By Jenn Bernstein
MILLBOURNE BOROUGH, Pa. (CBS) – In the wake of the deadly shootings in Wisconsin at a Sikh Temple, Millbourne police are taking precautions and upping patrols near a local Sikh Temple.
Millbourne is a small borrow in Delaware County, located near Upper Darby. Some 60 percent of the population is Sikh according to police. Members are shaken up and confused as to why someone would want to hurt fellow Sikhs in Wisconsin.
“I think it was a hate crime, a case of mistaken identity,” said Dharama Singh, a member of the Philadelphia Sikh Society.
While the motive surrounding the Wisconsin shooter’s violence is still unclear, many at the local temple in Millbourne are questioning if the attack was possibly aimed at a different group. Sikhs – with their long beards and turbans, say they are often mistaken for Muslims. Some of the local Sikh men are cab drivers in Philadelphia. They say they’ve been cursed and yelled at, even called Bin Laden.
“A lot of people in America, they are confused about our identity,” said congregation member Harbhajan Singh.
“I believe since 9/11 in the US, some people think we are Muslim, but we are not Muslim. We are Sikh,” said Om Sharma Singh, another congregation member. While the temple in MIllbourne hasn’t experienced any hate crimes, local Sikhs say nationally, violence against members has increased since September 11th. It’s something they don’t think should happen to any religious group. “We give all religions our respect, including fellow Muslims,” said congregation member Paramjit Singh.
Sikhism began 500 years ago in the Punjab province of India. The religion believes in one god and teaches human equality, peace and religious tolerance.
“We bring peace on earth and we welcome everyone in our temple, no matter what religion they belong,” said Om Sharma Singh.
Millbourne police officer Joel Belsky said until the shooter’s motive is uncovered, there doesn’t appear to be a threat to this local temple. But, he thinks taking precautions with extra patrols this week is important just in case.
“They are the most peaceful people that I know in this area,” said Belsky. “An attack on the Sikh Indians in this country is an attack on America’s values.”
For now, this group is praying for those lost in Wisconsin, and hoping its beliefs of peace, love, and freedom of religion are heard. Members say they will hold a candlelight vigil at Love Park between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. tomorrow.