Saddened by Sunday's shooting that claimed six lives at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, Dr. Harmeet Singh is hopeful that the tragedy will bring attention to and education about his religion.
Singh, one of few Sikhs in Alamance County, learned of the violence when his sister-in-law phoned Sunday. He'd just returned home from worship at the Durham Sikh Gurudwara temple he and his family attend.
The shooting killed six congregants and critically wounded three others. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran who allegedly played in a white supremacist hate-rock band, is accused of opening fire in the temple. An FBI spokesman said Wednesday that Page was injured by police fire, but took his own life at the scene.
There is no known motive for the killing spree.
Singh believes Sunday's violence stems from ignorance about Sikhism. Because of the turbans many male Sikh's wear, they are often confused with Muslims. That's led to more fear and confusion since 9/11, Singh said.
"Education is the solution to this, so that people don't fear us," Singh said Wednesday. "I just want people to know that it is a peaceful religion" that aligns with the much of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Sikhism dates to the 15th century in northwestern India. It is a monotheistic religion, preaching the equality of all people. Service to others is also an important aspect of the religions, Singh said.
Their book of worship is called the Guru Granth Sahib, compiled from teachings by the religion's gurus, and members are taught to seek family life. Sikh men often don't cut their hair. Women often wear scarves on their heads.
Singh said the nationwide outpouring of support and sympathy for the Sikh community -- and concern shown to him by patients, friends and colleagues -- has touched him. It's why the United States is the greatest country in the world, he said.
"I think the whole country is glued together in showing support with what happened," he said.
Co-workers and friends have never made him feel uneasy about practicing his religion. Singh did say, though, that offensive things -- such as "Osama go home" -- have been yelled at him when he's out in public. Again, he chalks that up to ignorance.
Singh emigrated from India to the U.S. in 1997. He completed his clinical training at East Carolina University and was an assistant professor at that university's Brody School of Medicine for three years. He and his family moved to Burlington in 2009 after he was recruited by Alamance Regional Medical Center to begin kidney and dialysis services through the hospital.
His wife is also in medicine. They have three children, a 9-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old son and a 9-month-old son.
He knows of one other Sikh family in Alamance County but doesn't know them personally.
He and a co-worker planned to attend a Wednesday night vigil for the shooting victims at the Gurudwara in Durham. The Durham temple has a membership of nearly 400 families, Singh said.
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