Terror war comes home: White supremacist kills 6 Sikhs in Wisconsin

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Sikh prayer A man in Wisconsin prays for his family members (Photo: Mike De Sisti/AP)

The systematic violence against Muslims that defines the so-called “war on terror” came home again yesterday, as six Sikh-Americans were shot and killed at a Wisconsin gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs. 

Sikhs are often targeted for harassment by people who mistake them for Muslims.

Muslim-American and Jewish-American organizations have released statements in solidarity with the Sikh community.

The New York Times has some harrowing details on the shootings yesterday:

The priests had gathered in the lobby of the sprawling Sikh temple here in suburban Milwaukee, and lunch was being prepared as congregants were arriving for Sunday services.

Instead of worshipers, though, an armed man stepped through the door and started firing.

In an attack that the police said they were treating as “a domestic terrorist-type incident,” the gunman stalked through the temple around 10:30 a.m. Congregants ran for shelter and barricaded themselves in bathrooms and prayer halls, where they made desperate phone calls and sent anguished texts pleading for help as confusion and fear took hold. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage.

Jatinder Mangat, 40, who was on his way to the temple when he heard reports about the shooting, said he had tried to call his uncle, the temple’s president, but reached the head priest, Gurmail Singh, instead. “He was crying. Everyone was screaming,” Mr. Mangat said. “He said that my uncle was shot and was lying on the floor and asked why you guys are not sending an ambulance and police.”

Mr. Singh, he said, had locked himself in a bathroom with four other people, including two children.

The shooter has been identified as Wade Michael Page, a forty year-old white supremacist and Army veteran. Page reportedly had a tattoo commemorating the 9/11 attacks; the tattoos on his body led the Federal Bureau of Investigation to consider this a “domestic terrorist” attack

The Southern Poverty Law Center has details on Page:

The man who allegedly murdered six people at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee yesterday, identified in media reports as Wade Michael Page, was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band…

In 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center has found that Page also attempted to purchase goods from the neo-Nazi National Alliance, then America’s most important hate group.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Page “served in the Army for several years and was assigned to psychological operations.” 

Juan Cole has a smart post up about the “atmosphere of virulent hate speech against American Muslims” that should be looked at closely in the aftermath of this shooting. Cole:

He likely thought he was targeting American Muslims. He operated in an atmosphere of virulent hate speech against American Muslims. A discourse of Islamophobia has plagued the United States in the past decade, pushed by unscrupulous bigots in public life and by entire media organizations such as Fox Cable News and other media properties of billionaire yellow press lord Rupert Murdoch. Among them is also Rush Limbaugh, who, incredibly, is still broadcast to US soldiers abroad.

Among the hatemongers are Frank Gaffney, and his acolyte Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), Rep. Peter King (R-NY) Daniel Pipes, James Woolsey, Robert Spencer, Steve Emerson, John Bolton, and sometimes Rudi Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and others, most associated with the Republican Party. The push for hate speech against American Muslims is funded by a small group of billionaires through their foundations. Some of the Muslim-haters are connected to the US arms industry and are hoping for profits from further wars in the Middle East. Others are Israel-firster fanatics. Others are looking for a bogey man to scare Americans with, so as to convince them to vote against their interests, as they used Communism during the Cold War to convince ordinary Americans to give up their constitutional rights.

Since 9/11, Sikhs have been the target of violence. My friend and colleague Jaisal Noor, who grew up in a Sikh family, filed this important and informative report for Democracy Now! on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:

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