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US first lady to see Sikh shooting victim families


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US first lady Michelle Obama — Reuters Photo
US first lady Michelle Obama — Reuters Photo

MILWAUKEE: The Sikh temple where a white supremacist killed six people earlier this month has been largely repaired. A crisp new American flag flies out front, prayer services have returned to a normal schedule and walls once scarred by gunfire are now covered with banners of support from around the world.    

While the Sikh community in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, continues to mourn the dead, they have taken solace in one fact: The killing has drawn attention to their religion and given them a chance to share traditional Sikh messages of peace and justice with a global audience. A scheduled visit Thursday by first lady Michelle Obama offers one more opportunity to preach unity and compassion.

''There's a prayer we say twice a day, asking God to please give peace to everybody and give progress to every person in this birth,'' said Inderjeet Singh Dhillon, one of the temple leaders.

''We don't mention a person's name or color or religion. We just say one word for every human on Earth.''

There are an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Sikhs living in America. However, it's not uncommon for Sikhs to keep to themselves, leaving non-Sikhs to wonder from afar about Sikh customs — for example, why the men might have long beards and wear turbans.

Sikh leaders in the US have tried to change that. They have encouraged people of all faiths to visit their temples and sit with them on the floor to partake of free meals. One of those leaders was Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and one of the six people killed Aug 5.

Kaleka tried to fight off the gunman with a butter knife, buying time for others to hide in the temple. The gunman, white supremacist Wade Michael Page, later killed himself during an ensuing gun battle with police.

Kaleka's son, Amardeep Kaleka, said the gunman may have sought to divide the community, but his actions backfired.

Addressing a crowd of hundreds at a candlelight vigil two days after the shooting, he said his father would have been thrilled to see so many Sikhs and non-Sikhs coming together as one.

''He's probably up there thinking, 'Great, everybody's together,''' Amardeep Kaleka said. He added that his father was educating more people about Sikhism in death than he was able to in life.

Michelle Obama was scheduled to meet privately Thursday with families of those wounded and killed. Rajwant Singh, the chairman of the Maryland-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said her visit was a welcome gesture.

''It is important that these families hear firsthand how she and the president feel about this terrible tragedy,'' he said.

In the weeks after the shooting, well-wishers from around the globe have sent cash, flowers and banners of support. They have also sent cards on behalf of Police Lt Brian Murphy, the Oak Creek officer who was among the first to respond to 911 calls from the temple.

Page shot Murphy nine times from close range before shooting himself in the head after being wounded. When other officers tried to tend to Murphy, he tried to wave them off and direct them to help worshippers indoors instead.

Murphy was released from the hospital Wednesday. A hospital spokeswoman said Murphy had requested that the media respect his privacy.

A second shooting victim remains in critical condition. A third was released last week and the fourth was treated for minor injuries on the day of the shooting.

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Comments (18) Closed

Aug 23, 2012 10:28pm
Very simple, just use your brains. He was committing his crime in the name of white supremissm and not in the name of Christianity. He wasn't even a practicing Christian. Just having an Anglo Saxon name does not mean anyone is Christian.
kajah mydeen
Aug 24, 2012 03:34am
why doesn't she visit the victims of US drone attacks in FATA??? American foreign policy and double standards!
Aug 24, 2012 03:35am
Perhaps what is obvious to most of the international community needs to be broken down for your sake. You are right that the white supremacist was a terrorist in every sense of the word. However, isolated incidents without an widespread violent ideology that is seen to be accepted by a majority of co-coreligionists is not considered terrorism world-wide. Ditto with the Samjauta express incident. My deepest apologies, rather sympathies, that you or your ilk feel otherwise.
Asim Mehmood
Aug 23, 2012 11:23am
The Sikh temple where a "white supremacist" killed six people earlier this month has been largely repaired. why white supremacist? why not title him Christian Terrorist or Christian Extremist ? why only media title the religous association when its some muslim ? Big question for media. Including pakistani media and international.
Aizaz Moin
Aug 23, 2012 10:41am
Wow, she is one gorgeous woman.
Aug 24, 2012 06:38am
because your doing double game in afghanistan
dr vimal raina
Aug 24, 2012 04:13am
because Christianity does not endorse killing non-believers by the sword.
El Cid
Aug 29, 2012 10:06pm
@dr vimal rain: It does. Categorically, emphatically, and does. Open their book. Its called the Holy Bible. It says it all. Read it. Done.
Aug 23, 2012 06:42pm
Completely agree!
Aug 23, 2012 05:41pm
Asim, he was not fighting in the name of Christianity....he was fighting in the name of his racial superiority. Whereas, the Islamic terrorists fight in the name of jihad/ their religious fanaticism.
Aug 24, 2012 04:22am
You are partly right ,he should not be called white supremacist but muslim hater.He mistook sikhs for arabs.
Aug 24, 2012 02:28pm
Is your question relevant to the article?
Aug 23, 2012 04:42pm
Because we have become beggers.... They give us Aid...they, then do trade and then they Invade.... As we allow them to do so..................We as muslims enjoy being treated like this and they keep on enjoying pressing us against the walll..............................
Aug 23, 2012 04:23pm
The difference is he did not kill for his religion.
Aug 23, 2012 04:03pm
I do agree with you Asim
Aug 23, 2012 02:44pm
fully agree with you.......
Aug 23, 2012 03:05pm
Aug 23, 2012 03:04pm
christian terrorist would be more appropriate name for this act.