A California gurdwara, Gurdwara Singh Sabha, along with a community member’s truck in the parking lot, were vandalized with hateful graffiti in early December. The graffiti included the phrase, “Fuck ISIS,” along with gang references. After legal and communications support from the Sikh Coalition, Buena Park Police Department formally opened a hate crimes investigation into the case and made an arrest. According to local police, the suspect confessed to vandalizing both the gurdwara and the truck containing the hateful slurs. The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with the gurdwara and the local prosecutor’s office to push for appropriate charges.
Police in Southern California have opened a hate crime investigation into the vandalization of a Sikh house of worship in Orange County that was defaced with Islamaphobic and gang graffiti, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The graffiti was discovered on the exterior of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Buena Park and included the word Islam – spelled “Islahm” – and a reference to Islamic State militants, said the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group for the Sikh community. The defacement, discovered on Sunday, came days after a Muslim couple massacred 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.
The Sikh Coalition coordinated and secured coverage in dozens of media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Police are still searching for the owner of the vandalized truck with the hate slurs/graffiti, as this person is both a victim and a possible witness. The driver was possibly from Texas and was passing through the Buena Park area. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-655-3095 ext. 85 if you have any information that can help us find him.
The group said the gurdwara – a place of worship for Sikhs – had reported the incident to the Buena Park police and had asked local and federal authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime. A spokesman for the Buena Park police told the New York Times that officers were increasing patrols around the building and had opened a hate crime probe. “The writing, because of what it is and because of the history of Sikhs being targeted in the past for retaliation after terrorist attacks, we are investigating it,” Corporal Bret Carter told the paper.
The graffiti, much of it illegible, also included some gang references, the Sikh Coalition said in a statement. Sikhs say they have been singled out increasingly for harassment since the Sept. 11 attacks, with perpetrators believing incorrectly that they are Muslim extremists because of their turbans and beards.
For the fourth consecutive year, California recognized November as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month. The Sikh Coalition reached six million Americans through presentations, events and education. The Sikh Coalition joined with public officials, local governments, South Asian media outlets and hundreds of community members to raise Sikh awareness and education across California. Sikh Awareness and Appreciation resolutions were passed in San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Fremont, Sacramento, Elk Grove, Marysville and Yuba City. In addition to co-hosting a Sikh Awareness and Appreciation game with the Los Angeles Clippers on November 14, 2015, the Sikh Coalition partnered with Inkquisitive Illustration to leverage art to educate the public about Sikhs. With the help of dedicated community members, Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month was a great success.