Killing of Sikhs in Afghan attack widely condemned

Courtesy of Ritu Jha –

Several Sikh organizations in the US have condemned an attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul in which at least 25 people are reported to have been killed on March 25.

In an email, Punjabi Sikh Sen. Dr. Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, representative of minority of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghan Parliament, shared the pain with friends in US, saying, “It is sad day today, it was early morning that this terroristic attack happened on innocent Sikhs, they killed children, women, and civilians. Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan are so poor, they never accompanied domestic fights in Afghanistan, they never stood against other people, and I don’t know why we suffered? We always raised our voice for peace.”

“I saw innocents dead bodies, terrorists brutally murdered poor Sikhs,” Honaryar, a dentist, said. “Sikhs in Afghanistan deserve of stay alive and they shouldn’t be killed by terrorist groups, and we want peace.”

According to media reports, Afghan security forces were engaged in a gun battle with terrorists who stormed Gurudwara in the Shorbazar area Wednesday morning. Around 150 people were worshipping in the Gurudwara at the time of the attack.

Dr. N.S Kapany, founder and chairman of The Sikh Foundation, said, “Our hearts are broken. We ask that the global Sikh community immediately come together to help the Sikh families in Afghanistan in whatever way we possibly can.”

Sonia Dhami, Sikh Foundation trustee, sharing the brutal attack told indica Sikh daily prayers include “Sarbat da bhalla,” which translates to praying for the well-being of humanity and not only Sikhs. This is demonstrated in the langars and humanitarian aid that Sikhs are providing in the forefront when tragedy strikes anywhere in the world. But now when they themselves have been so brutally targeted who will help them?

She said speculation is that the attack was retaliation for the recent Muslim deaths in the rioting in India. The same senseless excuse was used for the destruction of many Sikh shrines in Pakistan after the Babri Masjid demolition in India, she added. In the US, Sikhs were targeted after 9/11. Similar hate crimes are happening all over the world, she said. Misguided people dispensing justice, and innocents lives are lost tragically. What justification can be there for the Christ Church Mosque killings in New Zealand?

Mark Juergensmeyer, founding director and fellow at Orfalea Center of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, called the attack mindless and doubly troubling for a person like him as someone who studies the global diaspora of the Sikh community and also studies the rise of violent religious-related movements, such as the Islamic State.

“When ISIS or any other radical group supports an attack like this, they do it strategically – they are aiming to ethnically cleanse the country so it will be home only to Muslims of Afghan ethnic groups, among which Pashtuns predominate. I get it. And alas it may have that effect,” Juergensmeyer said.

He said large numbers of Sikhs have already fled Afghanistan, and some Sikhs in Canada in a compassionate gesture are trying to facilitate their transition to that country, so they may live in a land of safety.

“But I also admire those Afghan Sikhs who persist in staying in Afghanistan, who say, ‘this is my home too,’ and assert that in an era of globalization all countries in the world are multicultural countries and none has the luxury of ethnic or religious purity,” Juergensmeyer said. “This, I think, should be the message to all of us from this horrendous attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul – that we should stand up for diversity and vigorously oppose the chauvinism that asserts a racial or religious superiority wherever it appears in the world.”

Professor Anshu Malhotra, Kapany Chair for Sikh & Punjab Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, said, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms this cowardly attack by ISIS on the small and vulnerable Sikh and Hindu community of Kabul, Afghanistan.”

Malthotra called the killing an unspeakable tragedy, a horrible cruelty meted out on a people who are a threat to nobody, but easy targets for unscrupulous terrorist outfits. In the present politically fluid situation in Afghanistan, it is the duty of those with authority, to reach out to this peaceful community and give them the protection they deserve. This is not the first time that the Sikhs have been targeted. Those negotiating for peace, and a smooth transition, as US prepares to withdraw its troops, have a special duty toward the more vulnerable sections of society.

Condemnation of the attacks are coming from many sectors of the Muslim community as well.

“This reprehensible violence violates the basic tenets of Islam and must be condemned in the strongest terms,” said Ahsan Khan, president of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a constituent organization of Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA). “Our prayers are with the families of the victims.”

Satwinder Singh Gosal, Toronto, Canada, Friend of Sikh Studies, an Arts and Letters Collective, said, in these days of unprecedented human fragility one cannot but stop and ponder the meaning of relationships, family and our place in this rapidly changing world.

Death and sorrow in Italy hits home even more because their world has all of a sudden become our world: so empathetic has been the global effect of COVID-19, Gosal said. In this web of interconnectedness then the grotesque killing of helpless Sikhs in Kabul seems even more senseless-even more offensive to the entire global family.

“I have spent the entire day immersed in what must have been the harrowing scenes in Kabul today,” Gosal said. “I find myself gasping for air as my imagination takes me to the killing fields. When will we as a species realize that we can only survive if we support and love each other in spite of our differences? Surely that has been one of the realities unleashed by COVID-19.”