Friday, August 10, 2012

Attack was tragically stupid

Last weekend, Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and opened fire, killing six. The Southern Poverty Law Center had been tracking Page, an avowed white supremacist, and his hate rock band, "End Apathy," for 10 years before his horrifying attack on innocent people.

It was to his shame and our nation's shame a case of horribly mistaken identity combined with sick thinking.

After the World Trade Center fell on 9/11, after the perpetrators were identified as Islamist extremists and Osama bin Laden became the face of terror, all Muslims seemingly became a target. In Page's obviously sick, deluded and morally reprehensible thinking, Page must have thought he had the right to kill.

Turbaned Sikhs are not Muslims. Their 500-year-old religion and most of its approximately 700,000 practitioners in America are rooted in the Punjab region that straddles India and Pakistan. This is far from the first attack on Sikhs since 9/11. Their communities have suffered at least 700 attacks, according to the Sikh Coalition. Untold individual Sikhs have endured personal attacks as well.

Sikh men wear turbans. In fact, of all the people in the world who wear turbans, as many as 90 percent are Sikh.

Turbans worn by Sikh men are a sign of their respect for God's call for honesty, sharing and acceptance of the absolute equality of all humans.

Their turbans look distinctively different than the skull caps and turbans worn by some Arabs, and from the wrapped headwear of Afghans.

It's easy to assume that anyone, especially anyone in the United States, who wears something other than Western dress might be sympathetic with terrorism. It's easy to assume Muslims are dangerous. It's easy to assume that anyone who wears a turban is Muslim. Except these assumptions are beyond stupid.

Page is dead, so we will never be able to ask him whom he thought he was shooting. We will never be able to ask him how he concluded that peaceful people in a nation of laws that protect religious practice should lose their lives to a murderous white supremacist. We will never know why in a nation that values courts and due process of law, he appointed himself judge, jury and executioner—the facts be damned.

He must have simply thought he had identified an enemy to be killed. And whatever else it is, it is just tragically stupid.

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