Sikhs in US say Vienna violence setback to their image


New York : The Sikh community in the US has condemned the violence in a Vienna gurdwara that led to the killing of a religious leader and triggered large-scale violence in Punjab, calling it a “major setback” to the community’s image.

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In a statement Tuesday, prominent Sikh leaders said they were saddened by the tragedy and the subsequent violence.

Washington-based Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), said: “No issue requires taking law into your own hand, no matter what the provocation. This (tragedy) is undoubtedly a major setback to the Sikh interests on the international scene, especially in western Europe and the Americas.”

He said Sikhs have been working hard to create a positive image for themselves to practice their religion without restrictions in the western world. “(But) this incident has brought a bad name to rest of the peaceful Sikh community worldwide.”

Since the violence in which the Dera Sach Khand sect leader was killed was reportedly triggered over the Sikh maryada or code of conduct, he appealed to the Sikhs’ highest spiritual authority of the Akal Takht to issue an edict against violence on the issue.

Gurpal Singh Bhuller of the Association of Sikh Professionals and Sikh Association of Central Virginia, said: “We need to completely reject the attack on other worshippers in Vienna. Differences in theology, belief and form must be settled with reason and respect for the laws of the host country, the rights of its citizens, as well as the acceptance of all fellow human beings.”

“It is a tragedy that this crime was committed by individuals to protect the sanctity of the (holy) Guru Granth which preaches tolerance and forgiveness,” he added.

Prominent Sikh writer I.J. Singh of New York said Sunday’s clash in the Vienna gurdwara was contrary to Sikh teachings.

“Everyone is entitled to practice their own faith as they see fit. No body has any right to stop others much as we do not allow anybody to interfere in practice of our own faith.

“History is full of examples where Sikhs have defended the rights of others to exercise their religion freely and we are known for this,” he said.

Jasbir Singh Kang, Sikh leader of Yuba City in northern California, said: “The founder of the Sikh religion Guru Nanak taught us to have discussions whenever there is disagreement. You can have difference of opinion but cannot go to the extent of taking someone’s life.”