It was during preparation of the langar, the free kitchen which welcomes all without exception, that Wade Michael Page strode into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin yesterday to kill.
Langar (Punjabi: ਲੰਗਰ, Hindi: लंगर) is the term used in the Sikh religion or in Punjab in general for common kitchen/canteen where food is served in a Gurdwara to all the visitors (without distinction of background) for free. At the langar, only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals. Langar is open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
The institution of langar is an expression of the deep Sikh valuation of the equality in the eyes of God and the God-minded of all people. It’s a common meal in service to humankind: a practical and daily act of Sikh believers throughout the world, prepared and served to all comers regardless of any of the myriad differences of faith, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, caste, social status… anything.
The Washington Post on the murders:
Late Sunday, Tirlok Singh walked alongside Gurmel Singh, the grief-stricken head priest, whose brother-in-law was among the dead. Tirlok Singh gave raw voice to what many Sikhs said has been their predicament. “Tell the people we are not Muslim. We are different. We are Sikh. I want you to convey this message,” said Singh, who is also one of the temple’s priests.
Shiveharn Ghuman, 59, was among the Sikhs who rushed to Oak Creek from the Chicago area, about two hours to the south. The retired electrical engineer has a turban and beard, and in the aftermath of 9/11 experienced the taunts. “They said, ‘Hey, Osama. Go home,” he recalled.
From an AP article about the white supremacist murderer:
Potok said there’s no research showing white supremacists hating Sikhs, indicating that Sunday’s attack was almost certainly an example of someone mistaking Sikhs for Muslims.
No, Sikhs are not Muslims. But whether Muslim or Sikh, whether any other religion, or of no religion at all, etc. etc. — no one is deserving of murder. Besides, I agree with the fictional Will McAvoy of the HBO series The Newsroom:
We weren’t attacked by Muslims. We were attacked by sociopaths.*
It’s said that love is blind. No offense to blind people, many of whom carry within themselves the most discerning of hearts, but I reckon that what’s really “blind” is hate. Maybe Wade Michael Page didn’t know the difference between Muslims & Sikhs, but in the end his hatreds obscured all differences except his own differences from whomsoever he chose, in hate, to differentiate himself. In the end, it didn’t matter to him who he killed. It mattered very much to those he killed, & to their families, to their friends, to anyone who truly cares to love.
But if you truly care to love, please think of this: we as a people, a nation, a humanity, should hold every bit as much outrage & sorrow in our hearts if the people Page walked in to kill had been Muslims. Of course, we’ve been busy killing Muslims — many thousands of innocents as well as the “guilty” — from the moment we started the shooting wars in Afghanistan & Iraq. How little sorrow we typically express for that. Acting in blindness, we share in the guilt.
Here is what love is:
Rakkaus on ankara ja lempi kova,
siihen juolee seisaalleen ja silmät jää auki.
(Love is severe & devotion tough,
it kills you on your feet & your eyes remain open.)
(Finnish. Of course.)
Honor the lives of those murdered yesterday morning in Oak Creek, Wisconsin by a man acting in closed-eyed weakness & hate: five men and one woman, Sikhs all, believers in the common humanity of all:
Paramjit Kaur, 41
Sita Singh, 41
Ranjit Singh, 49
Satwant Singh Kaleka, 62
Prakash Singh, 39
Suveg Singh Khattra, 84
So much to their credit, I see already the toughness of those the killer targeted, who continue in spite of their sorrow to commit themselves to the severe and conscious discipline of loving with open eyes and hearts.
My deep condolences to the Sikh community of Wisconsin who lost family members & friends, people closely loved. May the tragedy lead truly to the messages of love, compassion, & social justice that the gurus of the Sikh religion taught and continue to teach through the Gurū Granth Sāhib and the devotion of everyday Sikhs to its truths.
The God-conscious being is always unstained,
like the sun, which gives its comfort and warmth to all.
The God-conscious being looks upon all alike,
like the wind, which blows equally upon the king and the poor beggar.
Sri Gurū Granth Sāhib, p. 272
* * *
* The longer Will McAvoy quote from The Newsroom episode “Bullies” (1.06), from which the asterisked McAvoy above is excerpted — McAvoy is debating with a “Christian” anti-Islamist on the topic of a Muslim community center at Ground Zero:
Okay. Here are some things done on American soil in the name of Christianity. The Ku Klux Klan burned down black churches, raped women, murdered civil rights workers, murdered children and terrorized communities for over a century. The neo nazis all acted and continue to act in the name of white christian supremacy. The army of god fatally attacks abortion clinics and doctors across the country. The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord targets local police and federal agents. The federal building in Oklahoma City. The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and the successful assassinations of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, and Abraham Lincoln, all perpetrated by Christians. Miss Greer, we weren’t attacked by Muslims, we were attacked by sociopaths, and I for one would join you in protesting a community center for the criminally insane, but no one is suggesting building one.
Photos: (1) Langar. Taken by GNNSJ at their langar hall and gurdwara, 13 December 2005. Via Wikimedia Commons. (GNNSJ is Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh organisation based in Leeds, England with activities throughout the world. It has several gurdwaras in England alone; the source who contributed this photo to Wikimedia does not specify which gurdwara is shown in the photo. At the SikhiWiki’s article on langar, the same photo is said to have been taken at Spain Forum 2004.) (2) Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book and eleventh guru of Sikhism. Via SikhiWiki.