South Florida Sikhs hope for more acceptance after temple shooting

Hundreds gather for a vigil in Broward County

BROWARD CO, Fla. - Candle were glowing in the night air on Broward County on Monday in honor and in memory of six people - all Sikhs - who were shot and killed fourteen hundred miles away in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The shooting happened at a Sikh temple on Sunday.

Gurtegh Singh, 21, is a University of Miami student who worships at the Sikh Society of Florida located in Southwest Ranches in Broward County. His religion and his life, he said, are often misunderstood. "People have called me Osama (Bin Laden), so I believe they are associating us with the Taliban or Al Qaeda," he said.

Because of their religious garb - turbans, headdresses and long hair - Sikhs say they are often heckled or even harassed in the community. People staring, they say, turned into glaring soon after the 9/11 attacks; and it has not let up since. "Those stares went to stares of hatred or to anger and I just couldn't believe why people would think that way," said Singh.

Deeptaz Sibia of Boynton Beach is a physician and a mother of three. "We may look different, but we are exactly the same." Sibia and her family are members of the Sikh temple in Southwest Ranches. "That's something we've been fighting since 9/11, before 9/11 and definitely since yesterday as well," she said.

The shooting, Sibia said, may have a silver lining, more acceptance and understanding of a religion that stresses equality under one god. Sikhism also stresses the importance of leading a moral life. "It gets to our core because these are our people," she said.

Many Sikhs around the world have been touched, and perhaps, changed,  by this tragedy. Law enforcement said the suspected gunman, Wade Michael Page, 40, opened fire in an Oak Creek, Wisconsin temple before police shot and killed Page.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office provided security at Monday night's candlelight vigil as a precaution.

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