Buena Park Gurdwara Vandalized in Wake of San Bernardino Shootings

  • Some of the hate graffiti that recently vandalized the Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Buena Park, Calif. “We are of the opinion that this is a hate crime and that this is a direct result of a possible backlash from the San Bernardino killings,” said Gurdwara president Inderjot Singh. (sikh24.com photo)


In a possible case of mistaken identity, a Sikh temple in Orange County, Calif., was vandalized by someone who apparently thought it was a Muslim house of worship, AP reports.

The Sikh Coalition said a graffiti vandal hit the temple in Buena Park, Calif., sometime between the night of Dec. 5 and the morning of Dec. 6, in the wake of last week’s San Bernardino shootings by a Pakistani American couple. The coalition added that a member’s truck in a parking lot also was targeted by someone who misspelled the word “Islam” and made an obscene reference to ISIS.

The vandalism, which included hateful graffiti with the phrase, “F***k ISIS, along with gang references, was reported to police.

No arrests have been made.

“We believe that the Gurdwara Singh Sabha was vandalized, because it is a Sikh house of worship,” said the Sikh Coalition’s senior staff attorney, Gurjot Kaur, an Indian American of the Sikh faith. “We call on local and federal agencies to investigate this vandalism as a hate crime and request increased law enforcement security at the gurdwara immediately.” Gang graffiti can be a precursor for additional targeted violence, noted the statement by the Coalition.

The Sikh Coalition says it has repeatedly been faced with hate crimes and discrimination since the 9/11 attack. Sikh men wear a turban and beard and often become a target of hate due to ignorance about Sikh religion and its origin in the U.S.

In September, a Sikh American father was viciously assaulted in a suburb outside of Chicago after being called “Bin Laden.” In 2014, Sandeep Singh, a Sikh American father in New York City, was run over and dragged 30 feet after being called a “terrorist.” And in 2012, a gunman with Neo-Nazi ties walked into a Sikh gurdwara and shot and killed six innocent Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

“I am thankful for law enforcement’s attention to this investigation,” said Gurdwara president Inderjot Singh. “However, I believe this crime must be investigated as a hate crime to ensure that we do not ignore the patterns of intolerance and violence that Sikhs and other minority communities continue to face,” he said, adding, “We are concerned about the safety and security of our community members. We are of the opinion that this is a hate crime and that this is a direct result of a possible backlash from the San Bernardino killings.”

According to the Sikh Coalition, the member who owned the truck was visiting from out-of-state (possibly Texas) and left the area shortly after the incident.

IANS reported that the Buena Park Police Department is investigating the incident and has been in touch with the officials of the Sikh congregation, according to Washington-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education.

Located prominently on the main road in the city, the Sikh gurdwara is attended by over 800 community members on a weekly basis.

SCORE chairman Dr. Rajwant Singh had contacted the White House and senior White House officials in turn contacted the gurdwara president. In addition, the White House has forwarded the incident to the Department of Homeland Security to investigate, it said.

“The Sikh community across the nation is in a heightened state of alert and is deeply troubled by this latest incident,” Singh said.

“We are appealing to all Sikh places of congregation to be in touch with the local law enforcement agencies as well with the elected officials.”

“We are also concerned with the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric coming out of some of the contenders of American presidency,” he said, warning, “This will directly result in elevated level of violence against minority religions in America and particularly the Sikhs,” Rajwant Singh said.

“We are fearful that this kind of hate speech against Muslims will engulf Sikhs and members of the Muslim community across the nation.”

According to a report on ocregister.com, Inderjot Singh was told by the Buena Park Police Department that extra patrols would be added to the area during worship services.

The incident was the first act of vandalism against the temple, formerly known as the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Buena Park, in its 32 years, Singh said.

“Mostly people confuse who’s wearing the turban, because the people they see wearing it are with al-Qaida or ISIS,” Jaspreet Singh, who attends the temple, told ocregister.com.

He believes the incident could possibly be a reaction to last week’s shooting in San Bernardino in which 14 were killed and 21 were injured. Investigators believe the two suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, had been radicalized and that one of them pledged allegiance to ISIS.

“That tells me that this was a backlash for what happened in San Bernardino,” Jaspreet Singh was quoted as saying by ocregister.com, adding, “We believe in hard work, equality, religious freedom and freedom for our women. The things which have been in the American fabric are very closely linked to the principles of Sikhism.”

Source: India West