Shooting shocks New York City Sikh community
by Kathleen Lees
Aug 08, 2012 | 1835 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The last time Mohan Khatra spoke to his uncle was the night before he died. A Queens’ resident, Khatra said he had planned a trip to visit his relative, Suez Khatra, in Milwaukee.

“It’s very sad,” Mohan said. “I can never see him again.”

Khatra's uncle was among six worshipers unned down on Sunday, Aug. 5, at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the suburb of Oak Creek.

On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly joined local Sikh community leaders at the Sikh Cultural Society in South Richmond Hill to advocate a “no tolerance” policy in the wake of the tragedy.

“No matter who you are or where you’re from; no matter what religion you profess, you have the right to be safe in your homes, in your places of worship and on the street in New York City,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg stressed the recent Aurora, Colorado, shooting as a warning that the presidential candidates do not take the issue of gun control seriously.

“Every day, 34 people are murdered with guns,” Bloomberg said. “The presidential candidates can not continue to avoid this issue.

Kelly said an officer who was shot in the Wisconsin incident, Brian Murphy, is the brother of a NYPD detective who recently retired.

Sikh community leader Harpreet Singh Toor expressed his shock regarding the shooting. “If in America we can’t feel safe, then where can we feel safe?” Toor said, stressing his concern about the ease with which criminals can obtain a gun.

Due to the possibility of a copycat attack, groups of policeman were sent to Sikh religious institutions throughout the city. With the vast majority of Sikh worshipers from India, there are roughly 27 million followers worldwide with a growing population of 15,000 in Richmond Hill and nearby neighborhoods in New York City, according to community leaders.

Since the September 11th attacks, Queens resident and member of the Sikh Cultural Society, Pritpal Premi, said he believes some religions have been the target of hate crimes.

“I feel very sad,” Premi said. “This is very different from Muslim dress but people group it in the same bunch.”

The gunman involved in the shooting was identified as 40-year-old Wade Michael Page. The army veteran was shot dead by a policeman on the scene. Though his motive has not yet been confirmed, Page played in white heavy metal supremacist bands Definite Hate and End Apathy, according to reports.

Former Brooklyn resident and current Milwaukee alderman, Nik Kovac, said that this lone incident doesn't represent the Milwaukee area, which he said has a history of forward-thinking and racial tolerance.

“Members of the Sikh community are visible and active in Milwaukee society, and always have been my entire life,” he said by phone Monday.
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