FACTBOX-Violent anti-Sikh incidents in U.S. since 2001

  • World
  • Monday, 06 Aug 2012

(Reuters) - A shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday in which at least seven people died, including the suspected gunman, is the latest in a number of violent incidents in the United States against Sikhs, who are sometimes confused with Muslims.

Police were investigating the attack as an act of "domestic terrorism" although the gunman has not yet been identified and it is not clear his motive.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States perpetrated by the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, Sikh men have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because they wear turbans and their hair and beards uncut.

Sikhs are not Muslims and the religion originated in Punjab, an area straddling Pakistan and India. The Sikh faith is the fifth-largest in the world, with more than 30 million followers. There are an estimated 500,000 or more Sikhs in the United States.

The Sikh Coalition advocacy group, the largest civil rights group for Sikhs in the United States, said it had received thousands of requests for assistance from members of the community related to employment discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying since the 9/11 attacks.

Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the Sikh Coalition, said it was hard to tell exactly how many incidents there had been against Sikhs because the FBI lumps them with anti-Islamic hate crimes in its statistics.

Here are some of the incidents against Sikhs in the United States since the 2001 attacks:

** In September 2001, an Arizona gas station owner, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was shot five times and killed by a man who mistook him for a Muslim and was seeking revenge for the hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

** In July 2004, Rajinder Singh Khalsa and his cousin, Gurcharan Singh, were beaten while walking to a restaurant in New York by intoxicated assailants who shouted profanities at them and insulted their turbans. Khalsa sustained multiple fractures to his face.

** In January 2008, Baljeet Singh, 63, suffered a broken jaw and nose in a beating while walking to a gurdwara in Jamaica, New York, by a man who swore at him and called him an Arab.

** In November 2010, cab driver Harbhajan Singh attacked in West Sacramento by a passenger who shouted racial epithets at him, called him a Muslim and punched him in the face several times. He suffered spinal and facial fractures. The two men involved pleaded no contest to assault charges.

** In March 2011, two Sikh men shot while taking an afternoon walk in Elk Grove, California, near Sacramento. Surinder Singh, 65, died at the scene and Gurmej Atwal died six weeks later. No one has been charged in connection with the deaths.

** In February 2012, a gurdwara, or Sikh house of worship, in Michigan was defaced with graffiti.

(Sources: RealSikhism, United Sikhs, letter to Justice Department from Representative Crowley, et al, Sacramento Bee, Detroit Free Press)

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