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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Sikhs hail US support for Oak Creek victims

PTI  Washington, August 04, 2013
First Published: 14:14 IST(4/8/2013) | Last Updated: 19:16 IST(4/8/2013)

The Sikh community in the US has welcomed the announcement of the Barack Obama administration to provide financial help for those affected by the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting.


They also appreciated the decision by the US to initiate a mechanism for the tracking of hate crimes in the US.

"This gesture means a lot to Sikhs across the US. The community is grateful for all the support and assistance by the US government and it sends an important signal that Sikhs are considered an integral part of the US," Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) chairman Rajwant Singh said.

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On Friday, US attorney general Eric Holder announced a grant of $5.12 lakh to the Wisconsin state government to pay for mental health and trauma services for those affected by the shooting, including relatives of victims, witnesses and first responders.

On August 5 last year, Michael Wade Page, a white supremacist, walked into the Milwaukee Sikh gurdwara and fired 19 shots, killing six worshippers and wounding five others.

After being fatally wounded in the parking lot by a police sniper, Page then shot and killed himself.

Ahead of the first anniversary of the incident, Holder announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had added Sikhs to the list of groups they track hate crimes against and the justice department also will now record statistics on hate crimes committed against Sikhs and six other groups   Hindus, Arabs, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Orthodox Christians.

Rajwant said a lot more needed to be done to create awareness about the presence of the Sikhs and their contribution to the US.

"We have been here for the past 100 years and yet people still have misunderstandings about our faith and its observances," he said.

"The presence of Sikhs in high-profile positions in the government, having more education regarding diversity in schoolbooks and extensive awareness about Sikhs at the local level are the necessary steps which could avert any further violence against Sikhs. The media has an important role to play in creating this understanding about diverse cultures like Sikhs in the American society," Rajwant said.

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