Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, head priest of the Sikh temple in Rockville, struggles to comprehend the type of hate that would lead someone to shoot six Sikhs at a Wisconsin temple. He hopes the tragedy will spur people to love one another.
“This was a horrible incident,” he said. “It was painful for the whole community. But I am sure something good will come from it, and their sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Singh had met with the president of the Oak Creek, Wis., temple many times over the years, he said. The president was one of six Sikhs shot and killed Sunday by Wade Michael Page, who also turned his weapon on himself, according to published reports.
As it happens, Maryland is home to 18 hate groups, including the record label of Page, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate organizations in the U.S.
Page’s band, End Apathy, was carried by Linthicum-based Label 56. For years, the law center listed the record company’s website as a hate site, but stopped reporting on websites, said Heidi Beirich, director of the center’s Intelligence Project, which researches hate groups and activities nationwide.
The recording label has ties to the Maryland State Skinheads, one of the hate organizations, Beirich said.
During the past decade, the number of hate groups has grown nationally as a result of a few occurrences, she said. The election of the first black president led to a backlash among racists, while the poor economy drove some to look for scapegoats, she said.
In 2010, the most recent available figures, Maryland had 80 reported hate crimes. Of those, 44 were motivated by the victims’ race, 17 by their religion, 13 by sexual orientation and six by ethnicity, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s annual hate crimes report.
The 2010 total was down from 2009, when the state had 102 reported hate crimes. Of those, 62 were motivated by race, 26 by religion, nine by sexual orientation and five by ethnicity, according to the Justice Department report.
Music sales pay for activities
Label 56 is one of the more important of the record companies that carry bands producing music promoting racism and violence, Beirich said.
The sales of the music, posters and T-shirts serve to advance their racist message while subsidizing their activities, she said.
In a statement on the Label 56 website, the company said it was sorry to hear about the tragedy in Wisconsin and has worked to promote positive behavior. The company also said it was removing from sale all images and products related to Page’s band.
However, other music groups that describe themselves as “hate punk” continue to be featured on the label’s website, including one called Anticipate whose album “Killing For A Living” includes songs titled “The Dream Ends … with a Shotgun,” and “Load the Gun,” as well as “Shot in the Forehead.”
No phone number is listed for the Label 56 office, and an email seeking an interview received no reply by deadline.
No ‘faith in a box’
On a typical Friday, about 150 people from the tight-knit Sikh community attend services at the temple in Rockville, while more than 400 congregate on Sundays, Singh said.
The temple is one of two in Maryland, with the other in Silver Spring.
From what he has heard so far, his fellow Sikhs are more saddened than frightened by the shooting incident outside Milwaukee.
Singh said he does not want to add security to the Sikh temple because his religion calls on followers to keep their houses of worship open to all.
“I don’t want to exercise my faith in a box,” he said. “I want to live my religion as a free man.
“I’d rather not do one thing to suppress the message of love and compassion than practice my religion under security.”