Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting

Posted on December 7, 2012 by


On Sunday, August 5, 2012 a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A lone gunman, later identified as Wade Michael Page, opened fire killing six and wounding four others. One of those wounded was Lt. Brian Murphy, the first responding officer on the scene. The second officer to the scene, Officer Sam Lenda, returned fire and shot Page. Page fell to the ground and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This story was reported extensively throughout the United States and in India, where many practicing American Sikhs have ancestral ties. In an analysis eight American and eight Indian news sources, I have identified several themes concerning content. By analyzing the content of articles in the U.S. and in India, one can determine how Sikhs are perceived in the US, how Americans are perceived in India, and how the shooting was perceived in two different nations.

The Officers

The responding officers were mentioned with relatively similar frequency[1] in both the American and the Indian articles; however, each nation’s news sources had a different spin on the subject. The articles published in the U.S. were much more specific; these sources explained who the officers were, what each officer did on the scene, and their current state of condition. In a few articles they were even described as “heroic.” When the officers were mentioned in Indian news sources, it was usually done so in a brief sentence or two. The articles did not go into detail, but only mentioned that officers had risked his lives and were in critical condition. Two of the five articles mentioning the officers explain that a New York based NGO was awarding $10,000 to the officer who shot the suspect. Generally, the U.S. sources included a paragraph or two towards the beginning of the article covering the role of the law enforcement in the shooting. While I do believe that this information is important to the story, it has the potential of coming off as disrespectful to the victims. The U.S. sources focused so intensely on the heroic efforts of the laws enforcement that it undermined the sheer tragedy of the event for the Sikh people. The Indian articles tended to be more focused on the heart of the issue—the hate crime; however, very few of the articles gave any credit to the police officers.

September 11, 2001

Interestingly, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were mentioned with equal frequency[2] in U.S. and Indian articles. None of the articles spent much time on the subject of 9/11; it was mostly mentioned along with several other points, namely, the increased incidence of hate crimes against Sikhs since that time due to the confusion of Sikhs as Muslims in the United States. However, Indian articles went further by bringing to light some of the challenges Sikhs in the United States have faced since 9/11 including employment discrimination, harassment based on religion, and racial profiling. Considering that 9/11 happened over ten years ago, I found it surprising that only one of the Indian articles explained what happened on that day in American history.

President Obama                                    

President Obama and his administration were mentioned more frequently[3] in Indian articles than in American articles. When President Obama’s name appeared in articles published in the United States it was usually tied to his initial statement of the attack in which he expressed sorrow for the victims and their families. A few American sources also included Mitt Romney’s statement as well. Many U.S. and Indian articles also included quotes of President Obama explaining how the United States has benefitted from the immigration and assimilation of Sikhs. The Indian sources presented two opposite views of President Obama and his administration—a source of hope and a source of evil. The Pioneer states, “Obama expressed his anguish saying the nation [U.S.] needs to do ‘some soul searching’ on how to reduce violence and to reach out to Sikhs.” The Times of India even goes as far as to say that Obama has done more to reach out to Sikhs than any other world leader. However, a couple of the articles hold President Obama and his administration responsible for this attack by stating that the Obama Administration has failed to protect religious minorities throughout the United States. While the U.S. sources generally only included the President’s initial statement, the Indian sources seemed more concerned with what Obama was planning to do to prevent further incidents.

White Supremacy

Although the gunman, Wade Michael Page has been linked to white supremacy groups and played in white power bands very few articles brought up the idea of racial profiling playing a part in the shooting. There was one U.S. article and four Indian articles that brought up the connection. However, the identity of the gunman was not identified in the initial news reports, which may have skewed the number a bit on the American side. As I searched for articles about Wade Michael Page (which were published a few days after the incident), there were many articles that covered his possible motive and his ties to white supremacist groups. The Indian articles that acknowledged Page’s white supremacy connections were concerned that he had been put to do the shooting by a white supremacist that was anti-Sikh. Articles published in the U.S. refrained from linking his white supremacy viewpoints to his motive.


The confusion of Sikhs as Muslims among Americans was frequently[4] reported on in articles published both in the United States and in India. Both sides state that the majority of the hate crimes against Sikhs in the United States have been due to anti-Islamic feelings. The U.S. and India both believe the source of the confusion to be the long beards and turbans worn by Sikhs. Beards and turbans have come to represent Islam in the U.S.; however, in reality, beards and turbans are most often donned by Sikhs. In U.S. sources, this confusion is also tied to the point about 9/11. In the Indian articles, the confusion of Sikhs as Muslims is instead paired with the idea of white supremacy by saying that it is a form of racial profiling. While the American articles acknowledge that Americans “mistake” or “confuse” Sikhs for Muslims, the Indian articles use much harsher words concerning the subject such as “large untutored segments of the populace” (S. Rajagopalan) and “some American wingnuts” are unable to distinguish Sikhs from Muslims (“Wisconsin Shooter”). I think that this says a lot about how Americans are perceived by others.

Definition of Sikhism

Perhaps the most clear-cut content issue is that of the definition of Sikhism. Sikhism is defined in seven of the eight American articles and is not defined in any of the Indian articles. The closest thing to a definition in an Indian article was when an article stated how many Sikhs are living in the United States today. The American articles emphasized the point that Sikhism is a peaceful religion that focuses on meditation and service. The definition of Sikhism in so many of the U.S. articles hints at the blatant ignorance we have of our own people.

The Need to Educate Americans:

The need to educate Americans about Sikhism was much more apparent[5] throughout Indian articles. However, there is little difference as to how it is talked about in the American articles versus the Indian articles. Both predict that a lesson or two in Sikhism would prevent further hate crimes against Sikhs. They also agree that this incident has been a wake-up call. Perhaps the only difference is that American articles only talked about Sikhism in terms of the religious meaning whereas the Indian articles felt that Americans should also be aware of the successful assimilation of the Sikhs.

The analysis of these news sources has revealed many important perceptions that were hidden in the content and language of the articles. The articles gave insight into America’s views of Sikhs, India’s views of Americans, and each countries perception of the mass shooting. I think that the Indian sources depict Americans as ignorant—of Sikhism and also of the difference between Muslims and Sikhs. Interestingly, this idea is reinforced in almost all of the US articles I analyzed when the sources defined Sikhism and explained that Sikhs traditionally wear turbans and have long beards rather than Muslims. By analyzing the Indian news sources, it seems that they are more concerned about what the United States plans to do to prevent further hate crimes. I think that this is represented by the information on President Obama, the confusion of Sikhs as Muslims, and the need to educate Americans about Sikhism. The news sources in the U.S. present the story in such a way that it seems almost insignificant. The U.S. articles mainly focus on the details of what happened rather than what could be done to keep it from happening again.

Works Cited

“7 Shot Dead at Sikh Temple near Milwaukee.” Chicago Tribune. Tribune Company, 06 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/ >.

Brendan O’Brien. “Wisconsin Shooting: 7 People Killed At Sikh Temple, Including Shooter.” Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, INC., 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/&gt;.

CNN Wire Staff. “Gunman, Six Others Dead at Wisconsin Sikh Temple.” Cable News Network. Cable News Network, 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/&gt;.

Kalyani Shankar. “US Must Halt its Racial Profiling Campaigns.” The Pioneer. The Pioneer, 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://dailypioneer.com/&gt;.

Kushwant Singh. “Vital to Tell Contemporary Success Stories of Sikhs.” Hindustan Times. HT Media Limited, 08 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.hindustantimes.com/&gt;.

Ravinder Singh Robin. “Wisconsin Killing Shocks Sikhs Worldwide.” Asian News International. ANINews.in, 06 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.aninews.in/&gt;.

S. Rajagopalan. “Sikhs Victims of Mistaken Identity in Post-9/11 US.” The Pioneer. The Pioneer, 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://dailypioneer.com/&gt;.

“Shooting at Sikh Temple in Wis., at least 7 Dead.” CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc., 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/&gt;.

“Shooting At Sikh Temple Leaves At Least 7 Dead, Including Gunman.” Fox News. Fox News Network, LLC, 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.foxnews.com/&gt;.

“Sikh Temple Shooting: Wisconsin Gunman had a Record.” Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company, 06 Aug. 2012. Web.0 5 Dec. 2012. <http://www.latimes.com/&gt;.

Star Tribune Editorial Board. “Editorial: Sikhs Victimized by Homegrown Terror.” Star Tribune. Star Tribune, 06 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.startribune.com/&gt;.

“Wisconsin Gurudwara Shooter Acquaintance Recall Him For His ‘Ill Will’ Guided by Hate” Asian News International. ANINews.in, 08 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.aninews.in/&gt;.

“Wisconsin Shooter was a White Supremacist.” The Times of India. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/&gt;.

Yashwant Raj. “At Least 7 Killed in Shooting at a Gurudwara in US.” Hindustan Times. HT Media Limited, 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.hindustantimes.com/&gt;.

Yudhvir Rana. “US Gurdwara Shooting: NGO Announces $10000 Award for Police Officer who Saved Many Lives.” The Times of India. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., 06 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/&gt;.

Yudhvir Rana. “Wisconsin Shooting: Sikh Group Declares Reward for Braveheart Cop.” The Times of India. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. <http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/&gt;.

[1] The officers were mentioned in six U.S. articles and five Indian articles.

[2] The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were mentioned in six U.S. articles and six Indian articles.

[3] President Obama was mentioned in four U.S. sources and 6 Indian articles.

[4] The misunderstood identity of Sikhs was mentioned in five U.S. sources and five Indian sources.

[5] The need to educate Americans was mentioned in two U.S. articles and 6 Indian articles.

Posted in: Uncategorized