The day after a horrific shooting spree at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, several valley Sikh leaders gather at a temple in Fresno. There, they pray for the six victims, the suspect, and themselves. A violent act against people of their religion has put many on edge.
“I was shocked. Why did this happen? What was the reason? And why this hatred?,” questioned Dr. Perminder Bhatia, a board member for the Sikh temple on Dakota in Fresno.
Sunday was not the first time Sikhs have felt uneasy about their safety. Acts of terrorism prompted hate from the uneducated.
“Right after 9-11 I got a lot of angry, hateful looks; even people yelling out at me,” said Dr. Sharnjit Purewal, who is on the Sikh Council of Central California.
Now Sikh leaders are using the tragedy in Wisconsin to teach people here, their religion is peaceful and welcoming. CBS47 was invited inside a temple, the only stipulation was that we remove our shoes and cover our heads.
“Sikh religion believes we're all children of God and when we pray, we pray for the well-being of all individuals,” said Dr. Purewal.
Fresno County is home to about 35,000 Sikhs. The climate in Fresno is similar to that of Punjab. While some are now considering security guards at temples, Dr. Bhatia says their faith and open door policy won't be shaken.
“[Temples] are going to stay open. Anybody is welcome. Yes, we need to be more vigilant,” said Dr. Bhatia.
The Sikh Council of Central California is meeting with law enforcement Monday night at to discuss possible security options.