Indian Sikhs Shocked and Angered by U.S. Temple Shootingإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Indian Sikhs, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, voiced shock and anger Monday at the killing of worshippers at a Sikh temple in the U.S., with some suggesting American Muslims may have been the intended target.
"I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the shooting incident that has resulted in the loss of precious lives," the prime minister, himself a Sikh, said in a statement.
"That this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful," Singh said.
In Sunday's attack, a gunman shot worshippers at a suburban Sikh temple in Wisconsin, in the mid-western United States, killing at least six people before he was shot dead by police.
"I hope the American authorities would investigate who is behind this dastardly attack on innocent devotees and that they will ensure that such ghastly events do not take place," Singh told reporters later.
According to religious tradition, Sikh Indians wear turbans to cover their uncut hair and sport long beards.
In the United States they have often been confused with Muslims and targeted by anti-Islam activists, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Leading Sikh politicians in India said the temple shooting in Wisconsin may have been part of that pattern.
"I think it is a case of mistaken identity. Sikhs are often mistaken to be from the Middle East," said Manpreet Singh Badal, founder-president of the People's Party of Punjab.
"This is an opportunity, although a very sad one, to raise awareness among Americans about the Sikh culture and identity," he told Agence France Presse.
At Sikhdom's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, the atmosphere was tense and sombre as shocked Sikh devotees went to offer their prayers, amid the daily influx of tourists.
"This attack on Sikhs in the U.S. is shameful. People come to the gurudwara (temple) to find peace. It is a holy place," said Kulwinder Singh, 50.
In the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has traditionally had a large Sikh community, Sikh protesters blocked a national highway and brandished banners calling for stronger U.S. gun laws.
Manjit Singh, president of a Delhi-based Sikh party, said a peaceful gathering would be held later Monday outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi as a demonstration of solidarity with the victims.
"Sikhs contribute a lot to America, they are an important part of America," Singh said.
"This is a racially motivated case and the (U.S.) government needs to educate people about different communities so it doesn't happen again."
U.S. ambassador Nancy Powell visited New Delhi's largest Sikh temple to show solidarity with the grieving community over what she described as "this ghastly act of violence".
"We hope that families find comfort in the fact that so many around the world share their grief," she told reporters.
In Amritsar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, head priest at the Akal Takht, Sikhdom's highest seat of religious and temporal authority, urged all Sikhs in the United States to "remain vigilant".
"This is a security lapse on the part of U.S. government wherein Sikhs have become the victims of violence," Singh said, adding that a "chain of prayers" would be held in Sikh temples across India, including the Golden Temple.