Phoenix Sikh Community Statement
On September 14, 2003, the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi and the Sikh community hosted a Memorial Event at the Chevron gas station where Balbir Singh was shot and killed, four days after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.
During the Memorial event, Guru Roop Kaur Khalsa gave the following statement on behalf of the Phoenix Sikh community.
"You have come here today to honor and reach out to the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, all of the victims of September 11th and the Sikh community. We are deeply humbled by your support and your presence.
Two days after the attack on our country, Balbir Singh Sodhi came into my office with his bother and cousin – All of them small business owners. With the plea, “All our customers now look at us with hate and fear. Please Help – we don’t want any other innocent people hurt.” We set in motion an immediate plan for educating the public on Sikh values and dress. However, that was not enough.
Balbir Singh was killed because of the way he looked… And in his heart and on his lips were the words “Please respect and protect the innocent people”
He understood that as a nation if we as the individuals and institutions did not take immediate action then and continue now– we will continue to loose many more innocent people.
As Sikhs our basic tenant is one God many paths. We have devoted our lives to protecting and upholding all people right to practice their faith in freedom. Sikhs throughout their history have defended the freedom of people of many other faiths.
The founder of Sikh faith established our religious dress 500 years ago which includes the turban and beard, which symbolizes to us our devotion to God and equality of all people. Some other people in the world wear turbans and beards. In the United States, it is the Sikhs that wear turbans.
Sikhs are hard working Americans. As Balbir Singh did we love this country and its founding principles. Balbir Singh life exemplified the basic Sikh spirit to serve & reach out everyone in need.
After Balbir Singh’s death the President of the United States, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Prime Minister of India, the Justice Department, the US Attorney, the Mayor, the County Attorney, the Attorney General, the Governor, the Police agencies, the interfaith community, the media and most of all you the neighbors, the friends and little school children sent the message to the world “protect the innocent people”
We honor you – you stood up at a time of extreme trial and said, “No gentle person, no child, no culture and no religion should be condemned, assaulted or targeted because of the unspeakable acts of others.”
Bless you for your bravery –standing up to hate and fear with love and kindness.
Unfortunately, to this day we still have American killing Americans. Hate crimes, backlash, and especially backlash murders continue to be the Invisible causalities of September 11th and the war on extremism
The war we are fighting is against hate and fear, not against each other.
Today in this Memorial, we are honoring all of the victims of September 11th those innocent people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. They themselves or their ancestors were from many countries and proud Americans.
Since September 11th, men, women, and children from all faiths and cultures have been affected by the acts of violence and discrimination that have taken place in the aftermath of 9/11.
Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first such death categorized as a hate crime.
The over 20 U.S. homicides that have possible or proven ties to Sept 11 backlash, were all Americans, they or their parents had moved here seeking religious freedom and basic civil rights, our countries founding principles. They are Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and Christian. They came from countries as varied as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Somalia. They were all Americans shot by other Americans
That is why today, we must take a stand because the fight against hate takes community leaders willing to take a strong stand condemning hate crimes, the killing of innocent people.
We in the intensity of 9/11 made a difference and together we can help others to evolve past our hate and fear by reaching out to others with increased understanding, respect, and support. May our collective prayer be that God preserve and protect the honor of all people, our nation, and our world.
Thank you for embracing diversity, embracing us as your neighbors and embracing this family."