The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a report of a Thursday incident of trespassing and vandalism at the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple on Hatch Road near Hughson and assault of one of the church leaders.
Amarjit Singh, who is head priest with brother, Majit Singh, reported that he was in his bedroom on the temple grounds at 9:30 p.m. when he heard the glass break in two bedroom windows. When he peeked under the blinds to see what happened, he was punched in the neck by an assailant, he told deputies. Singh claims that the assailant told him to go back to his native country and cussed him out before fleeing.
Last week’s report, said church secretary Mani Grewal who is also a member of the Modesto City Council, was one of a string of incidences which he terms hate crimes. He said the temple cancelled its phone line years ago because it was being used by some to harass who answered. Grewal also reported that routinely some people in cars slow down as they drive past the temple west of Santa Fe Avenue to shout ethnic slurs and insults.
While Sheriff Jeff Dirkse refrained from calling the incident a hate crime pending the outcome of his department’s investigation, Congressman Josh Harder was eager to label it “a racially-motivated attack.”
Harder’s office issued this statement: “I stand with my friends in the Sikh community at this terrible time. Every American – regardless of faith – should be able to practice their religion freely and without fear of violence. This disgusting attack is not representative of who we are, and we must find the person responsible.
“This is part of a larger pattern of hate against minority communities in the Central Valley. An attack on one minority community is an attack on all minority communities – whether it’s Sikh, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, Assyrian, or anyone else. The Central Valley is the proud home to people of all faith traditions and we will not tolerate violence, hate, or discrimination of any kind.”
He added “we have to bring this criminal to justice and support our brothers and sisters in the Sikh community.”
Anyone with knowledge of the attack is urged to call the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s office at 552-2468.
The incident comes a month after the 7th annual Sikh American Awareness Event held at Ceres Community Center. The intent was to spread a greater understanding of the Sikh faith and dispel some common misconceptions that have made them the targets of bigotry. Approximately 400,000 Sikhs live in California with most living in the Valley.
At the June event, Harder noted how hate crimes have been inflicted on local Sikhs, including one outside of Keyes.
“These are not isolated incidences,” said Harder. “Sikhs are hundreds of times more likely to face discrimination than the average American. I think what we need to think about here is what is at the root of this problem. I think the root of hate is fear. People fear what they don’t understand. Folks sometimes associate falsely beards and turbans with terrorism. And what is at the root of fear? It’s ignorance. It’s a lack of education of the tradition of the Sikh community and the contribution that they have made to our country and to our community right here in the Valley.”
He said the solution is educating the community.