NJ Sikh Leaders Call for More Education After Shooting
In wake of deadly Wisconsin shooting, Garden State Sikh president, youth leader say many people around the world misunderstand their religion.
The president of the Garden State Sikh was in Europe on vacation when he heard about the shooting Sunday at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., that left at least seven dead.
"We were really shocked," Jaskaran Singh said. "There was no reason for it."
Singh, a Warren Township resident, said the Sikh Temple Gurudwara's home on Washington Valley Road in Bridgewater feels welcome by its neighbors in the community.
"We never have problems in Bridgewater with the neighbors or anything," he said. "Everyone is very friendly."
Gurinderjit Singh, a Sikh from Paramus and the president of Sikh Youth of America, said since 9/11, Sikhs have sometimes been misunderstood by the community and that education is crucial.
"We really don't feel unsafe," he said. "But unfortunately, there have been so many incidents of bias against the Sikh community since 9/11. We are the only people in the world right now who wear turbans, and long beards."
Gurinderjit said it is important to reflect and to emphasize education following such tragedies.
"I think people in the United States need to be educated," he said. "We understand those things like what happened in Aurora, [Colo.], the mass killing...it could be something like that. One of the reporters on CNN was saying, it's not only the guns, not only the crime, but the overall mental health and education of the American people."
Sikhs have been fleeing India for decades, Gurinderjit Singh said, and many felt that coming to America would be safer.
"In India, thousands and thousands of Sikhs have been eliminated from the face of the earth by the Indian government. ... We left thinking this place would be safe. ... Unfortunately, it is not a very good situation for the past 10 or 11 years, since 9/11."
Gurinderjit Singh said the United States, "being a superpower, with the best education system in the world, should have more...it is time for us to learn and improve and build on a strong community in the United States."
Part of Jaskaran Singh's job, as president of the Garden State Sikh Association, is community outreach. Recently, the organization has met with local school teachers to inform the community about their religion. The organization has also reached out to representatives from other churches and temples from various religions throughout the region.
"Unfortunately, our history books and our schools, they're not that informative about our culture and religion," Jaskaran Singh said. "There has been a case of mistaken identity...some people think we're Muslim, some consider us Hindus."
The religion has approximately 1 million members in the United States and have been living here for a century, according to Gurinderjit Singh.
The Garden State Sikh Association will discuss possible ways to help the families in Oak Creek, in an attempt to provide financial assistance or in any way that is needed.
"Obviously, we cannot fill their loss," Jaskaran Singh said. "People are seriously injured in the hospital. At this time all we can do is pray for the people that are in the hospital, to help them survive."
One of those injured is a police officer who was shot multiple times, according to CNN.
"It's really sad that one of our bravest has to go there in this kind of circumstance," Gurinderjit Singh said. "It's a tragic situation not only for the Sikh community, but also for all Americans.