UCF Sikh students grieve, learn from temple shooting tragedy
Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 17, 2012 12:08
When Taranjeet Singh set out for a road trip on Aug. 5, he was shocked to read a Facebook post about a Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wi., in which seven people were killed.
He had just visited his own temple, or gurdwara, in Oviedo for Sunday morning prayers around the same time.
“We usually have common congregation on Sunday,” Taranjeet said. ‘”We go every Sunday to gurdwara and offer our prayers. We get together, all the families.”
Taranjeet said the gurdwara is where the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is kept, which for Sikhs is considered the 11th guru. He said Sikhs believe in one God who is all-encompassing.
It is the combined teachings of the 10 previous Sikh gurus, starting with Guru Nanak and ending in Guru Gobind Singh. Taranjeet said there are also teachings of Muslims, Hindus and Persians in the text.
"This book is everything for us," Taranjeet said. "It is the source of our guidance, the source of our prayers. We read it on all the occasions of our lives: birth, death, marriage, any good happiness, starting any business, for exams, for praying. We take the guidance from this book and pray in front of Him. It is a very respectful place for us and [it is] everything for us."
The UCF computer science graduate student, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt along with his turban and beard, was extremely saddened to hear the news of the shooting in a place of worship, and imagined what could have happened had it been his own gurdwara.
“It’s very sad,” Taranjeet said. “I was imagining if I were there, what could be, if it happened to my gurdwara in here.”
He said his phone was ringing with calls from family, friends, old roommates and his brother-in-law in India who weren’t familiar with the U.S. making sure the temple shooting didn’t happen to his gurdwara or near it.
Simranjeet Singh, a UCF physics graduate student, was about to go to gurdwara and read about it on his news app while he was in downtown Orlando. He said he couldn’t believe the news.
“Think about it, it is Sunday,” Simranjeet said. “People go around 10:30, 12 o’clock, you read about it when most people will be there. This is someone’s family, I could have been there. It is shocking. A shocking feeling.“
As far as security measures, Simranjeet said the only course of action the temple should take is tolerance.
“In long-term, you cannot make any religious temple like an airport, right?” Simranjeet said. “It is a place of worship, a place of confidence in each other. I don’t think this is possible in any religious place. It has to be confidence-building in society.”
The tragedy, Simranjeet said, is an opportunity to educate the community about Sikhism and what they believe in.
Simranjeet’s fiancée, Jyoti Katoch, also a physics graduate student, said the casualties could have been more had the shooter come around noon when most of the congregation would have been there, including elders and youth who serve a communal meal every Sunday called langar.
“Sometimes the kids help out the elders, and you learn from this, that you have to respect elders,” Katoch said.“This is something that I really like about the whole thing. They try to learn not just from reading books, they learn how to serve the community and respect elders. “
Taranjeet said the final prayer in the gurdwara is a prayer to God for the world, the last line of which is ‘By Your grace, everyone should be happy.’
Taranjeet expressed his sadness that the shooter didn’t even try to understand what was taking place in the gurdwara when he went on his shooting rampage.
“We are praying for him,” Taranjeet said.
On Sunday, the Sikh Society of Central Florida held day of remembrance at their gurdwara in Oviedo. Over one hundred people, Sikh men in turbans and head coverings, women in colorful dupattas, or long scarfs, and representatives from different religious communities as well as local and federal law enforcement agencies gathered together to express their sadness, and support, for the Central Florida Sikh community.
Robert E. O’Neill, U.S. attorney for the middle district of Florida under the U.S. Department of Justice; Mildred Duprey de Robles, conciliation specialist for the USDOJ; ShayanElahi, Democratic house candidate and trial and civil rights attorney; and Alli B. “A.B” Majeed, 18th judicial circuit court judge, were some of the representatives who spoke to the gathering.
DevinderKahlon, chairman of the Sikh Society of Central Florida and a physician, said he could not sleep for two days after the shooting and urged those in attendance to not take the shooting as a negative thing, but as a way to increase tolerance and see people of every faith and background as another human being.
“Every day, [patients] give me their bodies to treat,” said Kahlon. “I promised that day to treat them better.”