For Immediate Release
Primary Press Contact: Mark Reading-Smith
Media & Communications Director, the Sikh Coalition
Secondary Press Contact: Jagmeet Singh
Media & Communications Manager, the Sikh Coalition
New Initiative Works to Protect Sikh Places of Worship Against Attacks
October 18, 2017 (Washington, DC) – In response to concerns about increasing hate crime risk against Sikhs in the United States, the Sikh Coalition has launched a nationwide initiative to better protect gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) against shootings, arson and vehicular attacks.
“Sikhs have a long tradition of defending gurdwaras against attacks,” said Sim Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s National Advocacy Manager. “We want to work with leaders across the United States to do our best to prevent a repeat of 2012 mass shooting in the Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara.”
This year, the Sikh Coalition distributed its Gurdwara Security Toolkit by email and mail to over 200 gurdwaras across the country. Among these, 45 Sikh houses of worship have been introduced to local security consultants, and 25 have consulted with security experts so far in 2017.
This potentially life-saving advice is highly relevant to the Sikh American community. In late August, a gurdwara in Los Angeles was vandalized with threatening hate graffiti. During the last year, numerous mosques and synagogues have been subjected to arson attacks and bomb threats. In 2015, a white supremacist gunman murdered six worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2012, a neo-Nazi gunman opened fire on worshippers at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and permanently injuring several others.
“A lot of gurdwaras are lacking security measures, and it is better to be prepared now than later. Every gurdwara should use this opportunity," said Satnam Singh, a member of Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
In the 15 years following 9/11, Sikhs remain hundreds of times more likely to be targeted in cases of profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American. In March, a Sikh man was shot in Kent, WA after the attacker told him to "go back to your own country." In May, a Sikh American who has experienced hate violence firsthand testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the urgent need to address hate violence in the United States. Also in May, two men were found guilty of felony assault and hate crime charges and sentenced to a three-year term in California state prison for the brutal attack against a Sikh American.
The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States and has 15 years of legal and policy expertise on issues related to hate violence. For more information about the organization’s Gurdwara Security Initiative or for potential interviews, please contact Mark Reading-Smith or Jagmeet Singh.