Last Friday, a Sikh man in Washington was shot in the arm after being told, “Go back to your country” by the gunman. Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
“We’re early on in our investigation and the shot resulted in non life-threatening injuries, however we are treating this as a very serious incident,” Kent police Chief Ken Thomas. “To think that this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing,” Thomas said.
Seattle-area Sikh community leader Jasmit Singh was also disappointed, saying, “It was very disheartening to see the news that somebody was actually a victim of a hate crime in a city that we have never felt that before.”
Hate crimes against Sikhs have risen since 9/11; because of their turbans and long beards they are often mistaken for Muslims. The Sikh religion has more than 25 million followers worldwide, yet a 2015 survey found that 60% of Americans know nothing about them.
Singh has condemned the White House’s silence on the attack, saying that it needs to speak out against racism and bigotry.
“Investigating this as an anti-Sikh hate crime is critical, because without our government agencies recognizing hatred for what it is, we can’t combat the problem,” Singh said. “In the past — in Bush, Obama time — there was swift action and communication saying that this is unacceptable. We aren’t seeing any response from this administration.”
In a statement, the Sikh Coalition spokesman Rajdeep Singh said, “While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority,” he said. “Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate.”