Police chief cautions residents to stay safe, cautious after Sikh temple shootings

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN —Police Chief Ronald Haddad is taking extra measures to make sure local residents stay safe and remain calm following the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh temple shooting Aug. 5 where a gunman allegedly shot and killed six people.

“We want to make sure we take precautions here (but) we don’t want to be alarmists,” Haddad said. “We want to be proactive in light of what has occurred. We don’t have a specific threat here, but we want to galvanize religious and civic leaders to keep vigilant.”

Army Veteran Wade Michael Page, who died after shooting himself in the head, according to reports, allegedly shot and killed temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, Ranjit Singh, 49, Suveg Singh, 84, Prakash Singh, 39, Sita Singh, 41 and Paramjit Kaur, 41, according to a published report.

Dawud Walid, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director-Michigan Chapter, said CAIR continues to urge all mosques to pump up their security, especially during the month of Ramadan, which began July 19 and ends Saturday.

“There are nightly programs and prayers services going on and there (needs to be) heightened security at the mosques,” Walid said, adding that individuals should report any strange behavior they see to the police.

Walid said although CAIR encourages individuals to take necessary precautions to remain safe, at the same time, the organization does not promote living in fear.

“There has been a few incidents in Dearborn in the past year or so, but for the most part Muslims live comfortably in the city without fear,” Walid said. “Overall (Dearborn) is a Muslim-friendly communty.”

Walid said the Sikh community has suffered attacks because bigots confuse the religion with Islam because of the followers’ brown skin color, beards and head coverings.

“Bigots confuse them to be Muslims,” Walid said. “In this case we will wait for more facts but we know the shooter was a white supremacist bigot who hated Muslims, as well as blacks and Latinos.”

Haddad met with Dearborn area religious and civic leaders a couple days after the shooting to discuss safety measures that could help protect mosques and other religious institutions.

Haddad also sent out an alert encouraging residents to pay extra attention to their surrounding areas and report any suspicious activity to the police.

“Suspicious activity may include observing vehicles or persons that do not belong in the area,” the alert said, “vehicles parked illegally, packages/cases/boxes left unattended or found in odd locations, or observing people/vehicles in the area before or after business hours.”

Although there are no known Sikh temples in Dearborn, there are at least 20 mosques in Dearborn; the Islamic Center of America is the largest mosque in the United States.

Some major differences between Islam and Sikhism include pilgrimage beliefs, religious practices and traditional customs.

According to differencebetween.net, teachers in Islam are called “rasools” or “nabis,” while teachers in Sikhism are called “gurus.”

Another prominent difference in the two religions is the pilgrimage belief. Individuals following Islam practice taking a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudia Arabia, at least once during the followers’ lifetime.

The Sikh religions believes in acknowledging one creator and the followers live main principles including staying focused in meditation and prayer, making an honest living by righteous means, sharing earnings and selflessly serving others, according to www.religioustolerance.org.

The religion originated in the late 15th century in the Punjab region of what is now India and Pakistan.

Because of a numerous amount of attacks against Muslims in the past, CAIR developed a “Muslim Community Safety Kit” to protect against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry attacks, according to cair.com.

Some of the basic steps toward fighting Muslim/Arab hate crime involve reporting suspicious activity in the community, developing positive relationships with law enforcement agencies, meeting with elected officials to discuss community concerns and establishing a community support network, among other similar preventative measures.

Janet Lucas, secretary for Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin, said the department does not plan to take any safety measures for mosques in the city.

The Islamic Center of America’s Kassam Ali did not respond to a request to comment.

Residents can report any suspicious activity to the Dearborn Tip Line, 313-943-3030.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)