Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Sikh Woman's Response To Wisconsin Gurdwara Shooting

By Tresa Haur Dusaj
Originally posted 8/7/12 at the Huffington Post

Last Sunday the Sikh community was the victim of a suspected act of domestic terrorism in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that resonated right here at home in New Jersey. Immediately upon learning the horrible and saddening news, I felt an instant closeness to the families in Wisconsin. I envisioned my own husband and family sitting in a Gurudwara on typical Sunday morning. Typically, I first enter the Gurudwara bowing to our holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The vibrations of the sacred hymns that are recited enter my ear and a blissful energy overcomes my spirit. Today, empathy filled my heart thinking of the humble servants, both men and women, ending their three day long prayer service and preparing meals for langar (community kitchen). It could have been me. I would typically make my way to the kitchen shortly upon arrival to the Gurudwara to help cook the round flat bread for the congregation each Sunday morning.

Since this tragedy, around the country and throughout the world, the Sikh community is receiving support. Social media is broadcasting the beliefs of Sikhs. Sikhs will no longer be viewed as unknown strangers but rather American neighbors. I am truly impressed by the media coverage of this horrendous crime. The country has come together as one with both Sikhs and non Sikhs having expressed their sympathy for those in Wisconsin and in the Sikh community. For Sikhs, the aftermath of this attack has brought a historic learning opportunity for the mass American population. Though there have been numerous hate crimes against both Sikh men and women since 9/11, there has never been this much attention or focus on the Sikh religion.

Sikh men are commonly mistaken for members of other religious groups because of their beards and turbans. In my own country, I am scared for my husband's safety post-9/11 because of his long flowing beard. Walking outside in our development, at our local mall, or at our local airport, my husband has been stared at, shouted at, and even bullied. Yet America is our home. My own fears led me to urge him to tie his beard following the 9/11 attacks. I told him that he should "blend in" or even "fit into society." I lived day to day wondering if my husband would be attacked. I wanted to try anything to protect him while preserving his Sikh identity. His reply was that any person with a beard, open or tied, and a turban will be seen as a foreigner in society. In the past, he was attacked and discriminated against based on his appearance. These acts occurred because of the lack of education among the general public of the Sikh religion. It saddens me deeply that this tragedy took place and the only silver lining within the storm cloud is the growing awareness and acknowledgement of the peaceful nature of Sikhism.

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