Fear, hurt and disbelief weighed on the minds of those who gathered at a Sikh temple (gurdwara) on Sunday after the shooting of a Sikh man who said a gunman approached him in his suburban Seattle driveway and told him “go back to your own country”.
“Everybody who is part of this community needs to be vigilant,” Satwinder Kaur, a Sikh community leader, said as several hundred people poured into a gurdwara in Renton for worship services, about one mile from Friday night’s shooting. “It is scary. The community has been shaken up,” she said.
Authorities said a gunman approached the 39-year-old Sikh man as he worked on his car in his driveway in the city of Kent, about 20 miles south of Seattle. The FBI will help investigate the shooting, authorities said.
Those who attended the service at the gurdwara expressed fear that one of their own was targeted and said they’re scared to go to the store or other public places. Some said they have noticed an uptick in name calling and other racist incidents in recent months. Others expressed hurt and disbelief at the lack of understanding and ignorance.
“Sikhism teaches about equality and peace,” said Sandeep Singh, 24. “It’s sad to see that’s what it has come to,” he said of the violence. “This is our country. This is everyone’s country.”
Gurjot Singh, 39, who served in the Marine Corps and is an Iraq war veteran, said he was dismayed that people think others who look different aren’t equal or don’t contribute equally to the community. “This is equally my country as it is your country,” he said. “It doesn’t anger me. It hurts me.”
Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader, said there have been increasing complaints recently from Sikhs near Seattle who say they have been the target of foul language or other comments. “This kind of incident shakes up the whole community,” he said, adding that about 50,000 members of the faith live in Washington state.
Kent councilwoman Brenda Fincher also went to the gurdwara on Sunday to show support for the community. “When a hate crime happens, we have to stand up and make sure everyone knows it’s not acceptable,” she said.
Sikhs have previously been the target of assaults in the US. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, the backlash that hit Muslims around the country expanded to include those of the Sikh faith.
The Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights group, on Sunday said everything must be done “to confront this growing epidemic of hate violence.”
“We are all accountable for what happened in Kent, Washington on Friday night,” Jasmit Singh, a Seattle-area community leader, said in a statement.