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Probe gurudwara shooting as a hate crime: Rights group

August 08, 2012 10:52 IST

America's premier civil rights group has urged authorities to probe the Wisconsin gurudwara shooting incident as a "potential hate crime."

The Anti-Defamation League, who had been tracking the alleged gunman, Wade Michael Page, 41, for quite some time now, alleged he was a "white supremacist skinhead" and a leader of "End Apathy", a white power music band affiliated with the Hammerskins, a longstanding hardcore racist skinhead group with a history of violence an hate crimes.

"We are deeply shocked by this heinous act of violence against peaceful innocent Americans targeted at their house of worship, apparently singled out because of their faith and appearance that makes them appear different from other Americans," said Abraham H Foxman, ADL national director.

"We strongly condemn violence against any religious group and we are confident that federal, state and local law enforcement officials are closely examining the possibility that this was a hate crime," he said.

Page, who sometimes referred to himself by the pseudonym "Jack Boot," is festooned with white supremacist tattoos, including a Nazi Death's Head tattoo and a Hammerskins tattoo, ADL said.

According to ADL, his band has been featured at many Hammerskin-organized white power music concerts in recent years, including the August 2010 "Meet & Greet BBQ & Bands in North Carolina, the Hammerskins' St. Patty's Day Show in March 2011 in Orlando, Florida, and Hammerfest 2011 in October 2011, also in Orlando.

"Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ADL and law enforcement officials have documented many apparent "backlash crimes" directed at Muslim, Sikh, and Arab Americans," Foxman said.

"We have raised concern about a spike in bigotry against Muslims and others perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.

This attack is another gruesome reminder that bigotry and hate against those whose religion makes them "different or "other" can have deadly consequences," he added.

According to ADL, the US Department of Justice has investigated over 800 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.

In a statement, the Consulate General of India in San Francisco said it is deeply saddened by the senseless act of violence perpetrated at the Wisconsin Sikh temple where a gunman needlessly took the lives of six peaceful worshippers and injured many.

"Our prayers and condolences go out to families and friends of the victims," it said.

In an unprecedented move, on August 6 the California State Assembly passed a Resolution recognising India's Independence Day and urged all Californians to join in celebrating the diversity of cultures.

During that time, Assembly Speaker, John Perez, echoing the sentiments of the House, expressed anguish at this senseless act of violence and the loss of innocent lives.

The entire Assembly observed a minute's silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

In Sacramento, Kazman Zaidi, president of the Taxi Cab Association, led a rally of Sikhs in the region to show support for the victims of the recent Wisconsin shooting. There was an interfaith meeting of the community members.

"People look and think 'Oh, he has a towel on his head, he must be just like Osama Bin Laden,'" taxi driver Harbhajan Singh said, pointing to his turban.

Sacramento Bee said in a report that after 9/11, members of the Sikh community have suffered harassment on being from confused as Muslims.

Expressing strong condemnation, the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) said it considers the shootings as unforgivable and unjustified criminal action directed to create fear among innocent citizens.

"We join with several community organisations and agencies in our condemnation as we share the pain and anguish of our brethren and sisters in the USA," GOPIO said.

The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) -- USA demanded that Obama administration take concrete steps to curb such acts of domestic terrorism against Sikhs who are mistaken for Afghans or Taliban because of their appearance and dress code.

"This is a shame that in the most developed, educated and prosperous nation in the world such gruesome incidents occurring at regular intervals. It is time that the laws to provide dangerous weapons for all must be amended," it said.
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