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posted: 8/9/2012 5:00 AM

Better understanding needed of all Americans

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  • Rajinder Singh Mago

    Rajinder Singh Mago

By Rajinder Singh Mago

No one is an enemy, no one is a stranger. We befriend all. Believe in Fatherhood of God, and brotherhood of mankind. We are one family. One becomes inferior or superior only by one's deeds and not by what caste, class, creed or tribe one is born into.

All of the above are Sikh core beliefs, but the Sikh American community, which so proudly calls America home, is hurting today. And, in the midst of that pain, the outpouring of profound love and support the community has received from our fellow Americans following the shootings in Wisconsin is unbelievable.

Loss of any innocent human life is sad, but when it happens at a house of worship where men, women and children of an open, welcoming, all-inclusive and hospitable faith community gather to seek solace and pray to offer gratitude to "One Universal Ultimate Supreme Being," asking for the well-being of all humanity, then it has to be heart wrenching.

The shooting in the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh Gurudwara, or place of worship, on Aug. 5 that took seven lives was such an enigma and a senseless act of violence, but it did not define America for Sikhs. Perhaps it can lead to better understanding of Sikhs for America.

"As we mourn this loss, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family," stated President Obama.

There is no doubt the Sikh American community feels a great sense of unease resulting from this tragedy. The Sikh American community and other minorities have long felt an unfair burden of vulnerability, feeling both that we are mistakenly associated with people of other Arab faiths and that neither we nor any people should be singled out for abuse or ridicule because of our faith.

Incidents directed at Sikh Americans may appear to be random and isolated, but when they are viewed collectively over a period of time, a troubling pattern emerges that justifies enhanced actions by policymakers and law enforcement. It is crucial that the Department of Justice, through the FBI, collect and provide more detailed statistics on such incidents, so that law enforcement personnel are better equipped to combat hate crimes.

This time Sikhs were targeted, but it could be any other faith or ethnic community at any other time at any other place. This fear is very disturbing to Sikh Americans and to an overwhelming majority of peace-loving, caring and charitable Americans.

We hope that this tragedy will compel Americans to unite as a single community to work together to counter this subculture of intolerance, bigotry, hatred and senseless violence. We must take a firm stand in support of organizations building bridges of understanding with one another rather than walls of separation, fear, and hatred.

Hate is on the rise. But how can the police force protect every shopping mall, every school, every movie theater and every place of worship at all times? They need our help. Education alone can help dispel ignorance. The mediating forces of faith and interfaith must become stronger through mutual discussions and dialogue about ways to establish peaceful and productive coexistence among diverse groups.

We all need to educate ourselves about people who live here and make up our nation. How can we learn about people's faith and culture? And how can they learn about us? That's a significant step in promoting a sense of camaraderie and reduced fear of the unknown about someone who is unfamiliar, looks different, or has an accent.

Let us work together in solidarity to ensure that love prevails over hatred and such tragedies never happen again. May we learn sooner rather than later that we are all one -- and each others' keeper.

Let me say this, no matter what, America and Americans are still the best on earth, and I am not leaving. This is home.

Rajinder Singh Mago is co-founder of the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago, based in Palatine.

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