The Indian Panorama announces institution of Lieutenant Brian Murphy Medal of Honor to be awarded annually
OAK CREEK, WI (TIP): The Sikh Community of Wisconsin and worldwide is remembering on August 5 not only those who laid down their lives in an armed attack on Oak Creek Gurdwara but also a rare act of valor and dedication to duty by Lieutenant Brian Murphy. Lieutenant Brian Murphy who while rescuing the injured also prevented any further loss of human life was seriously injured in the fire by the attacker. He was shot 15 times but survived. The Sikh community felicitated Lieutenant Murphy besides thanking him and the police department profusely for minimizing the loss of human life in the attack. The attack that sent shock waves everywhere left six devout dead and three others injured. Many believed it was an attack on religious freedom for all. Some others felt it had been a mistaken perception of taking Sikhs for Muslims. According to the Sikh Coalition, there are more than half a million Sikhs in the United States. The Justice Department, which before the Oak Creek shooting, had been through the FBI, tracking crimes committed against Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, atheists, as well as those with “other religion” or “multiple religions,” but did not track crimes against the Sikhs. Now the crimes against the Sikhs are tracked. “Whatever be the reasons or provocations behind the Oak Creek assault on the Sikh sangat, the gallant role of Lieutenant Brian Murphy will always be remembered,” says Professor Indrajit Saluja, a NY-based writer, author, journalist, and publisher-editor of one of the leading weekly newspapers, The Indian Panorama .
“We want to eulogize his role by instituting a medal in bravery for religious freedom,” adds Professor Saluja, holding that those who lost their lives in defending the honor of the gurdwara are “martyrs” of the community.
On the fateful Sunday, August 5, 2012,members of the Sikh community, had as usual, gathered at their local gurdwara for regular Sunday services. As they got busy with their prayers and other activities, including preparation of “langar”, an intruder, who was later identified as a white supremacist, arrived and opened fire on unsuspecting worshippers, leaving Paramjit Kaur, Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, and Sita Singh dead. Besides, three others were seriously injured.
The worshippers felt terrorized as they ran for shelter. Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was the first to respond to the distress call from the Gurdwara, tried to rescue the injured worshippers as the attacker continued to fire. Brian took a couple of shots on his body as the assailant got turned on him thus making other horror-stricken worshippers safe.
Brian Murphy succeeded in his act though he himself landed in hospital with grievous injuries. The horror of the shooting not only shook Sikh communities around the globe but also other faith-based communities and advocacy organizations. As August 5 marks the 10th anniversary of the Oak Creek tragedy, global Sikh communities and allies are getting together in remembering the victims. Since then, a lot has happened. Though attacks on Sikhs, both as acts of terror and cases of mistaken identity, have been continuing unabated, following a bipartisan resolution passed by the Senate, Sikh community, like all other faith communities, now enjoys full religious liberty, free from fear of violence and harm. The Department of Justice has since then started tracking crimes against Sikh community.
President Joe Biden in his statement on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Oak Creek shooting in a statement mourned the death of the six Sikhs. “The gunman murdered six people and wounded four that day, as well as another victim who survived his wounds only to succumb to them years later. Jill and I know that days like today bring back the pain like it happened yesterday, and we mourn with the victims’ families, the survivors, and the community devastated by this heinous act.”
Here is the full statement of President Biden.
“When generations of Sikh-Americans in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, constructed their own place of worship after years of renting local halls, it was a sacred place of their own and a connection shared with the broader community. That sense of peace and belonging was shattered on the morning of August 5, 2012, when a white supremacist wielding a semiautomatic handgun arrived at the Gurdwara and began shooting.
“The gunman murdered six people and wounded four that day, as well as another victim who survived his wounds only to succumb to them years later. Jill and I know that days like today bring back the pain like it happened yesterday, and we mourn with the victims’ families, the survivors, and the community devastated by this heinous act.
“The Oak Creek shooting was the deadliest attack on Sikh Americans in our nation’s history. Tragically, attacks on our nation’s houses of worship have only become more common over the past decade. It is up to all of us to deny this hate safe harbor. No one should fear for their life when they bow their head in prayer or go about their lives in America. “Oak Creek has shown us the way. After the attack, the Sikh community returned to their Gurdwara and insisted on cleaning it themselves. The son of one of the victims became the first Sikh in American history to testify before Congress, successfully calling for the federal government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority groups. Every year, the congregation now hosts an annual memorial run to honor the victims. The event bears the words Charhdi Kala, meaning “eternal optimism.”
“Fueled by that spirit of eternal optimism, we must continue to take steps now to reduce gun violence and keep our fellow Americans safe. We must do more to protect places of worship and defeat domestic terrorism and hate in all its forms, including the poison of white supremacy. We must ban assault weapons—used in many mass shootings at houses of worship and other sites across the country—as well as high-capacity magazines. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill to do just that. As a matter of conscience and common sense, the Senate must act as well. To stand in defense of religious freedom, we must all stand together to ban the weapons that terrorize congregations around our country.”