Salem Sikhs: "The More We Know Each Other, the More Tolerance There Will Be"

August 21, 2006

Source: The Statesman Journal

On August 21, 2006 The Statesman Journal reported, "Last month, a flag at the Sikh temple in South Salem was uprooted and burned in what people in the area saw as a hate crime.

It was the first act of violence toward the group, which moved to Salem in October after establishing a gurudwara, or temple, in an old Lutheran church.

Gurudwara President Bahadur Singh and resident Navneet Kaur have been trying to continue to build the group while dealing with the aftermath of the incident.

Question: How many members do you have?

Answer: We have close to 250 people -- around 20 families...

Q: Have there been any challenges since moving to Salem?

Singh: We've had a lot of challenges, but they've been taken care of.

Kaur: That's always there when you start from scratch. Struggle is associated with new beginnings.

Q: Do you ever have any people come by with questions about your community?

Singh: They do, all the time. 'What are you doing now; what are you doing next?' All those kinds of questions.

Kaur: The main thing is to find out the difference between Muslims and Sikhs. Because we dress alike, we look alike. And we know the difference when we look at a Muslim and a Sikh, but most people just look at the turban and that's about it... Q: How has it been since the crime last month?

Singh: It's been OK. We are trying to figure out how we can monitor this place and put a fence around things.

Q: The pastor of the church that used to be here released a statement in support of you after the crime. Have you gotten any reaction from other officials?

Kaur: The mayor and police chief feel very strongly about this. They have proved that they are there for us. They've come out here a number of times. As far as the general follow-up on the case, we haven't seen anything, but they're trying whatever they can. They have offered to come to the temple. The first reaction after what happened at the temple was that we were scared to have our children play outside. I know that mainly I was, and some other parents were, but they're playing outside now. We're comfortable with that now."