CAIRO – US Muslims have condemned a deadly shooting attack at a Sikh temple in Minnesota, which left at least seven people dead, expressing solidarity with the religious minority.
“While details of the attack and the motivation of the attacker are still emerging, American Muslims stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters in this time of crisis and loss,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)’s Minnesota chapter said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
“We condemn this senseless act of violence, pray for those who were killed or injured and offer sincere condolences to their loved ones.”
CAIR officials said they were in contact with the Muslim community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to offer support for the Sikh neighbors.
At least seven people were killed when a gunman attacked people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday.
Authorities said that four people were shot dead inside the sprawling temple. Three more, including the gunman, were killed outside.
Some witnesses said the attacker had a 9/11 tattoo, marking the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda militants.
"He had tattoos, I don't know what the exact markings were, or if they represented any of his beliefs or what they stood for," Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told Reuters.
Authorities did not release the name of the suspect.
They said the shooter had used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, which was recovered at the scene. Officials were tracing origin of the weapon, Ahern said.
Sikh worshippers scrambled to escape the gunfire, but some tragically ran in the wrong direction.
Others survived the rampage by locking themselves in bathrooms, he said.
Family and friends of the victims gathered in the basement of a nearby bowling alley as they waited for their loved ones to be identified.
The United States is home to about 500,000 Sikhs, nearly all of Indian origin. The men are easily identifiable by their beards and turbans, a tradition that has lasted for 500 years.
The temple in Oak Creek, south of Milwaukee, was founded in October 1997 and has a congregation of 350 to 400 people. There are an estimated 500,000 or more Sikhs in the United States.
Muslim leaders have expressed solidarity with Sikhs following the temple attack.
"Today is a day of mourning for all who value human life and cherish freedom of religion," Shaheen Khateeb, President of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)’s Minnesota chapter), said in a statement cited by Star Tribune.
IAMC called for US law enforcement authorities to investigate the incident as an act of terror motivated by hate.
"An attack on innocent people in a house of worship is an attack on our collective humanity and common values,” Khateeb said.
IAMC is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because of their turban headdress and beards.
Members of the Milwaukee Sikh community complained to police and a state representative last year about an upturn in robberies and vandalism at Sikh-owned gas stations and stores.
The Sikh Coalition, the nation's largest Sikh advocacy group, said it had received thousands of requests for assistance from members of the community related to employment discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying since the September 11, 2001 attacks."For God's sake leave us alone," Jagjit Singh Kaleka, the brother of one of the Wisconsin victims, told Reuters.
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