Law enforcement authorities in California are probing the incident of vandalism of a Gurdwara as a possible hate crime,community activists and officials have said.
The Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Albert Martinez said yesterday that investigators are treating it as a hate crime unless their inquiry reveals otherwise.
“Law enforcement agencies are making headway. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been alerted and is closely watching the investigation,” Birpal Kaur,community relations manager of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF) in Los Angeles said.
“The Riverside Police Department and the Sherrif’s Office are looking it as a hate crime. They are exploring this as a hate crime,” she said.
Kaur added that on Monday,some unidentified individuals painted the word “terrorist” on the wall surrounding the temple.
“We do not know yet who was behind this,but this is an act of hate crime. Yesterday city officials have came to the Gurdwara to clean up the graffiti,” she said.
Opened in 1989,its priest head Anantvirr Singh said that this is for the first time that someone has written hate language.
“There were words terrorist written several places on the wall of the Gurdwara. We do not fear for our safety and security. Since 9/11,everyone thinks we’re terrorists. I’d invite those people to the temple and see what we’re about. I think they would learn what a loving religion we are,” Singh added.
“Hate crimes are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Satnam Singh Chahal,of North American Punjabi Association.
According to a recent Harvard study,83 per cent of Sikh Americans,reported that they or someone they knew personally experienced a hate crime or incident,and 64 per cent expressed fear of danger to themselves and their families.
“Many members of the Sikh American community face deep-seated feelings of fear,insecurity,and disorientation,” Chahal said.
Of late Sikh temples in the US have been a victim of hate crime and vandalism,with more than half a dozen such incidents being reported in the past one year.