Mourning & Mobilizing: My Visit to Oak Creek, WI

August 13, 2012

Dear Friends,

When I heard about the massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, I knew that we were entering a new phase in dealing with religious bigotry in America. I immediately prayed that we would not reach the same level of religious persecution that Catholics and Mormons faced more than a century ago. The vitriolic rhetoric against Islam and Muslims has escalated recently, fueled by the cottage industry of anti-Muslim haters who exploit people’s fears to promote hysteria.

The day after the deadly attack, I attended the memorial prayer service in Los Angeles, where I stood alongside other religious leaders before the Sikh congregation and the media to say “We stand together in this struggle. An attack against one house of worship is an attack against all houses of worship.” The Sikh community has paid the biggest price of any group since 9/11, including multiple deaths as a result of hate crimes.

That night, I decided I had to visit Oak Creek and see for myself the temple where the shooting took place. I was there on Friday, and was honored to attend the funeral for the six victims. When I first entered the temple, I met my colleague and friend, Jasjit Singh of the Sikh American Legal and Defense Fund, who expressed his appreciation for support from the American Muslim community. “We are in this together,” I told him.

During the funeral, dignitaries from afar and local residents alike wept, and we were all inspired by the love and support which carried the day. It was painful, but it was important for all of us to be there in person, to witness and to pray. We prayed for the victims, who are now in the hands of the Merciful.  The victims are considered shahids (martyrs), who sacrificed their lives for the cause of God and were attacked only because they were worshiping and helping others. They paid the ultimate price, their lives, for our freedom.

In the week since the shooting, we have seen mosques burned down, shot at and littered with pigs feet. The hate-mongers know that we are threatening their status quo. It is time to bolster our security in every mosque and Muslim organization, and it is time to strengthen our ties with law enforcement. It is time to shore up our alliances and be ready for the storm of hate that is trying to tear America’s fabric.

In response to this growing climate of hate and fear, MPAC is hosting a national community teleconference on Wednesday, August 15, at 5:30 p.m. PST/ 8:30 p.m. EST focusing on “The Real World Impact of Hate Rhetoric in America.” The 60-minute teleconference will feature experts from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for American Progress and MPAC sharing recent data and analysis on recent irresponsible hate rhetoric by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and other public officials. They will also share resources to help you combat hate.

To RSVP, email with the subject line “Nat’l Conference Call” and your full name, city and email address in the body of the email. You will receive a reply with the dial-in access information for the teleconference.

Peace & blessings,

Salam Al-Marayati
MPAC President

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