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Michelle to meet Gurdwara shooting victims in Wisconsin

In an effort to reach out to the Sikh Community, US First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Wisconsin on August 23 to meet the victims and family members of the Gurdwara shooting that left six worshippers dead.

world Updated: Aug 19, 2012 12:13 IST

In an effort to reach out to the Sikh Community, US First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Wisconsin on August 23 to meet the victims and family members of the Gurdwara shooting that left six worshippers dead.

The scheduled visit of the First Lady to Wisconsin is on August 23, the White House yesterday said, adding that it was part of Obama Administration's reach out to the Sikh Community who were shattered by the Oak Creek Gurdwara shooting.

Michelle would be meeting the victims and family members of those who were killed in the tragic incident, it said.

The Indian-American and Sikh communities have welcomed the White House announcement as a great gesture.

"It is great to hear that First lady will be comforting the families devastated by the violence in the Sikh gurdwara motivated by hate and it is unquestionably a kind gesture.

"It is important that these families hear firsthand how she and the President feel about this terrible tragedy," said Dr Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council.

"It is indeed critical that the top leadership acts in such a dignified manner to heal the raw wounds of the families and the entire Sikh community. Sikhs have come together as a family and these bullets had hit our hearts," he said.

Singh said a visit by the First Lady will be reassuring and heartening and it will be powerful symbol of President Obama embracing the Sikhs at this serious juncture.

"A visit of this sort restores the faith of the nation and brings everyone together," he said.

Six Sikh worshippers, including four Indian nationals, were killed when a white supremacist identified as Wade Michael Page went on a shooting rampage inside the Gurdwara on August 5.

The shooting incident had shocked the entire nation and India as well, with the Sikh community terming it as an incident of hate crime.

President Barack Obama had called for some "soul searching" after the incident.

"We applaud the First Lady's visit of solidarity with the Sikh community," said Anju Bhargava, founder of Washington-based Hindu-American Seva Charities.

The Obama Administration had sent Attorney General Eric Holder for the memorial service who in his remarks had termed the incident as an act of hate and domestic terrorism.

"We would also like to thank the White House for taking the historic decision of having the First Lady visit the affected families and stand in solidarity with the community," said Manvinder Singh of United Sikhs, a Sikh advocacy group.

"This news also comes at a time when the entire community is grieving not only from the loss of the six community members but also the loss of Dalbir Singh, a Sikh from the Oak Creek community who was shot and killed while closing his store on Wednesday night," Singh said.

United Sikhs has established a Hate Crime Victims Fund, which will be dispersed for the immediate needs of the affected families and for resources to eradicate Hate Crime.

Meanwhile in Chicago, the local Sikh community joined the Rev. Jesse Jackson to call for a ban on assault weapons.

"We need to stop this violence. One way to do this is to ban the assault weapons that are easy to be accessed," Balwant Singh, a member of the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine, was quoted as saying by The Chicago Sun Time.