Vandalism of Sikh Temple in Buena Park
Dec 05, 2015
The police in Buena Park, Calif., said on Wednesday that they had opened a hate crimes investigation into the vandalism of a Sikh house of worship after its members found expletive-laced graffiti referencing Islam and the Islamic State just days after the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
The graffiti was discovered on Sunday morning on the walls of the parking lot of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha as well as on a tractor-trailer parked there, said Jaspreet Singh, a board member of the temple.
“The graffiti had gang codes and a racial slur and profanity in reference to ISIS and Islam, which was misspelled,” Mr. Singh said. He said community members believed it was backlash for the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, which is only about 50 miles away.
“We are shocked by this incident and are concerned about our safety,” he said. “We are definitely scared now.”
Gurjot Kaur, a lawyer for the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group that is representing the Gurdwara Singh Sabha, said in a statement that the group believed the vandalism constituted a hate crime. “We believe that the Gurdwara Singh Sabha was vandalized because it is a Sikh house of worship,” she said.
Cpl. Bret Carter, a spokesman for the Buena Park Police Department, said the department was committed to keeping the Sikh community safe in the wake of the San Bernardino attack.
“The writing, because of what it is and because of the history of Sikhs being targeted in the past for retaliation after terrorist attacks, we are investigating it,” he said. “We want to take extra precautions to determine if this is a hate crime.”
Corporal Carter said the investigation was complicated because the truck, where the explicitly anti-Islam portion of the graffiti was spray-painted, was driven away from the temple before the incident was reported to the authorities. Temple officials provided the police with a photograph of the vandalized truck, but they have been unable to provide the name of its owner.
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Corporal Carter said the inquiry hinged on finding the truck’s owner and determining when it was vandalized. The graffiti on the parking lot walls appeared to be the work of a local gang, he added.
The incident in Buena Park is the latest case of alleged bias directed at Sikhs in the United States since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some of them were anti-Muslim in nature, suggesting the perpetrators had confused Sikhism, whose adherents traditionally wear turbans and beards, with the religion of Islam.
“I think mostly because of the turban that we wear and the long beard that we keep, people think we are related to terrorist groups,” Mr. Singh, the gurdwara board member, said. “They think the worst because of our beards. They get confused.”
In September, a Sikh man in a Chicago suburb suffered a fractured cheekbone after he was assaulted on his way to the store by a man who yelled, “Terrorist” and “Bin Laden” and “go back to your country,” the Sikh Coalition said.
Perhaps the most dramatic anti-Sikh attack since 9/11 came on Aug. 5, 2012, when a white supremacist gunman, Wade M. Page, killed six people in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., during Sunday services before shooting himself in the head.