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Local Sikhs Upset by Wisconsin Temple Shooting

The Lehigh Valley Sikh community of about 400 families is disturbed by Sunday's mass shooting at a temple in a Milwaukee suburb.

The  - found among farm fields and a few houses in Northampton County - is a religious center you might never notice.

For the 400 families the temple serves, however, the seclusion has become a cause for alarm.

 and many others wounded in a Sunday morning mass shooting at the  in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee.

Police said three bodies were found outside the temple and four were inside the building. The gunman is among the dead in what police are calling a "well-coordinated attack."

"We need protection here, too," said Jaswinder Singh, a committee member at the local Sikh temple in Lower Nazareth Township. "We’re not feeling safe."

While children -- some too young to understand the gravity of the situation in Wisconsin -- giggle and run down the temple's hallways, Singh said older members are hesitant and scared to come to the temple.

"Everyone is calling and contacting the committee, asking if it's safe to come to the temple," he added.

Singh said committee members plan to contact  officials later in the week to discuss how the temple could be protected.

"They want protection from the town," Singh stressed. "We need something."

In addition to worship services daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., the temple holds Punjab language and martial arts classes.

While one person described Sunday's shooting as "a hate crime," the motive has yet to be officially determined.

"Whatever [the motive], we don’t want that to happen here," Singh said. "This shouldn’t have to happen to anyone ever again."

Singh added, "The Sikh community is disturbed."

Relatives in India -- watching the situation in Wisconsin unfold live -- have been checking in to make sure the Lehigh Valley community hasn't been directly affected.

"They are calling their brothers, their cousins… they want to make sure it didn’t happen here," Singh said. "They are making sure we are all safe."

In addition to broaching the subject of protection with Lower Nazareth officials, according to Singh, committee members from Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Lehigh Valley will also meet with members from nearby temples in Easton and Reading.

The Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Lehigh Valley was established in 1999.

The local society first gathered for worship in the basement of an auto repair center in Easton. Members later built a temple off Route 946 near Christian Springs Road in Lower Nazareth Township. The group grew from just a few families in the 1970s.

Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world. It dates back about 500 years and is centered in India's Pubjab region.

At the Sikh temple in Lower Nazareth, worshippers remove their shoes, cover their heads and sit on the carpeted floor. They wear an array of brightly colored clothing including turbans for some of the men. 

More Sikhs have moved to the Lehigh Valley from New York City since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It's a religion that's often misunderstood and some members are afraid of being mistaken for Muslim, who in turn may be targeted as extremists.

Sikh leaders are working to get the FBI to more accurately track hate crimes against the community.

More about Sikhs:

Pronounced SICC-ism. Not an Arab faith, but a monotheistic religion with elements of Hinduism and Islam. Sikhs are often mistaken in the West for Arabs who wear turbans as an article of clothing. But all Sikhs, men and women, wear turbans and related covering over their uncut hair as a religious symbol of respect for God.

“Sikh” is derived from the Sanskrit for “he wishes to learn.” The word “guru,” or spiritual leader (from the Sanskrit for “venerable”), comes from Sikhism.

Founded in the Punjab region in northwest India in the late 15th century, Sikhism is known among its followers as Gurmat, or “the way of the Guru.” Ten human Gurus (the last died in 1708), Sikhs believe, are embodiments of a single spirit. 

Allan Bach August 05, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Should we be focusing on the fact that people were murdered? Whether they be Sikhs, Jews, Christians, or any other faith based group is secondary to the senseless killing of people. There wil always be some faction of society that is filled with hatred for those they do not understand. There are now families that have been turned upside down. My prayers for their peace at such a difficult time.
Susan Koomar August 06, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Thank you, Allan, for your thoughtful comment
WILFREDO G. SALCEDO, Sr. August 06, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Leave guns to the militia (soldiers, cops and other lawenforcers) and hunters only...Pea shooter or AK-17 is dangerous in anyone's hands...Researches show that there is no one characteristic feature of a person applying for a permit would tells us he will become violent in the future...Without guns, goons will be denied weapons of mass destruction...Adequate gun controls will take care of that.
louis kootsares August 06, 2012 at 08:15 PM
thats terrible everyone should arm themselves thats the best deterrant against terrorists and other bad people when bad things happen the boohoo pablum fed people try to use it as ammo to take away our 2nd amendment rights and with shady people like sadam obahma and the mayor wannabe god of new york you needs all the rights you can get

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