On 10th anniversary of Wisconsin gurdwara attack, Biden reaches out to Sikh-Americans

Updated on Aug 05, 2022 11:14 PM IST

On August 5, 2012, in a mass shooting at a gurdwara in Oak Creek in Wisconsin, Wade Michael Page, 40, an army veteran, shot several people, killing six. A seventh person, who was left partially paralysed, died in 2020

US President Joe Biden has condemned the deadliest attack so far on Sikh-Americans on the 10th anniversary of the attack on a gurdwara in Wisconsin. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden has condemned the deadliest attack so far on Sikh-Americans on the 10th anniversary of the attack on a gurdwara in Wisconsin. (AFP)

WASHINGTON: On the 10th anniversary of the attack on a gurdwara in Wisconsin, US President Joe Biden condemned the deadliest attack so far on Sikh-Americans, expressed solidarity with the community, categorically blamed it on White Supremacists, and called for more steps to reduce gun violence, protect places of worship, and combat domestic hate and terrorism in all its forms.

On August 5, 2012, in a mass shooting at a gurdwara in Oak Creek in Wisconsin, Wade Michael Page, 40, an army veteran, shot several people, killing six. A seventh person, who was left partially paralysed, died in 2020. After being shot by the police, Page killed himself at the spot. The incident sparked outrage both in the US and India, with the then First Lady Michelle Obama visiting the gurdwara a week later to express the administration’s support to the community.

In a statement on Friday, Biden said that when generations of Sikh-Americans in Oak Creek had constructed their own place of worship after years of renting local halls, it was a sacred place of their own and a connection shared with the broader community. “That sense of peace and belonging was shattered on the morning of August 5, 2012, when a white supremacist wielding a semi-automatic handgun arrived at the gurdwara and began shooting.”

Referring to First Lady Jill Biden, the president said that both of them knew that days like these bring back the pain like it happened yesterday, and mourned with the victims’ families, the survivors, and the community devastated by the heinous act.

Placing the attack within a wider context of increasing hate crimes in the US, the president said that the Oak Creek shooting was the deadliest attack on Sikh-Americans in our nation’s history. “Tragically, attacks on our nation’s houses of worship have only become more common over the past decade. It is up to all of us to deny this hate safe harbour. No one should fear for their life when they bow their head in prayer or go about their lives in America.”

But while expressing his grief, the president also lauded the Sikh community in Oak Creek for showing the way.

“After the attack, the Sikh community returned to their gurdwara and insisted on cleaning it themselves. The son of one of the victims became the first Sikh in American history to testify before Congress, successfully calling for the federal government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority groups. Every year, the congregation now hosts an annual memorial run to honour the victims. The event bears the words Charhdi Kala, meaning ‘eternal optimism’.”

This spirit of optimism, the president said, must lead to more steps on gun violence and called for steps to ban weapons that “terrorise congregations”.

“We must do more to protect places of worship, and defeat domestic terrorism and hate in all its forms, including the poison of white supremacy. We must ban assault weapons - used in many mass shootings at houses of worship and other sites across the country - as well as high-capacity magazines. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill to do just that. As a matter of conscience and common sense, the Senate must act as well.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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