The shooting at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisc.—and the nationwide string of hate crimes against Muslims that went virtually unreported by the media—reveals a number of disturbing, yet ignored, trends about extremism and ignorance in America.
Over the next few days, I’ll be posting about issues that are not new, but that have been re-illuminated by these recent hate crimes. They include religious illiteracy in America, post-9/11 attacks against Sikhs, the recent rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, and the (intentionally covered-up) threat of white supremacist domestic terrorism.
For those who heard little about the shooting at the Sikh place of worship a few weeks ago, here’s a brief recap:
Wade Page, a prominent member of a white supremacist organization, opened fire at a Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisc. during a Sunday worship service. He entered the temple and he killed three, and then murdered three others outside, where he was shot in the stomach by police. He then shot himself in the head. Four others, including a police officer, were wounded.
The hate crime is rightly being treated as a case of domestic terrorism by the FBI, given that Page appeared to have political motives. He was an active member of the racist skinhead group, Hammerskin Nation, and was a musician in white supremacist bands.
The FBI defines terrorism in the following way: “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
But according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “that designation seemed to baffle some media outlets. NBC News reported that ‘it was not immediately clear why local police were classifying the shooting with domestic terrorism.’ A Fox News analyst claimed the shooting was not terrorism because Page was a ‘nut job’ who mistook Sikhs for Muslims.”
Like NBC and FOX, most media outlets have been hesitant to refer to the attack as terrorism, however. Is this surprising? No, because since 9/11, the American media—and thus the American public—have only considered attacks committed by Muslims terrorism.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin posting about specific trends, starting with an essay about religious illiteracy in the U.S. I’ll provide background on the string of attacks against Islamic places of worship in one of my later posts.