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10 Aug, 2012

“We Are All Sikhs”: Call for Summit To Tackle “Extreme Hate, Bigotry” in U.S.

A rainbow alliance of over U.S. 170 civic, faith-based, immigrant rights, and civil rights organizations has called on U.S. President Obama to host a summit to address the “hate-fueled sentiment and bigoted rhetoric that has become much too frequent in our public and political discourse.”

Says the statement issued on Aug 9, “The level of hate and violence inflicted on innocent Americans because of their appearance or religious faith is now at a crisis point.”

Just some of the groups who have signed the statement are: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, National Korean American Service, Japanese American Citizens League, Network of Arab American Professionals, Council on American-Islamic Relations, National Council of Jewish Women, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, amongst others.

The alliance is inviting more organisations to join the statement of solidarity –  please email info@saalt.org with the name of your organization and the subject line “Oak Creek Solidarity Statement.” Read the full statement here.

Editor’s Note: Travel & tourism industry organisations can, and should, join this cause. There is no reason why the UN World Tourism Organisation and other international travel groupings cannot add their names in support of this statement. Let’s see who will be first.
Read Imtiaz Muqbil’s speech at the First UNWTO Conference on Tourism, Religions and Dialogue of Cultures in Córdoba, Spain, on 31 October 2007. It was entitled: Beware the “Other Global Warming”.

The statement came a day after the Sikh Coalition spearheaded nationwide vigils to mourn the victims of the shooting at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The vigils were designed to bring together “Americans of all backgrounds … to send a clear message of solidarity. We remembered those lost in Oak Creek. And we pushed for action to ensure no community will ever again suffer a similar fate.”

The Sikh Coalition estimates more than thirty vigils occurred across the United States and even more are planned in the coming days. According to a release posted on the www.sikhcoalition.org website, “We hope these events will hasten our collective journey to stamp out hate and intolerance in our nation.”

The message will be further underscored on Friday Aug 10 when the White House will host its annual Iftar dinner (Iftar is the evening meal to break the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan).

Ms Farhana Khera, President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, one of the civil rights organisations invited to the dinner, said in a statement, “They plan to take this opportunity to speak directly to President Obama about rising anti-Muslim hate and religious intolerance and urge him to use the power of his bully pulpit to promote our nation’s values of religious freedom, tolerance and pluralism.”

Ms Khera noted that even as the U.S. was mourning the deadly rampage against innocent American Sikh worshippers, a mosque was torched to the ground just hours later, and “an anti-Muslim hate group held a press conference and added even more vitriol by featuring speakers who describe American Muslims as a threat to our nation.”

The speakers were two well-known U.S. Islamophobes, Andrew McCarthy and Frank Gaffney, who “maliciously fanned the flames of hate and bigotry by hosting a press briefing in support of Rep. Michele Bachmann and four other members of Congress and their attack on American Muslims.”

Said Ms Khera, “Baseless, vicious attacks challenging the loyalty of a group of Americans because of their faith not only degrade our nation’s values of freedom and equality, but they also create an atmosphere of anti-Muslim hate and bigotry in which, sadly, some respond by killing and attacking their fellow Americans.

“Rep. Bachmann and company are clearly showing, yet again, that they have no decency or respect for their fellow Americans who are deeply suffering amidst tragedy because of the very hate and vitriol they have been promoting.”

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 Said Ms Khera, “Our nation has reached a crisis point where this reckless fear mongering has escalated into violence and the loss of lives of innocent Americans. It has gone too far, and it must stop – now.

“While there has been an outpouring of support and condolences for the victims of these hate crimes, we need our leaders to do more. It is time for public officials to step up and start taking a greater role in preventing hate crimes and challenging those who propagate religious bigotry.”

According to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), “Since 2010, with its manufactured controversy over the Park51 Muslim community center in New York City, CAIR’s Islamophobia Department reports that at least 88 American mosques and Islamic centers have been targeted by hate, including 13 acts of violence and 31 acts of vandalism.

“In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States tripled. According to FBI figures release last year, there were 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2010, compared to 107 in 2009.”


August 9, 2012 – This Friday, August 10th, a memorial service will be held for the six individuals who lost their lives in the tragic shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The 169 undersigned community of civic, faith-based, immigrant rights, and civil rights organizations expresses our deepest condolences to the victims and their families affected by the mass shooting which left six individuals dead, at least three others critically injured, and many others wounded. We are grateful for the efforts by many Gurdwara congregants, first responders, and the local community in Wisconsin who helped to save lives and prevented an even greater loss of life from occurring.

We call upon Americans to respond to this tragedy by supporting the families of the victims and Sikh community members. Over the course of this week, vigils are being planned around the country with the message of “We are all Sikhs.” We urge you to stand in support of the Sikh community and the values that bind us as Americans by attending a vigil in your area.

While facts are still emerging regarding the motivation of the perpetrator, the massacre at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek is part of a history of bias and violence that members of Sikh, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have endured in the decade following September 11, 2001.

Sadly, community members continue to report discrimination, and places of worship are routinely targeted. Within 24 hours of the Wisconsin shooting, a suspicious fire, now being investigated as a possible arson, destroyed a mosque in Joplin, Missouri. The level of hate and violence inflicted on innocent Americans because of their appearance or religious faith is now at a crisis point.

While our organizations represent a wide swath of individuals from different nationalities, backgrounds, faith traditions, and belief systems, we are bound together by a common purpose: we believe in the core American values of religious pluralism, equality, and inclusion. Our collective voices send out the message that as a nation, we must denounce the hate-fueled sentiment and bigoted rhetoric that has become much too frequent in our public and political discourse. The essence of our country after all is E pluribus unum: out of many comes a strong, unified one.

We call upon our elected leaders, and civic, faith-based, and educational institutions to take steps to address xenophobia, racism, and anti-religious hate in our country today. We ask President Obama to host a summit that brings stakeholders together to identify concrete solutions. And we urge all individuals, regardless of faith or background, to speak out against bigotry at workplaces, schools, and family kitchen tables. As Americans, we must stand together to protect our nation’s values of equality and freedom for all.