Sikhs pray during a Wednesday night service at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Fairfield. The Punjabi-American Cultural Association is having a free seminar about mistaken identity, hate crimes and violence against Sikhs Saturday in Fairfield. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Sikh seminar aims to spread awareness

By From page A1 | September 08, 2012

FAIRFIELD — The shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed seven people last month shocked the nation and left both Sikhs and non-Sikhs wondering why it happened.

Many in local the Solano County Sikh community believe it happened because of lack of awareness.

Manjit Purewal, president of the board at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, said that while the incident was a huge tragedy, it was not an isolated incident.

“(The) Wisconsin (shooting) put Sikhs on the map, ” he said.

Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world. It was founded in the 15th century in the Punjab region by Guru Nanak Dev.

One of the five articles of faith that Sikhs follow is not cutting their hair. They also must keep their hair neat, well-kept and covered. When the religion originated, many Sikhs also worked in agriculture and found wearing turbans was the easiest way to cover their hair. That tradition continues.

Purewal said that many people, however, identify Sikh turbans with terrorists.

“I don’t like using (the term) mistaken identity,” he said. “Sikhs don’t hate anybody . . . . We should not hurt our Muslim brothers.”

The misunderstanding that the Sikh community faced increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Even before, during the Gulf War, they were misidentified and targeted as terrorists.

Solano County Sikhs have dealt with hate crimes and violence, including incidents of racial slurs, graffiti at the local temple, vandalism and a shooting outside the gate of the Fairfield temple.

To address these issues, 11 people from the community created the Punjabi-American Cultural Association. Their objective is seemingly simple: Create a better understanding among various communities and educate people about Punjabi culture and Sikh religion.

Through local events, classes, fundraisers and more, the Punjabi-American Cultural Association aims to not just create a better understanding with the non-Sikh community, but to involve themselves more in the mainstream.

They have seen a positive response from Solano County, said association founder Gupreet Dhugga.

“There are more people interested in knowing about Sikh religion,” he said.

The shooting in Wisconsin, however, highlighted the fact that the association’s work is not done.

“It is our moral responsibility to make people aware of our beliefs and our values,” Dhugga said.

The association is hosting its annual seminar Saturday and the timing is opportune — it is taking place nearly a month after the attack at the Wisconsin temple and a few days before the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“Since it’s so close to Wisconsin, this has highlighted awareness,” Purewal said.

The event takes place in four parts: it will begin with a social and free traditional Indian food and drink. Participating organizations, Sikh and non-Sikh, will then make 20-minute presentations about the history of Sikhs in America, from their migration in the early 1900s until now.

Representatives from participating organizations will engage in a panel discussion with the audience. Dhugga said many of the panel members are experts in the field of Sikhism and will answer questions to anything from their personal experiences to tips for small-business owners. They will also address questions about their religion.

The seminar will conclude with a traditional Punjabi dance performed by children from the Guru Nanak Temple.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St. For more information, visit http://www.pacassociation.org.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • The SugarJarSeptember 07, 2012 - 6:15 pm

    Kind of a billy goat gruff move. The problem is those who think it is okay to injure or kill someone else based on, what, their look???. These flames of lack of knowledge are fanned, for example, by those foolish enough to call the president--or Mike Kirchubel a Muslim as an insult.

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  • ellerySeptember 08, 2012 - 1:39 am

    the reason these innocent people at the temple were killed was because of lack of awareness? How about the guy was just a nut job killer . DO we need to be more aware of who we should go after ? I cant see myself going to a meeting to get educated about different peoples of this world, I respect all of them, as im sure 99 percent of americans do. Please sikh people, dont judge americans by the act of one american , we are better than that

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  • 30yrs_in_suisunSeptember 08, 2012 - 2:41 am

    Given that over 800 hate crime-related incidents have occurred post 9/11 i'd hardly call these the act of 1 american. even some in congress are calling for a separate tracking of these crimes because they're so high in number. it's a epidemic of intolerance condoned at the earliest of ages (kids teasing "hey, what's under your rag"?) that goes well on into adulthood where things like oak creek and the 2 murders in sac that make me think these outreach events are needed. Our democracy is only as strong as our collective response to intolerance and ignorance. Fairfield, stand up!

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 5:27 am

    First my sincere sympathies for your 30yrs in Suisan....I'll try and go easy on you..teasing kids not withstanding..I want to know what's under the rag too...TSA wants to know,the Secret Service will definately want to know...if a turbaned person walks on your plane in your heart of hearts YOU want to know too...is it a. Weapon?..is it a bomb,btw just kidding about your city Northern California,and indeed the whole coast is beautiful and breath taking at times..but of course you know that..I just wanted you to know that I know too

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 4:56 am

    Indira Ghandi a woman of peace was brutally murdered by her Sikh bodyguard detail..too bad she wasn't more aware...When I see Christian churches allowed and those of Christian faith not persecuted in Muslim countries...when I see tolerance for the Muslim that wants to wear makeup date a non-muslim and live a western style life..only then will I soften

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 5:10 am

    You respect all cultures you say..but some of those cultures do not agree...w/o educations of customs,mores,taboos etc..it's easy for a Westerner to inadvertantly offend..and sometimes that perceived offense could be the cause of your severed head looking back at you from the floor

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 4:46 am

    Well Sugarjihad you'd think obaghdad and Mr Mike would love to be called Muslim..something wrong with Muslims?..As for obama..he says he's been to all 57 states(Muslim Nation has 57 states)..he fails to hold National Prayer Day @ the White House...but hey roll out the Falafals for Ramadan..Nice big feast in the East Room for those care bears...Muslims can't wear jewelry during Ramadan...so an argute reporter notices the KenyanCowboy ain't wearing his wedding ring (no watch either).."Where's your wedding ring Mr President"?....."Oh..it's out for repairs"...look at your own wedding band folks do they look like high maintenance items to you....obama is a liar plain and simple and you liberals while you moan and try to deflect the important issues w/BS like Sugarjoke's comments you are all his enablers...Erudite Democrats,Republicans,and Independents hopefully will look past fools like me and vote on the issues that matter most..jobs,debt,economy,national security,foreign policy...I don't care if you're a Muslim,Morman,Atheist,Catholic whatever...get the job done work in a bi-partisan fashion and tell Sandy Fluke to take a cold shower...

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  • The SugarJarSeptember 08, 2012 - 5:12 am

    The troll impersonators do seem to repeat proven untruths and rumors. That old ploy of say a lie often enough and somebody will believe it.

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 10:17 am

    As opposed to a brain trust like Sugarjar who only has to hear a liberal lie once and it's gospel...what lump believes a wedding ring needs repairs?..answer: the same one who believed healthcare would cost 986billion only to hear now it's 1.6trillion and counting...that the deficit would be cut in half by the end of Barry's first term and UE rate would be @5.5now...Sugarjar your bus stop is coming up...was that the corner of Hope and Change? or was that the corner of Wishful and Thinking?

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  • G-ManSeptember 08, 2012 - 12:03 pm

    Whoops surprised no one called me on that...they're Hindi...OK no immediate danger of decapitation...the food will kill you

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