Murder Causes Bay Area Sikhs to Wrestle With Religious Visibility

February 25, 2004

Source: The Mercury News

On February 25, 2004 The Mercury News reported, "When three men were killed in a San Jose park during the weekend, they immediately were identified as followers of the Sikh faith -- even though the crime had nothing to do with their religious beliefs. It's a dichotomy that Sikhs in the United States struggle with on a daily basis: The religion calls for Sikhs to be unmistakably identifiable by their turban and beards. But often, the physical traits associated with Sikhism come with unwanted -- and sometimes unfair -- attention. 'There is definitely a duality there that can be good or bad,'' said Kavneet Alag, the West Coast director of watchdog Sikh Media Watch and Resource Task Force. 'On the one hand, it can be good when a Sikh person does something good and people associate Sikhs with that good deed. But in cases like the park murders, people remember that a Sikh did something horrible...' Sunday afternoon, Ranbir Singh opened fire on a group of men playing cards at the park, killing three and injuring three before he was tackled by bystanders. The gunman -- who died in the skirmish -- and all the victims are Sikhs. Police have not yet determined a motive. Four other Sikhs have been shot -- two of them killed -- in the Bay Area since Sept. 11, 2001. Police investigations are ongoing, but community members believe those crimes may have been motivated by hate, said Manjit Singh, president of Sikh Media Watch and Resource Task Force in Washington, D.C."