Bigots are the real minority

Stone cropping defaced with swastikas hours after a Sikh center opens in Orangevale

Photo courtesy of Amar Shergill

This story has been expanded from its print version.

A granite cropping in front of a Sikh center was defaced with swastikas and a “white power” message hours after the center’s grand opening in Orangevale on Sunday.

The stone tablet had yet to be etched with the name of the recently opened Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib on Walnut Avenue, says Amar Shergill, an attorney and chairman of the progressive caucus of the California Democratic Party, who shared photos of the vandalism on Facebook on Monday. Shergill’s post had been shared more than 100 times by Tuesday. A gurdwara sahib is a place of worship for Sikhs, but also welcomes people from other faiths or no religious affiliation.

Basim Elkarra, executive director of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the “hateful act of vandalism” in a statement. “We are here to support the Sikh community and encourage any witnesses to come forward with information about this hate attack on a house ow worship,” he said.

Orangevale lies in the jurisdiction of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, had detectives and CSI on scene Monday collecting evidence, said Sgt. Tess Deterding. There were no suspect descriptions to report, but Deterding said the community response made a difference.

“We are grateful to citizens for calling upon seeing the vandalism so we could preserve the evidence in a timely manner,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The California Department of Justice recorded no anti-Sikh bias crimes in 2018 and reported that all hate crimes actually fell 2.5% from the previous year, down to 1,093 incidents reported to law enforcement. But the DOJ only began collecting data on anti-Sikh crimes since 2014 and perpetrators often mistake Sikh Americans for Muslims. In 2011, two Sikh men were gunned down in a drive-by shooting while on an afternoon stroll in Elk Grove. The killings remain unsolved.

“These hateful actions will only serve to bring the rest of us together,” Shergill himself wrote. “As light drives out the darkness, only love can triumph over hate.”