Harjit Jeji Shergill would not go so far as to say there was an inevitability to the murder of six Sikh worshipers at his local temple, but after years of people venomously calling him “Bin Laden” he feared it might come to this somewhere in America.
As Oak Creek’s Sikh community grapples with Sunday’s tragedy it is buffeted by shock and mourning for some its best-known figures. There is also appreciation for the police officers who stopped the gunman – including one who took several bullets – and almost certainly saved other lives.
But underpinning everything is a pouring forth of frustration, just short of anger, at what Sikhs in Oak Creek and other parts of the US say is the frequent assumption that because of their turbans and beards they are Muslims – with all the weight that carries since 9/11.
One Sikh leader said that is an assumption “with deadly consequences”. Another said that the Oak Creek killings are the “collateral damage” of the al-Qaida attacks.