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Sikh Americans Mourn in Wake of Charleston Tragedy Prompted by Hate

For Immediate Release

 

June 18, 2015 (New York, NY) - The Sikh American community extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of nine African-American worshippers, who were brutally murdered last night by a hate-filled bigot at the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) in Charleston, South Carolina.

“As Americans, we’re heartbroken to once again bear witness to another brutal act of hateful violence directed at a faith community at their place of worship,” said the Sikh Coalition’s Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur. “As Sikhs, we remember the 2012 Oak Creek, Wisconsin tragedy like it was yesterday. We are anguished by the knowledge that another community must endure the same pain and suffering. Our thoughts, prayers, and love are with all of those involved and impacted by this deadly violence.”

On August 5, 2012 a neo-Nazi walked into a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin and killed six innocent Sikhs. At the time, it was the most deadly act of violence against an American place of worship since the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. The tragedy last night is another horrific reminder that the problems of hate violence and domestic extremism in America pose grave threats to the security of our nation.

A recent study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, which was highlighted in a New York Times Op-Ed column just this week, emphasizes once again “the main terrorist threat in the United States” is from domestic, non-Muslim extremists.

“We commend law enforcement for the swift apprehension of Dylann Roof today. Now we demand that the FBI investigate this attack as an act of domestic terrorism,” said Sapreet Kaur. “Our government must recognize and address the domestic extremist threats that all Americans face. From Charleston to Oak Creek, we are all grieving today, but we must take action to prevent this violence from happening again.

Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother lost her life at the Oak Creek Gurdwara on August 5, 2012, and whose testimony before the U.S. Senate the following month led to a major expansion in federal hate crime tracking, shared his grief with those mourning in Charleston today.

“No child should ever have to endure what I have suffered and my heart aches to know that nine other families are enduring what I have endured today,” said Saini. “Acts of hate are a legitimate threat to our safety and security and we must recognize that our nation has incredible work to do to combat these threats.”

Oak Creek Mayor, Steve Scaffidi, also shared his condolences for the community of Charleston, South Carolina as well. “As the mayor of a city that's suffered through an act of hate and violence in a place of worship, I have a heavy heart hearing the news from South Carolina. Our community grieves with the victim's families and all Americans who see this as an attack on the rich diversity of our country and the right to celebrate one's faith. This thoughtless loss of life should serve as an inspiration and a call to action that we still have much work to do.”

The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States and has been working to combat the problem of hate crimes in Congress, within law enforcement, and within communities across the country for the past 14 years. To learn more about our hate crime work or to schedule an interview with a Sikh community member or Sikh Coalition expert, please contact Mark Reading-Smith.

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Amardeep Singh, Programs Director (212) 655-3095, ext. 83 amar@sikhcoalition.org

 

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About the Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

We pursue our mission by:

  • Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
  • Advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
  • Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
  • Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment

With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.

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