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NYC’s Sikhs Call for Religious Tolerance in Wake of Temple Shooting

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Days after a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, New York City’s Sikh community say they will open the doors of their temples and cultural centers to anyone who wants to learn more about Sikhism.

Sikh civil rights organizer Supreet Kaur said she’s still “reeling in shock” from the temple shooting that left seven people dead, including the gunman, and three wounded in a suburb of Milwaukee. But she hopes the Sikh community will move forward by welcoming people of other faiths to learn more about their religion.

“It’s only through dialogue and taking this moment and using it to understand each other, that’s really the only way we can prevent things from happening in the future,” Kaur said.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that grew out of the Punjab region in India and Pakistan in the late 15th century. Men and women cover their hair with turbans and veils as religious custom. They are often mistaken for Muslim or Arabs and have become targets of anti-Muslim bias since the September 11 attacks.

Outside a Sikh temple in Woodside, Queens, community leaders and elected officials gathered Tuesday morning to hold a moment of silence and a vigil for the victims of the Wisconsin shooting.

Queens Congressman Joe Crowley, whose district includes a large number of Sikh and Indian American immigrants, also called for more religious tolerance.

“We also need to make sure Americans, all Americans, are educated about Sikh Americans,” he said. “Because you know what, they’re Americans just like all of us. They have families, they have wives and husbands and they have children.”

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