A little-known fact: the first victim of retaliatory violence following the 9/11 attacks was a Sikh man. On 15 September 2001, 52-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas-station owner in Arizona, was shot five times by Frank Roque. While Sodhi died instantly, Roque went on to shoot at other ethnic minorities before going to a local bar and boasting: "They're investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street."
Yesterday, a gunman opened fire on a Sikh congregation in Wisconsin, killing six people in what is now being treated as an act of "domestic terrorism". Some witnesses say the shooter had a tattoo marking the September 11 attacks, though this is not confirmed by the authorities.
While the "war on terror" that followed September 2001 badly affected Muslim families in the west, it is sadly less well-known that Sikhs have also faced significant harassment as a consequence. The Sikh Coalition of Washington said yesterday that Sikhs in the US have faced more than 700 such incidents since 9/11; authorities still do not officially collect data on religious hate crimes against them.
More closer to home, my own brother – an observant Sikh with a turban and beard – faced frequent low-level harassment with people shouting "Taliban" at him or worse.
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The long history of scapegoating the Sikhs
From my friend Sunny Hundal, one of the top British lefty bloggers, writing in the Guardian: