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Sikh temple vandalized--but were Muslims the intended target?

sikh.jpg
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
/
saldef.org
Images of the vandalism at the Sterling Heights Sikh temple

Vandals targeted a Sikh house of worship in suburban Detroit this week. But there are signs they intended to target Muslims.

According to the Sikh Society of Michigan, the Sikh temple (known as a Gurdwara) in Sterling Heights has been under construction for several years, without any incidents or controversy.

That changed when someone vandalized the building sometime on Sunday night.

The vandals spray painted “don’t builed” [sic] on an outside wall. They also left images of a cross, a gun, and a misspelled version of the name “Mohammed.”

Muslims revere Mohammed as a prophet, but it has nothing to do with the Sikh religion. The word leads many to believe to believe the vandals thought they were targeting Muslims.

Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), calls the vandalism a hate crime.

“We joined the Sikh community in calling for local and federal law enforcement to use their full resources to investigate this recent hate crime,” Walid said.

The US Justice Department in Detroit says the incident is on their radar. They’ve met with members of the Sikh community about it.

But a DOJ spokeswoman says it’s not yet clear how they’ll be involved in the investigation, or any potential prosecution. Anyone with information about the incident should contact Sterling Heights Police.

Walid also suggests the incident could stem from politicians’ “fanning the flames” of xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in an election year.

“We hope that they will be a little more responsible,” Walid said. “They should understand that their statements and ads may push people over the edge, and they do have consequences.”

The US Sikh community has fallen victim to anti-Muslim sentiment before. A Sikh man was murdered in Arizona soon after the September 11 attacks. The killer thought he was Arab or Muslim.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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