By G.P. Singh
As San Antonio’s first turbaned Sikh, I was especially saddened to hear the news of the shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday morning. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in the tragedy, including the brave officers who risked their life to protect those in peril.
In the last twelve hours, the San Antonio Sikh community has received tremendous support. Tragedies like these reveal allies and supporters, and the Sikh community in San Antonio is fortunate to have many. That said, Sikhs in San Antonio cannot help but feel a sense of shock and sadness after hearing of the events in the Oak Creek gurdwara.
(Simran Jeet Singh, the son of G.P Singh, and a doctoral student in religion at Columbia University in New York, wrote a column that appeared in today’s Huffington Post.)
The Sikh community in San Antonio, made up of over 200 families, has contributed to the vibrant culture of San Antonio since the 1970’s. Through professional services, restaurant and gas station owners, medical practitioners, and numerous other professions, the Sikhs of San Antonio have been recognized on numerous occasions for their contributions to San Antonio’s economy. In fact, a Sikh currently serves on the Mayor’s Committee for Vision 2020 and is helping to shape the future of San Antonio.
Service is a fundamental part of the Sikh religion – the principle of service stands as one of the highest ideals in Sikh doctrine. The founder of the faith, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 and served as the first Guru of Sikhism. He promoted oneness of all people and a strong sense of equality, for all religions, castes, and between men and women. Guru Nanak emphasized sharing one’s earnings with society for the benefit of all people, and he believed that a deep devotion to the Divine meant that one should live in harmony and love with creation.
Guru Nanak was followed by nine Gurus, who established other foundations of the Sikh faith, including the compilation of today’s Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the scripture found at the front of any Sikh congregation seen today. With the principle of equality, all Sikhs have direct access to reading the Guru Granth Sahib, a departure from other faiths founded in the region. Sikhism does not recognize a formal priestly class.
Nonetheless, there are those who specialize in learning and sharing the scriptures amongst Sikhs, and these congregation leaders were the first of those targeted in the massacre in Wisconsin. While the shooter’s motives remain unclear, the act was undoubtedly senseless and unwarranted. Given the visible uniform worn by Sikhs, Sikh history is riddled with targeted violence. Despite this, Sikh ideas promote standing up for righteousness without fear or hate.
It is in this spirit that the Sikhs of San Antonio will not live in fear. While there is a natural desire in the community to hide, take cover, and even run from the thought of another attack, the Sikh community of San Antonio, and Sikhs at-large, will continue to be a contributing part of society, be it through cultural programs such as the wildly successful Punjabi night (held this past weekend), contributions to the economy, or continued dialogue in the inter-faith community.
We hope that continuing to educate society about Sikhism and the fact that our core values are often the same as those of American values will prevent events like the one in Oak Creek, Wisconsin from occurring again.
And we can use your help. If you know about Sikhs, please do your part in sharing the tragic news and your belief that senseless, targeted violence should never happen. And if you are just learning about Sikhs now, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask questions.
One day, violence of this nature will no longer be something tolerated by our society. I hope that the sad events in Wisconsin will be our first step towards that day.
GP Singh was the first turbaned Sikh in San Antonio and founded Karta Technologies, the largest San Antonio based professional services defense contractor. Deeply involved in the San Antonio community, Dr. Singh has been honored with the Humanitarian Service Award from the United Communities of San Antonio. Dr. Singh formerly served as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank and currently advises companies and organizations, including the San Antonio Area Foundation, the Rapier Educational Foundation, and the San Antonio Bank. He has four sons and lives in San Antonio with his wife, Parvinder.