Anti-Muslim Bigotry Strikes Michigan Gurdwara

It’s sobering (and depressing) to hear about another hate attack in the United States fueled by Islamophobia, this one in the form of racist graffiti on a gurdwara under construction in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  SALDEF‘s recent statement about the incident states:

…the vandalism happened between the evening of Feb 5th and the morning of February 6, 2012.  The graffiti included vulgar language, racial epithets, the use of what appears to be a cross, a large drawing of a gun, and references to the attacks of September 11th.

SALDEF is urging law enforcement to classify the vandalism as a hate crime and prosecute the perpetrators, who have yet to be identified.  Anyone with information about the attack are being encouraged to contact the local police department directly.

As you can see in the photo, the graffiti states “Don’t build,” and makes reference to the Prophet Muhammad. While the spelling and grammar are poor, it seems safe to assume the perpetrator was fueled by Islamophobia of some sort.

We talk a lot about anti-Muslim bigotry here at The Langar Hall (as Jodha did on Monday), and it’s been at times disturbing to see comments on our posts reflecting the anti-Muslim sentiment in our community.  Some who consistently make it a point to distance themselves from Muslims in every way and in every situation might struggle with this stark reality:  the well-being, safety, and dignity of our community here in the US (and many other parts of the diaspora) is intimately connected to that of the Muslim community.

By and large, we are attacked because of anti-Muslim bigotry.  The Sterling Heights gurdwara was vandalized for that reason, and most of us who experience racist harassment as Sikhs in the US experience it through the vilification of Muslims and/or Arabs.

Isn’t it ironic that so many in our community themselves vilify Muslims?  What would things look like if Sikhs and Muslims truly did join together in solidarity, in brotherhood and sisterhood, to fight against racism and bigotry? It’s almost hard to imagine.  What if we united in India as two religious minority communities who have faced severe repression and violence by the state?  What if we united in Punjab across the artificial border that sliced our homeland into two nation states?

I remember in the days, weeks and months after 9/11/01, the first thing out of the mouths of many Sikhs when talking to the press, to politicians, or even their neighbors was, “We are not Muslims.”  While this is of course a fact, the implication of the statement if it stops there is: You’re attacking the wrong community.  Don’t come after us, go after the Muslims!  Sikhs wear turbans and believe in equality and freedom and love our country and our government, but Muslims? We don’t like them either.

On Monday Jodha invoked Pastor Niemoller’s famous quote from the days of Nazi Germany.  This should be reason enough for us to denounce this sort of justification of Muslim-bashing, not to mention it essentially being the antithesis of sarbat da bhala.

But also,  it hasn’t really worked out so well for us has it?  In 2012, gurdwaras are still being vandalized with anti-Muslim statements.  I still get called Osama or terrorist about once a week.  Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we indeed “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem.  As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is vilified, we will not be free, we will not be safe, we will not be sovereign.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”


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52 Responses to “Anti-Muslim Bigotry Strikes Michigan Gurdwara”

  1. Sunno says:

    Ignorance and lack of education is what I see in that graffitti: dont know how to spell or go past the irrational hate of something they dont know or care to understand.

  2. Narinder says:

    Shame to think people waste time doing this when they could be making their life or someone else’s life better. God must have put them here for some reason… just can’t think what it’d be?!

  3. Harjot says:

    It’s really painfull to hear & witness such stories… These acts should be condemed in all forums…

    It should also be noted that Sikhism is a much more pious & true religion than Muslim religion & history stands proof of atrocities borne by our great ancestors at the hand of Muslims… So rather than spreading sense of communal harmony betwen sikhs & Muslims, we should work towards strengthning our defenses against these rasist attacks… It’s Duty of every Sikh to protect his family & Gurudwaras…

    Sri waheguruji Ka Khalsa Sri Waheguruji ki fateh…r

  4. bhagat singh says:

    and also basim bhai……

  5. harman says:

    sad …basically its ignorance…its not education but awareness..not religion but humanity..God is one ..and we should respect that!
    sikhs being mistaken by muslims is jus becuz of the hatred after 9/11 ..but its sad,,Cuz every individual is different and the whole community cannot be termed as terrorists ..or whtsoever,,,
    ..its one of those racists who stoop that low to go over spiritual places n show their lack of knowledge and ignorance!

  6. Harjot says:

    @Hassan Memorising parts of Jap Ji Sahib doesn’t make you a Sikh & it doesn’t take out the Violence that your religion teaches… To do that you’ve to follow & understand the teachings of Sikh Granths & trust me once you do that you will no longer be a Muslim…
    Also to all those potraying this brotherhood Islam preaches & believes in Violence… The atrocities of Aurengzeb were carried out by those Hindus who were converted by force or greed & once they were guided by philosophies of Islam they simply turned into barbarians… How do you answer the Majority of World’s terrorism emerging from Islam…
    All I mean to say is that we Sikhs rather than serching peace with Muslims should infact focus more on our defences in society…
    All of my views are based on near & distant History & any Muslim should be as proud ad Im as a Sikh,but please don’t just by reading a few stanzas of Gurbani boast that you understand Sikhism…
    Read & understand Sikh History, how Guruji sacrificed his whole family for Dharam… To all Sikhs who preach Hindu-Sikh Brotherhood, please Read Sikh History…
    SatSri Akal…

  7. jodha says:

    @Harjot – your comments are just full of ignorance of the worst kind. The beauty of @Hassan is that as a Muslim, he too can experience the wonder of Jap Ji Sahib. From his post it didn't sound like he was trying to become a Sikh, just feel the wonder of Guru Nanak. You are not the gatekeeper of Baba Nanak. Many people of many traditions (and some even without) have stood at the door of Baba Nanak, far before you Harjot and many will stand at the threshold far after you.

    Muslims are people. Of course there are some that have engaged in violence, but most have not. It seems hardly fair to lay at the feet of the entire community the actions of some. KP Gill claims himself to be a Sikh and is a brutal murderer. Does he speak for all Sikhs?

    Your knowledge of Mughal history is also weak. Most Muslims in the period of Aurangzeb were so-called "Westerners" from Iran and Central Asia; in fact, many Indian-born Muslims would complain that they were not given due status and the "Westerners" were promoted.

    The majority of the world's terrorism does not emerge from Islam. The majority of that which governments have deemed 'terrorism' emerges from occupations – be it in Sri Lanka, Ireland, Punjab, Palestine, Kashmir, or anywhere else in the world.

    Sad to me @Harjot is that you have read history, but seem to have not taken any of the proper lessons. For just one example – google Pir Budhu Shah for an example of another, who sacrificed his whole family for Dharam.

  8. Harjot says:

    @Jodha… These are my beliefs & Kindly note that I’ve read enough History & ve been visiting Historical Gurudwaras throughout Punjab & all over… The martydoms of Shaheeds like Baba Deep Singh Ji, Baba Bunda Singh ji & many more bring tears to my eyes…

    Also Please do-not compare Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s sacrifices with those of mortals…

    Regarding Gate Keeper of Baba Nanak, I’m a lowly soul who if just manages a glimps of Baba Ji’s door will be mesmorised forever…

    I love my religion & staunchly believe that Oslam is Violent & we Sikhs should protect ourselves rather than singing these communal harmony songs…

    I don’t hate Muslims, but die to their Religious beliefs I don’t trust them…

    I’m a proud Sikh… Hope I’ve made myself clear…


  9. Pdruss says:

    When we push others down to lift ourselves, collectively we lose.

  10. Hassan says:

    Wow, I never thought my expression of solidarity would be rebuked in such a stinging fashion. I don't find the comments worthy of a response, but I do want to express thanks to Jodha and Brooklynwala for supporting someone whom they've never met.

    To clarify for anyone else: my perspective is shaped by my own faith and life experiences. My faith has taught me to avoid suspicion, avoid making fun of others, and that the variety of our colors and languages is a sign of Allah. My life experiences have taught me that we are all about 99% the same, but the 1% where the differences lie is to be savored and enjoyed as the "masala" of life. (I am an immigration lawyer, and have dealt with nationals of 93 countries around the world.)

  11. knowTheEnemy says:

    Sikhs need to make effort towards teaching westerners that even though they wear turbans, they are NOT muslims. Westerners need to be taught that unlike Islam, Sikhism teaches equality of all human beings, considers women equal to men, promotes education and good deeds for the betterment of humanity, that Sikhism does not advocate attacking someone just because they are a unbeliever. And that the Sikh God loves believers and unbelievers equally, and does not condemn anyone to hell. We need to point out to westerners that almost all muslims in the US do not wear a turban. And that if they encounter someone wearing a turban in the US, the chance is more than 99% that the guy is a Sikh. Such effort towards educating the westerners to differentiate between a muslim and a Sikh will go a long way towards stopping attacks against Sikhs.

    the well-being, safety, and dignity of our community here in the US (and many other parts of the diaspora) is intimately connected to that of the Muslim community

    A comment by Meena already responded to this, and since I completely agree with her, I'll reproduce the comment here again:
    "We dont need to show our solidarity with Muslims to be accepted in the US or anywhere else. To be accepted in the US we need to be well educated, well to do, a community that gives back, that educates others on what Sikhi is all about. That is what will make these attacks stop, not siding with Muslims. We need to be strong, to build our defenses and to take care of others less fortunate than ourselves and by that I mean people in Africa, Asia, the poor, the homeless and those addicted to substances to name a few".

    ….not to mention it essentially being the antithesis of sarbat da bhala.

    Does the concept of 'Sarbat da bhala' include making life easier for terrorists and Nazis?

  12. knowTheEnemy says:

    @Hassan and Basim,

    You guys seem to be nice people and I'll assume that you are not practicing taqiyya . It appears that you guys have not studied your holy books – the Quran, Sahih hadith, and Sira etc. You post qoutes by Sufis like Bulleh Shah but [most] Sufi beliefs are contradictory to Islamic teachings. When Bulleh Shah died, the true followers of Islam refused to bury him, threw his body in the garbage dump, and burnt his house with much of his poetry with it. Only about a third of Bulleh's poetry exists today.

    I strongly suggest that you read your 'holy' books with translations, and I guarantee that you will leave Islam.