Sikh Americans Welcome the death of Bin Laden with Caution

Community suffered since 9/11 due to Mistaken Identity

Washington, May 3, 2011 - Sikh community members in America have welcomed the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death in the hands of American security forces. They also expressed caution since this event has the potential of reviving some of the prejudices that the Sikh community had to face since 9/11 due to mistaken identity. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh in Phoenix, was killed on September 15, 2001, as America’s first victim of backlash hate violence.

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), said that “We commend President Obama’s leadership in bringing justice to a man who caused so much grief to many fellow Americans and to so many people around the world. Thousands of Americans lost their loved ones and many had to suffer due to Bin Laden’s inhuman acts on 9/11. Bin Laden’s execution provides a relief to many but they may not recover their loss. "

He added, “Bin Laden's terror acts has affected the Sikh community greatly. We are concerned that the images of Bin Laden with turban being shown on TV and on the internet can create confusion in the minds of many and instigate reaction towards innocent Sikh bystanders. Sikh community faced the backlash around the world due to mistaken identity and many even lost their lives in America. The prejudice and violence was even experienced by Sikh youngsters in America.  We pray that good sense prevails and we can face these challenging times holding each other together. We are thankful to both President Bush and President Obama for giving Sikhs the support during the last decade.” Dr. Rajwant Singh met with the White House officials on Monday to keep them informed of community’s concerns.

Gurvendra Singh Suri, CEO of Optimal Solutions, in Texas, said, “We thank the brave men and women serving in the military and intelligence fields whose work to secure our nation have now brought the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, to Justice. We hope his death will bring some relief to all the families, of every faith and walk of life, who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in every other terrorist attack orchestrated or inspired by the perverse hatred of Bin Laden’s misguided ideology.”

Famous image of an American Sikh boy with American flag in a rallyimmediately after 9/11

Dr. I.J. Singh, a Sikh author and professor of Anatomy in New York University, said, “Osama bin Laden is dead. How should I, a Sikh-American react? First I am satisfied that justice has been done; Osama, who directed the killing of thousands of innocent Americans, has now met his end as he should have years ago. Secondly, as a Sikh I am profoundly concerned. The past ten years have seen many hate crimes against Sikhs, including murder, by patriotic but misguided Americans who could not tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim follower of Osama. We would need to be vigilant and proactive in our communities and in liaising with local police and authorities. Any preventive measures we can initiate would be more useful than a bunch of protests and copious hand-wringing after the fact.”

Sarbjit Singh Sidhu, Chairman of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Washington, said, “We are happy that Osama Bin Laden no longer poses a threat to the American people thanks to the United Stated Armed Forces. We are grateful that the terrorist master-mind of the 9-11 attack and other attacks around the world which have killed thousands of innocent people has been eliminated. Sikhs in particular have been affected and suffered after 9/11 due to mistaken identity, being wrongly identified as radical Islamists.”

Satinder Singh Rekhi, CEO of RSystems in Sacramento, CA, and Chair of SCORE’s board, said, “This momentous achievement is a victory for people of all cultures around the World who seek peace, freedom and a world with more love and less hatred.

We thank President Obama for his leadership, the Central Intelligence Team, the U.S. Navy Seals and all the men and women who were instrumental in accomplishing this mission.”

Rana Singh Sodhi, youngest brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, “ My brother understood that as a nation if we as individuals and institutions did not take immediate action then -- and I fear now– we will continue to lose many more innocent people. The founder of Sikh faith established our articles of faith 500 years ago which includes the turban and beard, which symbolizes to us our devotion to God and equality of all people. Some other people in the world wear turbans and beards. In the United States, it is the Sikhs that wear turbans.”

“Today we are remembering all of the victims of September 11th those innocent people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. They themselves or their family’s were from many countries and proud Americans.” Rana added, “With all of the media coverage of Bin Laden we have to remind ourselves not to react to the sorrow and each other,”

“Unfortunately, to this day we still have American killing and targeting Americans. Hate crimes, backlash, and especially backlash murders continue to be the Invisible causalities of September 11th and the war on extremism” GuruRoop Kaur Khalsa, Sikh Community Spokesperson “The war we are fighting is against hate and fear, not against each other. Since September 11th, men, women, & children from all faiths & cultures have been affected by the acts of violence and discrimination that have taken place in the aftermath of 9/11. Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first such death categorized as a hate crime.”

“AS  a Sikh- American while I congratulate  our Commander-in- Chief  on the success of a daring mission, I still carry the burden of knowing that the aftermath of 9/11 has not stopped its back lash on my community.  The assaults on Sikh- American men because of mistaken identity continue. Several incidents have resulted in severe injuries and even fatalities. Innocent Muslims have likewise been targeted. While America rejoices in the demise of a monster, we must make sure that there are no monsters amidst us who want to vent their  hatred on innocent fellow Americans, that we  respect all Americans regardless of their color or creed, and that that in times of tragedy and moments of jubilation we remain responsible citizens. Ultimately educating the masses about the diversity in our nation   will bring down the walls that divide us. Until then every time a terrorist’s turban is flashed on a TV screen, the unintended consequences of such images will loom large in the mind of Sikh – Americans. “ said, Jessi Kaur  An active Sikh women leader in San Francisco, an Author, CO- Founder of International Institute of Gurmat Studies (IIGS) and Board Member of Washington based Kaur Foundation.

Some images of Sikhs after 9/11

Sikhs (Bhai Mohinder Singh and Rikhiraj Singh) in Chicago after 9/11

Balbir Singh Sodhi's image at the spot where he was fatally shot in Mesa, Arizona, on September 15, 2001

A PRAYER FOR AMERICA CEREMONIES AT YANKEE STADIUM NYP2001092312 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2001 - NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA: Members of the Sikh community who had Family and friends killed in the World Trade Center complex destruction by terrorist on September 11th celebrate their lives at "A Prayer For America" ceremonies held September 23, 2001 at New York Cities Yankee Stadium. cc/ep/Ezio Petersen UPI

Cardinal Bernard Law of the Archdiocese of Boston (C) is surrounded by religous leaders, Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen (L), Archbishop Demetrios C. Trakatellis (2nd L), Dr. Rajwant Singh (behind Egan) and Rabbi Joshua Haberman (R), as he speaks to the Press after meeting with President George W. Bush in the White House in Washington on September 20, 2001. The Interfaith Group denounced all acts of racism and bigotry towards Muslim-Americans and Sikhs. —REUTERS

Dr. Rajwant Singh, President of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (C) holds hands with Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church (2nd L), from New York, Cardinal Bernard Law, from Boston (2nd R) and Rabbi Joshua Haberman after meeting with President George W. Bush September 20, 2001 in Washington, DC. Other faith leaders, Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen of the International Buddhist Committee (L) and Imam Hamza Hanson, Zatuna Institute from Herwood, California (3rd R) also met with the press. (Photo by Mike Theiler/Getty Images)

President George W. Bush meets with members of the U.S. based Sikh community in the White House September 26, 2001. Bush is meeting with leaders from various religious communities to urge Americans to demonstrate their tolerance and support for those of different faiths. (Win McNamee/Reuters)(from left to right - Mohinder Singh, Dr. Rajwant Singh, and Darshan Singh Dhaliwal)

Photo: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr Rajwant Singh from The Sikh
Council, Dr Jaswant Singh Sachdev, Balbir Singh Sodhi's brother Rana Sodhi and hisson at the first memorial event held at the Capitol Hill on December 11, 2001

Indian Sikhs in Delhi

 Sikh Gurdwara (spiritual center) in Fresno, California

Dr. Nijhar, A Sikh doctor who served at the Ground Zero immediately after 9/11

Bush with Sikhs in the Jefferson room at the White House on September 26, 2001


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