Sikh temples in metro Detroit, across U.S. to hold prayer vigils this week

Sikh temples in metro Detroit, across U.S. to hold prayer vigils this week

5:08 PM, August 7, 2012

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Prayer vigils at Sikh temples are being held this week in Michigan and across the U.S. to remember the victims of a deadly shooting Sunday near Milwaukee that was one of the worst hate crimes in the U.S. in recent years. Services were held Monday night at a Sikh temple in Madison Heights and are planned for tonight in a temple in Ada and tomorrow night in Plymouth and will be open to the public. Other faiths also are planning services for the Sikh victims, such as the Jain Temple in Farmington Hills.

Sikhs and other minority groups were shaken by Sunday’s attack that killed six Sikhs who had gathered inside the holy center for Sunday services. The shooter was a white supremacist who played in racist rock bands that featured violent images of minorities being attacked, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. One of the gunman’s bands, called Definite Hate, had artwork that depicted a white fist slamming the face of a minority man, blood spurting out the victim’s nose.

“It’s a shock,” Jaspal Kaur, 45, of Troy, said of Sunday’s shooting. “The community is in a state of shock … It’s saddening. It’s scary. Especially in a house of worship, where you have people of all ages, many young children.”

There are seven Sikh temples in southeastern Michigan and additional temples in other parts of the state.

In Hidden Falls Gurdwara, a Sikh temple in Plymouth. on Sunday, there happened to be a national gathering of Sikhs. Harleen Kaur, 18, was there and remembers fear rippling through the center as news of the shooting spread.

Kaur grew up near Oak Creek Wis., where the shooting took place, and knew the president of the Sikh temple, who was shot dead in the attack. She said she wasn’t surprised to read reports of the president trying to save others in the temple.

“Everything he did was filled with compassion, kindness and giving,” Kaur said.

Kaur hopes that out of this tragedy can come some understanding.

“This is a time for everyone to come together and learn about each other,” Kaur said. “We’re trying to educate Americans about who we are.”

Over the past decade, many Sikhs have faced discrimination, hostility and in some cases, violence. Over the past decade, many Sikh men — who are required to wear beards and turbans covering their uncut hair — have been shaving their facial hair and not wearing turbans out of fear.

Sunday’s attack prompted calls from some civil rights advocates for federal law enforcement to further investigate white power and neo-Nazi groups.

“I hope this tragedy is a wake-up call that hate hurts America,” said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “And that law enforcement on the federal level start taking white supremacist terrorism more seriously.”

Wednesday night’s service starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by a candlelight vigil at 8:30 p.m. at Hidden Falls Gurdwara, 40600 Schoolcraft Road, Plymouth.


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