Ten years later, and we’re still not safe

On Friday, two frail and elderly Sikh men were gunned down in cold blood as they went for a walk in a suburb of Sacramento. Surinder-Singh[1].jpg

Surinder Singh, 67, died Friday afternoon on the sidewalk along East Stockton Boulevard near Geneva Pointe Drive. Gurmej Atwal, his 78-year-old friend, was shot twice in the chest. His family said he was in critical but stable condition [link]

The police are looking for a tan pickup seen leaving the scene and nearly $30,000 in reward money has been pledged by different community groups. One of the first to step forward with $5,000 was the Sacramento chapter of CAIR; I only hope members of the Sikh community will be willing to do the same in return.

Gurmej-Atwal[1].jpgAuthorities have admitted that they have no other motive for the crime (they weren’t robbed, they didn’t pick a fight at the club the night before, they weren’t kingpins of organized crime families), so it looks very likely that this was a hate crime. The FBI have been contacted, and hopefully will be investigating.

What boggles my mind is both the kind of coward who would shoot two old men (both heart attack survivors and frail) and the kind of virulent hatred which would motivate them to single out these two men, in broad daylight, in a quiet suburb. What kind of twisted person would think this was a good thing to do?

Every time I hear about a hate crime incident, a little bit of my naive belief in the American dream dies. I was involved in outreach and education long before 9/11, I’ve spent years of my life doing it, but the kind of person who would pull a trigger is also not the kind of person who cares who Sikhs are, or what Sikhs believe, or even whether Sikhs are the same or different from Muslims. We are simply the other, an amorphous mess of browness that spans the world (somehow including President Obama), and we are all threats.

There’s something in particular about this crime which hurts more than others, which makes it more personal. My grandparents came from India when I was a kid, and every day they would go for a walk in a nearby park. I know how these two old men must have shuffled slowly around their suburb, I can imagine the way the car screeched to a halt (something which has happened to me many times), the insults that may have been thrown at them, and the sound of the gunshots. All my grandparents are dead, but these men were somebody’s grandparents, men who came half way around the world, and whose quiet peaceful retirement was interrupted by the bang and flash of a bullet exiting the muzzle of a gun. I just can’t understand it.

65 thoughts on “Ten years later, and we’re still not safe

  1. The difference is I acknowledge everyone else’s right to dress, speak, and act how they choose and their capacity to practice (or not practice) whichever faith they choose.

    It’s no impressive thing to espouse “tolerance” when you hold yourself above it all and claim the whole thing to be bullshit. It actually takes work to be tolerant when you care about the subjects being discussed. You don’t actually make a case for religious tolerance by telling everyone they’re full of shit without understanding where they’re coming from.

    It’s amazing how you can attack my opinion while ignoring those who outright deny people should express religious beliefs.

    I ignored nothing. I simply don’t see the point in chiming in to repeat things that are already being said by everyone else.

    What have I said to indicate I don’t bother learning about religion?

    “Religion by default is blind faith and irrational.” There are evangelical fundies who espouse this view. It is a refuge for people who can’t be bothered to defend their beliefs in formal argument. They don’t speak for anyone but themselves.

  2. “killing innocent civilians for undeniably (perhaps unintentionally) bad US policy in the Islamic world “..umm last i checked neither reagan nor clinton held a gun to the ‘islamic world’ in trying to implement whatever ‘undeniably bad US policy’ you talk about… & moslems were overwhelmingly tending republican pre-911 days. this is a huge tragedy for the family & friends of the innocent elderly sikh men killed. they had every right to walk around in turbans or frocks or whatever attire they choose to garb themselves in – & had the right to be tolerated/left alone…demanding every every religion be respected is stupid – respect is earned’

  3. “It’s no impressive thing to espouse “tolerance” when you hold yourself above it all and claim the whole thing to be bullshit. It actually takes work to be tolerant when you care about the subjects being discussed. You don’t actually make a case for religious tolerance by telling everyone they’re full of shit without understanding where they’re coming from.”

    Yoga Fire (MoorNam?) I would suggest you start reading Alina-M’s posts from the beginning and not from the response to Majority-Minority who is clearly subscribing to the “D’Souza Newsletter for Indian Acculturation”

    Moreover, one doesn’t need to be tolerant in order to believe that people have the right to eat, talk, dress and pray as they wish. I can hate Manichaeians but that doesn’t mean I have any right to tell them to not to live their lives as they choose.

  4. Yoga Fire (MoorNam?) I would suggest you start reading Alina-M’s posts from the beginning and not from the response to Majority-Minority who is clearly subscribing to the “D’Souza Newsletter for Indian Acculturation”

    I’m pretty sure that “tolerating” someone is literally defined as putting up with them eating, dressing, talking, and doing whatever else as they please. Tolerance is really the bare minimum level of acceptance you need for normal social interaction out in the world.

    My point is, it’s very easy to be “tolerant” of all religions when all religions are the same to you (i.e. bullshit/fictitious/imaginary.) If you actually have no stake in the debate then regardless of who wins the argument you’re still dealing with imaginary stuff. If you DO actually have a strongly held opinion or belief, however, you are going to get more riled up about people disagreeing and flaunting their disagreement.

    You don’t make a persuasive argument to such people by telling them “both of y’all are full of shit so stop fighting already.” You have to talk to people based on their own beliefs and worldviews (within reason). If you want to persuade a Christian that shooting at Sikhs is bad you need to persuade him that he’s being a bad Christian by doing so. No don’t dismiss him out of hand.

  5. You don’t actually make a case for religious tolerance by telling everyone they’re full of shit without understanding where they’re coming from.

    That’s not the argument I’m making at all. I suggest you go back and re-read my posts because I’m not going to respond to personal attacks based on an argument you made up. If you disagree, so be it, but don’t make up BS or put words in others mouths; that’s trolling.

    My point is, it’s very easy to be “tolerant” of all religions when all religions are the same to you (i.e. bullshit/fictitious/imaginary.)

    Why are you assuming all philosophies are equal? Newsflash: they’re not. They each have individual aspects, some with merit and others not. You’re the one collectively lumping everything into an “imaginary” box. No one thinks Islam = Christianity = Flying Spaghetti Monster = Shintoism. You have a very Black-and-White sense of thinking here which is incompatible with reality.

    If you actually have no stake in the debate then regardless of who wins the argument you’re still dealing with imaginary stuff.

    If you don’t think that a non-religious person of South Asian descent with a Muslim name has a stake in a debate about Muslim Americans (or mistaken Muslims) getting attacked, then either you’re an idiot, or just not paying attention.

    You don’t make a persuasive argument to such people by telling them “both of y’all are full of shit so stop fighting already.”

    No one is making that argument here. You’re literally becoming hostile for no reason and consequently misinterpreting everything and putting words in people’s mouths. Not worth responding to anymore.

    • “If you don’t think that a non-religious person of South Asian descent with a Muslim name has a stake in a debate about Muslim Americans (or mistaken Muslims) getting attacked, then either you’re an idiot, or just not paying attention.”

      In his defense, I didn’t think you were Muslim either; every Alina/Alena I’ve ever met was Eastern European

  6. “Tolerance is really the bare minimum level of acceptance you need for normal social interaction out in the world.”

    And yet, it appears most of the world is nowhere close to that, which incidents like this demonstrate. If we could reach even a moderate level of tolerance within the next 50 years, that alone would be a major human accomplishment.

  7. I am getting a strong feeling that “Majority Minority” is PG. The North Indian city name dropping (by her) kind of giving it away !!! I could be wrong, though !!

    Quite saddened by this senseless act of hate. It is depressing.

  8. I have honestly never met a Muslim American who said any such thing. I would like to see stats indicating Muslim Americans “love the idea of theocracy”.

    You are not being honest. You participated in the recent thread about the protests against a popular sharia-loving speaker at a mostly desi muslim meeting in Orange County, so you are indeed aware that there are many such muslim americans. How many muslims dare to speak out against sharia?

    I just want to mention that despite the heat of the arguments I think you are quite a rational, intelligent and decent person and I think you are a breath of fresh air in this forum.

  9. Dev: “Most americans do embrace religious tolerance today. So do most if not all hindu and sikh immigrants to America. It is mainly some muslims who love the idea of theocracy.” Alina-M: “I would like to see stats indicating Muslim Americans “love the idea of theocracy”.” Dev: “How many muslims dare to speak out against sharia?”

    Answer 1. http://www.minaret.org/index.html Answer 2. A lot Answer 3. Prove me otherwise

    Observation 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Converse_accident Observation 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignoratio_elenchi Observation 3: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition

    Simmer down folks. Someone might end up yelling “Hindutva” soon.

  10. In his defense, I didn’t think you were Muslim either; every Alina/Alena I’ve ever met was Eastern European

    I have mentioned my heritage a couple times now in posts. You are right that Alina is a Slavic name, but it is also Arabic. It is particularly common amongst Pashtun people of Pakistan/Afghanistan (my family is Pashtun and there is an Alina every generation). I am 100% South Asian and speak Urdu, Dari (Farsi) Pashto, and Arabic. Sorry to go off-topic but I wanted to tell you this, because I don’t want to be perceived as a Pardesi here.

    @Dev – I am being honest, I said I have never “met” one :) I’m definitely aware there are some nutters, like the ones in the news frequently, but I don’t think those nutters should be representative of the bunch. Thanks for the compliment.

    • I was just trying to be a smartass about the name, and speaking of that quality – upcoming smartass comment alert!

      In Hindi linguistic classifications, the term Paradesi/Videshi is used to indicate words that were derived from languages like include Persian, Turkish or Arabic. So etymologically speaking … you are Paradesi !

      Anyway, I will stop offering my non sequiturs on this thread.

  11. @Rahul – PS, the “M” is for Mehmoor…about as stereotypically muslim as you can get, haha. So although I’m not religious, through my skin color, name, family and heritage, I am still tied to Islam in a sense and always will be.