The Sihk Temple of Iowa is planning a public memorial service in West Des Moines Sunday for victims of a gunman’s rampage that left six people dead and three others wounded as they prepared to worship in Oak Creek, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee.
The memorial will be held at the gurudwara, or temple, at 1115 Walnut St. in West Des Moines, beginning at 9:45 a.m. It will include traditional Sikh kirtans (hymns), bhogs and ardas (prayers), and guru ka langar (meal) at the conclusion of the service at 1 p.m.
Jagtar Singh, a past president of the leadership board of the Sikh Temple of Iowa, said the memorial service is open to all Iowans who want to remember the victims. Sikh is an open and welcoming religion, based on the belief that there is one God, who has neither gender nor form.
West Des Moines police have joined police departments from Sacramento to New York in stepping up patroling around the gurudwara, where about 60 Iowans regularly worship.
Police spokesman Sgt. Ken O’Brien said cars routinely in the Valley Junction neighborhood will more closely monitor the gurudwara, tucked amid houses in a residential area of the city. The one-story brick building features an orange flag bearing the Sikh symbol hanging above the entry and a white picket fence in the yard.
No specific threats have been received, O'Brien said, but he urged people in the area to be aware of their surroundings.
“If something doesn’t look right, call the police and have us investigate it,” O’Brien said. “We’re here to rule things in or out, whether it’s a suspicious vehicle or person.”
Suspect Tied to Iowa Trucking Company
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wade Michael Page, 40, the suspect in the Wisconsin shootings, once worked as a driver for a Granger, IA, trucking company.
Barr-Nunn Transportation said Page was employed by the company for four years, ending in August 2010 when he was reportedly fired for violating the company policy on impaired driving, which extends to personal vehicles on personal time.
Page, who was killed by police after he opened fire, reportedly had deep extremist ties and was described as a “white supremacist skinhead” and “frustrated neo-Nazi” who led a white power punk and metal band, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups.
A man worshipping in Sacramento said combating such terrorism is difficult.
“You’re sitting there remembering God and then somebody opens the door and starts shooting,” said Darshan Singh Mundy, a Sikh spokesman told a CBS News affiliate in Sacramento. “We are helpless; we can’t do anything.”
Iowa Sikh members say their traditional turban and long beard worn by Sikh men and the veils worn by women often confuse Westerners, who associate them with radical Muslims who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jagtr Singh told Patch.
“It’s mistaken identity,” he said, pointing out that Sikhism is not related to Islam or Hinduism.
"It's tragic, and probably a misconception of who we are," 12-year-old Jeevanjot Singh told Patch Sunday following the news out of Oak Creek, WI. "I think it's because of the turbans, and the stereotype that people who wear turbans are Muslim, and after 9/11, people think Muslims are bad."