Sikh murders caused by Islamophobia
by Barry Sheppard (source: Green Left Weekly)
Wade Michael Page, a Nazi white supremacist, entered a Sikh temple in a town near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 5 and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol, killing six and wounding three others.
Page also shot a police officer who arrived on the scene, critically injuring him. After being wounded by another officer, Page killed himself.
Page’s ex-girlfriend, who belonged to the same local Nazi group he did, was later arrested on a weapons charge, but has not been implicated in the attack on the Sikh temple.
Since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Sikhs have been singled out by racists of various types. They have been victims of widespread discrimination and physical attacks, including murder.
The first victim of racist attacks after 9/11 was a Sikh man. Like many Sikhs, Balbir Singh Sodhi wore a turban and had a long beard. Since Sikhs originated in India, they are dark skinned. They “look like” Osama bin Laden.
A few days after 9/11, Frank Roque, an aircraft mechanic, drove into the gas station owned by Sodhi and shot him five times, killing him. Roque then shot at a Lebanese-American man, a clerk at another gas station, but missed. He then shot into a house where an African-American family lived.
Since the Wisconsin shootings, Sikhs in many places have held vigils calling attention to other murders in recent years since, as well as widespread racist bullying, graffiti and other forms of abuse.
Page was known to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which keeps tabs on racist extremists, for his association with different Nazi groups. He was known for his membership in different “white power” rock bands.
The murders at the Sikh temple have cast some light on this subculture of extreme racist music. Racist and Nazi rock began as an offshoot of British punk in the late 1970s, and spread to the US. Over time, it became more violent.
Mark Potok of the SPLC said: “The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, Black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies.”
One band that Page founded was Blue Eyed Devils. One of his songs, “White Victory”, includes the lines, “now I’ll fight for my race and nation, Sieg Heil!”
Another of Page’s bands, called Definite Hate, refers in one song to “our race war” and asks, “What has happened to America, that was once so white and free?”
Through their records and concerts, such bands are a prime recruiting tool among disaffected white youth, as well as a source of revenue for Nazi groups.
Another thing that has come to light as a result of the shootings has been the US army’s violation of its own stated rules against recruiting open fascists to meet recruitment goals for the ongoing wars.
Many such recruits wear their beliefs on their skins in the form of tattoos of swastikas. Another example is the “88” tattoo, which stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet meaning “HH”or “Heil Hitler”.
It should be noted that the various Nazi and other fascist groups are small and on the fringes. They are generally not capable of mounting major attacks on the labour movement or Jews, Blacks, Latinos and other targets.
Racist fears among whites have been stoked by the election of a Black man as president. Insofar as these fears have been reflected in any organised way, they have helped fuel the Tea Party.
This more mainstream manifestation has siphoned off racist discontent from small fascist groups, who lament they are in disarray.
Some Sikh spokespeople have sought to distance themselves from Muslims.
It is true that Sikhs are often mistakenly thought to be Muslims, but to try to say they aren’t as “guilty” as Muslims is wrong morally — and feeds into the same Islamophobic crusade rampant in the US that is the root of the attacks on Sikhs.
The racists, including less violent ones, do not care much for ethnic or theological niceties.
Some politicians, such as former Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, openly fan the flames of Islamophobia. Most, however, claim to be tolerant.
But at the federal, state and local level, governments have been profiling all Muslims.
One function hatred of Muslims serves is winning public support for the US wars and covert operations in the Arab and Muslim world, and for Israel’s drive against Palestinians.
Just as US soldiers were taught to view Koreans and Vietnamese as sub-human “gooks” during the US wars on those countries, US soldiers today are encouraged to view the population of the nations they are occupying as sub-human “ragheads”.
An especially egregious targeting of Muslims has come to light concerning the New York City police, although such practices are by no means limited to this agency.
Associated Press said on July 25: “Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD [New York Police Department], with the training and guidance of the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and beyond.
“Detectives infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and kept tabs on Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers [a university in the neighboring state of New Jersey].
“The NYPD kept files on sermons, recorded the names of political organizers in police documents, and built databases of where Muslims lived and shopped, even where they were likely to gather to watch sports.”
The huge operation went way beyond New York City (NYC) and even New Jersey to encompass much of the eastern seaboard. It is not known how many tens of millions of dollars, or more, have been spent on this ongoing vast racial profiling.
It was carried out on behalf of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg by NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who also oversees the huge “stop and frisk” of Blacks and Latinos in the city.
It has come to light that Kelly took part in the production of a movie called The Third Jihad. The film claims that “much of the Muslim leadership here in America” has as its goal “to infiltrate and dominate the United States”.
The movie was screened before 1400 NYC police officers as part of their training in 2010.