(JTA) — Religious groups are calling for tolerance after six people were killed in a shooting attack at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism have joined with Shoulder to Shoulder, a national religious, faith-based and interfaith organization, to encourage Americans to join special services with their local Sikh communities in the wake of Sunday’s shooting outside of Milwaukee.
“As we wait for further information regarding the motive of the shooter, we reiterate our deep commitment to a United States that is able to tolerate and respect the many religious traditions that live together in this great country,” Christina Warner, campaign director for Shoulder to Shoulder, said in a statement. “The tragedy in Milwaukee shows painfully the need for Americans of all faiths to learn about one another and embrace the diverse religious tapestry of the United States.”
Along with the deaths, at least three people, including a police officer, were injured in the attack.The gunman, who was killed by police, was identified as the former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band.
Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, said the incident is reminiscent of the shooting in June 2009 when an alleged white supremacist shot and killed a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington before being apprehended.
“While the FBI is treating the incident as an open investigation, early reports indicate that the shooter was a white supremacist and the shooting an act of terrorism,” Silverman said in a statement. “At this time of national reflection, we must ensure that people of all faiths are safe in their places of worship.”
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the violence and reached out to the Sikh community at a national level to express concern, condolences and solidarity, as well as offer its resources and guidance on institutional security and response in the aftermath of a hate crime.
“Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ADL and law enforcement officials have documented many apparent ‘backlash crimes’ directed at Muslim, Sikh, and Arab Americans,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “We have raised concern about a spike in bigotry against Muslims and others perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. This attack is another gruesome reminder that bigotry and hate against those whose religion makes them ‘different’ or ‘other’ can have deadly consequences."
The U.S. Department of Justice has investigated more than 800 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.