups as terrorists and to bar funding to them and take all sorts of other action against them, but if they’re American, we sit on our hands and react to tragedies as random unforeseeable crimes. 

    That’s the essence of stupidity and suicidal recklessness. We expend enormous resources trying to catch the one in a million Muslim agent who might try to slip into the country on false pretenses, but ignore the terrorists who have unlimited access and freedom of movement and unlimited access to military grade weapons.

    Even without knowing what Page was going to do that day, we could have had people working around the clock to make his life and the lives of his fellow terrorists very difficult. Block and seize their money. Have someone monitoring their every move and be there when they screw up. Reconsider weapons laws that allow sales to guys with multiple DUIs and a discharge from the military for drunkenness. 

  34. You seem to know who these guys are, or think you do.. so alert the authorities.  
    Which is not myself or likely most of the Wild Hunt’s readership.  So tell Langley, call the cops, whoever it is who you really do need to contact and give them what you know and the details. This whole conversation is creepy because you’re looking for validation for someone else to act.  That might actually happen –  if you make the right calls. So call them up and tell them what you know.However they handle things, that’s out of your control, but whether they handle them *might* be.  

  35. Yes, I was shocked and horrified when some jerk shot up Amish schoolchildren.
    I hope that never happens again. And the blame and shame goes completely to the shooter. The incident was not because their religion is pacifistic, it was because the guy was scum. Telling me that further suspicion, isolation, and weaponization of spiritual and individual homes leads to peace – I don’t think so, and don’t see evidence that truly prevents all the horrible individual incidents like these.  

  36. That’s the thing. I don’t have any inside dirt on these guys. What I do know is that it’s not very difficult to develop intelligence on domestic groups that openly flaunt their ideology and intentions. I do know something of the dynamics of these groups having covered the Church of the Creator, a racist group involved in another mass shooting some years back in this area.

     If I ever had knowlege of an imminent crime, of course I would report it. My point is that it’s much too late to prevent such tragedies if we wait until that stage to engage it. We need a fundamental rethink in our society of how we view and deal with domestic terrorists. I don’t think we take them seriously enough, even though they present a much greater threat to us on a day to day basis than any foreign groups. 

    I concur with those who say the Sikhs and perhaps all of us need to develop some common sense security habits as well, but the solution does not lie in trying to harden millions of potential targets, just as it does not lie in trying to occupy every country which harbors hostility toward us. The solution lies in identifying the threats, and then in taking the fight to them. 

  37.  I guess I am just more cynical than you, then.

    These things seem inevitable, to me. You have dangerous people in society (always have, always will). They are going to attack other parts of society. History shows us that they don’t tend to go attack the local military base, but are far more likely to attack those areas of society that are (perceived to be) defenceless, such as schools and religious establishments.

    When it comes to implementing some kind of defence, I am not suggesting that they install sentry turrets, but many schools in the US have scanners at the entrances, do they not?

    Then there is the second (attempted) attack at a showing of the new Batman movie, in Ohio – by increased vigilance, the perpetrator was apprehended before anyone could be harmed.

    To paraphrase: the price of peace is vigilance.

  38.  Hitler used the Swastika because it is a traditional Germanic symbol (he misappropriated a lot of Germanic symbology and lore, which is why so many followers of the Northern Traditions have a hard time.)

  39. Kenneth: “[Domestic terrorists] present a much greater threat to us on a day to day basis than any foreign groups.”

    The body count on 9/11 was close to 3,000. Throw in the USS Cole casualties and the two bombed African embassies, and I daresay it’s way above the domestic-terrorist count over the same time frame even if you go back to the ’80s and include the clinic bombers.

  40. “I understood all that fine. 
    But its not your religion to say what they should do or what makes sense for them.”

    I think you may have missed that it was the head of the supreme Sikh religious authority who “called on American Sikhs to enact stricter security measures at their temples” in the first place. You’re arguing with people who are musing on how Sikhs might do what the Sikh religious authority has called on them to do. Please explain how this puts Obsidia, Ursyl, and CrystalK in the wrong, because I’m not seeing it.

  41. The difference is that domestic terrorists have been with us much longer. 9/11 was a spectacular one-off that is not likely to ever be repeated on such a scale. Any reckoning of domestic terrorism has to consider the KKK, which employed terror to control half the country for many decades, and whose death toll by lynching alone tallies something close to 5,000. The armed insurgency which spawned them was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

    The impact of terrorism also involves much more than body counts. Terrorism does its damage by forcing people to live in fear and structure their lives around safety. It corrodes people’s sense of ownership of their own country. 

    Terrorists don’t have to amass huge body counts to be effective.  They have to kill just often enough to credibly say “we’re out here, and we can come get you anytime we see fit.” That will always be more true of domestic terrorists than foreign ones, for simple reasons of location and logistics. By treating homegrown terrorists as isolated criminals and not real terrorists, we are granting them a free license to operate.

  42. Kenneth: And you’re saying that domestic terrorism has us now in the grip of its terror at a level comparable to the KKK at its peak? Really? ‘F raid I don’t see it.

  43. Just because they hold an ideology in opposition to your own does not make them stupid.

    Thinking them stupid is a mistake. It underestimates them, and their abilities.

  44. Well yea, it requires very little critical thought at all to know that. My point being that skinheads are as a whole, idiots. Not that others can;t act stupid as well.

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