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Yesterday was somewhat of an emotional roller coaster for me and my Sikh friends. As many Sikh's are from Punjab- the same region in India/Pakistan that my family is from, I've always been drawn to other Pakistani's and Indian's from Punjab. Hence, I have many Sikh friends. Being Punjabi is pretty much like being from Texas, it's a predominant identity first regardless if people are from Pakistan, India or religious differences. Hence, it was shocking and devastating to hear about the Sikh Temple Shooting yesterday, and I can honestly say I spent the larger part of Sunday grieving with the Sikh community.
Ironically yesterday I also spent the afternoon at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with some UUCA youth and adults to take part in the NOH8 Campaign's (pronounced- No Hate) photo shoot. It's a silent protest photo shoot to show support for LGBT equality and support for marriage equality. But, on a larger scale it's also a protest against the violent hate that the LGBT community experiences on a daily basis. I had briefly heard that there was a shooting at a Sikh temple on my way to the HRC event, and while at the event I caught up on the news reports through Twitter, I slowly grew somber as I heard about the details. I couldn't really share my internal turmoil with the people at the event- not until I processed my feelings and I didn't want to take away from the larger learning experience of the event. But, the NOH8 protest group picture for me- became symbolically a protest of violence towards all people regardless of their sexual orientation or their religious belief.
They also applied "NOH8" temporary tattoos on our faces.
My parents reaction was pretty much the same, they've recently moved to practicing Islam again and are fasting for Ramadan. I remember my mom gasping when I told her what had happened at the Sikh Temple, and her first response was "But, the Sikhs are so peaceful". As we talked the conversation grew more somber, because we were reminded that the violence against Sikh's has been rising in the U.S. as a result of the anti-Muslim rhetoric being spread. So, this tragedy has hit home with my family, because the underlying hate against Muslims could very well be the motive of this shooters actions. At this point in time, I feel that the work I'm doing in interfaith dialogue and youth organizing is even more important in order to prevent misunderstanding, bigotry and stereotyping. I'm more committed to continuing my work as an interfaith activist. All I can say is during this month of Ramadan, I'm holding the Sikh community in my heart, thoughts and prayers.