Local Sikh philanthropist and entrepreneur Narinder Singh Kapany sees the Aug. 5 shooting in Wisconsin that left six Sikhs dead as part of a disturbing trend of violence against his religious group.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion from the Punjab region of Southeast Asia whose men traditionally wear turbans and long beards. Kapany said that Sikhs have increasingly been the victims of acts of violence since the Sept. 11 attacks, often because they're confused with Muslims.
Wade Michael Page, the alleged perpetrator of this weekend's shooting, had ties to white supremacist organizations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and other domestic extremists.
Page, who was killed by police officers who responded to the shooting, was a member of two white power rock bands, End Apathy and Definite Hate, according to the center. While Page's motives remain unknown, the New York-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 attacks or bias-related crimes against Sikhs since the Sept. 11 attacks.
In 2006, Iqbal Singh, a Sikh living in Santa Clara, was stabbed in the neck by a man with a steak knife who apparently believed Singh was a member of the Taliban. Instances of vandalism, arson, assault and murder have also occurred across the country.
"I feel terrible about it -- these are good, hard-working, dedicated people," Kapany said. "Right here in the Silicon Valley, there are 40 or 50 Sikhs running their own companies, hiring people and doing wonderful things for our country."
He also mentioned that Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian U.S. Representative, was a Sikh. Saund was a California congressman from 1957 to 1963.
Kapany himself is credited with being one of the founders of fiber optics. He founded the Sikh Foundation, located in Palo Alto, in 1967 to advance the Sikh culture in the West. The foundation's activities include setting up Sikh art exhibits in major museums, such as the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.
Kapany said the foundation has also helps organize courses, conferences and academic chairs of Sikh studies at Western universities.
"The only answer, quite frankly, is to get the people to learn what we're all about," he said of anti-Sikh sentiments. "Come to our temple. We welcome everyone. Meet with us, try to understand, and that's all we ask."