Sunday’s shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, is not the first act of violence perpetrated against the Sikh community in recent years. In the wake of September 11, Sikh communities have suffered increased violent incidents in addition to countless incidents of general discrimination. While the exact motives of Sunday's shooter is still unknown, hatred towards Sikhs has previously been caused by misinformation over the Sikh identity, religious beliefs, and greater role in terrorism.
Livleen Singh, founder of the Sikh Youth Federation of North America, came to the United States when he was six-years-old. Kavitoj Singh, a student, is his son. They discuss the Oak Creek shooting from their point of view as American Sikhs, and what their experience has been like in post-September 11 America.
"One of the fundamental concepts of our religion is that we accept other faiths," Livleen Singh says. "That is a very key aspect of whatever we teach, because the reality is, we're not going to teach our children [to say that] 'Hey, [the Muslims] are right around the corner."
"What we want people to understand is that an act by an individual does not necessarily portray an entire community."
Livleen expresses this open view when it comes to the problem of assimilation. Immigrant communities are often caught between maintaining tradition and trying to fit in American society, but he believes that both are possible.
"We look to take the best of both worlds," Livleen says. "For example, we will absorb what is good in this culture, [and] we absorb what is good from the Sikh Indian culture."
Kavitoj echoes his father's sentiment, and says that he has a "pure motivation" to educate others about Sikhism. "[I want to] educate others about our religion, and about the fact that you can't judge an entire community based on an individual's actions or a small group," he says. "That's where a certain level of maturity and wisdom comes in, and then you have to really look at it from all angles and think, 'Am I acting impulsively or am I acting with proper knowledge and proper justification?'"
Livleen plans to discuss the Oak Creek shootings at the camp that he runs for Sikh children. "It is very critical, and we are going to be discussing it," he says. "It is something that we're going to talk about. It's something we're going to address in terms of how they should be responding when they go back to school in August and September, and we'll help them with it."