The Sunday shooting in a Wisconsin Sikh temple has prompted local groups and law enforcement–including the –to remind the public to be aware and report suspicious activity in or near all houses of worship.
The Sunday morning shooting left seven people dead in the Wisconsin city of Oak Creek. , details slowly being released by law officials are pointing to the fact that the gunman may have been involved in a hate group.
That fact has prompted Islamic groups–which have been targeted for hate crimes in the time since 9/11–to stand in support of the Sikh community.
Though it is unclear whether the gunman in this case acted out of anti-Islam sentiments, the confusion of Sikhs and Muslims is not unheard of in cases of hate crimes.
Sikh Indians, because of religious tradition, wear turbans to cover their uncut hair and have longer beards. They are often mistaken for Muslims and have been the targets of racially-motivated crimes by anti-Muslim people and groups.
In February, the Council of Islamic American Relations of Michigan reported that . Though there were no Muslim ties to the house of worship, the anti-Muslim nature of the act was evidenced by references made to Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, in the words graffitied on the temple.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid at that time asked law enforcement to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
Muslim-targeted hate has been common, too, Walid said.
In June, a fire at a structure owned by a mosque in Dearborn . The building in question was owned by the , and was spray-painted with obscene graffiti.
Walid noted that there have been a number of similar incidents targeting mosques in Maryland, California and Minnesota.
In response, CAIR-MI created a "Muslim Community Safety Kit" aimed at equipping local communities "with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry or attacks."
Many of the tips in that kit were reiterated Monday by the Dearborn Police Department, which issued an alert asking residents to watch for and report suspicious activity.
"Considering the recent senseless acts of violence in public places and houses of worship Chief (Ronald) Haddad is asking all residents to pay extra attention to these areas and report any suspicious activity immediately to the police," the alert said.
Some things to watch out for, according to police, include:
- Vehicles or persons that do not belong in the area
- Vehicles parked illegally
- Packages, cases, or boxes left unattended or found in odd locations
- People or vehicles in the area before or after business hours
Residents can report any suspicious activity to the Dearborn Police Tip Line at 313-943-3030.
But above awareness, many religious groups are also promoting a stance of unity with the Sikh community.
In a statement to Dearborn Patch, the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit–which was the driving force in Dearborn last year–held that hate against any group touches everyone.
"Besides seven dead, many others were wounded. However today every minority community in America has been wounded also," commented IFLC President Bob Bruttell. "Their sense of well being replaced by a sense of profound vulnerability. The painful destruction that hate wreaks reverberates in all our communities. It touches all of us. It highlights the unhappy fact that America tolerates way too much hate.
"We must come together with the Sikh community and all the other minority communities who are marginalized and promise them that all of us will work every day to root out hate and protect the innocent."