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Caution, Apprehension at Pacoima Sikh Temple After Wisconsin Shooting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 09 August 2012 02:17


(top photo) Temple member Amarpreet Singh Malik. (above photo) The Sikh Temple in Pacoima.

As more details come out about the gunman who killed six people before being shot dead by police at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin the first weekend in August, the San Fernando Valley Sikh community was also taking precautions.

"We immediately went to the local police station. They told us they would have a black and white (patrol car) here and they would also have extra patrol. Our members have also taken it upon themselves to come out at night to do patrols between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. to make sure there's no problem," said Amarpreet Singh Malik of the Khalsa Care Foundation, a Sikh Temple located along Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Pacoima.

The extra security was necessary given that temple members were holding a kids summer camp at the site this week, and some of the children were staying overnight.

"We don't want to create paranoia. We know this is an isolated incident and we don't think is something that's going to occur again, but we wanted to address the concerns that parents have for security," Singh Malik said. "That's why we have adults walking around with flashlights all night to help us right now."

On Sunday, Aug. 5, 40-yearold Wade Michael Page – an Army veteran and former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band – entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. and, without saying a word opened fire using a 9mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition.

At the time of the shooting, several dozen people were at the location, preparing for Sunday services. When the shooting ended six victims, ranging in age from 39 to 84, as well as Page, lay dead. Three others were critically wounded.

Singh Malik said everybody in Pacoima was shaken by the incident. A memorial and prayer service was held in the temple on Monday, Aug. 6.

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, FBI officials said Page apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after being shot in the stomach by a police officer responding to the scene.

They also said investigators are still trying to discover a motive for the attack.

"It's difficult to make much sense of what happened because it's still too early. But it's a tragic incident that happened, probably at the place where people of any faith feel the most safe," he noted.

He went on to say "it's crazy that he picked people simply because they weren't like him," but added, "it's too difficult" to know what was going through the shooter's mind.

"It's a tragedy that six people died, but I know there were people who were trying to save others and a police officer was also injured trying to stop the shooter and that is a credit to our police for the work they do," Singh Malik said. "That reminds us there are humans willing to help and protect others, which reflect what our religion is, which has always been about fighting for the oppressed."

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in South Asia. It has approximately 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair. Male followers often cover their heads with turbans — which are considered sacred — and refrain from shaving their beards. An estimated 500,000 Sikhs live in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority of Sikhs live in India.

Often confused with Muslims or Hindus, Sikhs have become the target of hate crimes in recent years. The New Yorkbased Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 hate crimes in the U.S. since 9/11, and has fielded complaints in the thousands from Sikhs about workplace discrimination and racial profiling.

Singh Malik said three major principles of their religion are to remember God at all times, earn an honest living and give before you take. That's why they always have a policy of an open kitchen at their Pacoima site where anyone, from a homeless person to a queen, can ask for food and that person will receive it.

He also said they would use the shooting in Wisconsin as part of instruction on the state of their community in the U.S. during the weeklong summer camp for kids.

"This year's theme is 1947 to today and the future, and what happened resonates with our theme this year. We're addressing the issue of Wisconsin in our classes," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 August 2012 03:38