The world was shocked by the murder of six people after a gunman stormed a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on Aug. 5, opening fire on those gathered for morning services before falling to a policeman's bullet. But religious persecution is sadly, nothing new for Sikhs. The confusion and anger over the incident recall earlier chapters in the religion's history, when adherents of the 500-year-old faith found themselves in bloody skirmishes with Hindus and Muslims in India, the birthplace of Sikhism and home to the majority of its practitioners.
Sikhs, who comprise about 2 percent of India's population and form the world's fifth-largest religion, have in many ways been integrated into Indian culture, a point that was driven home by the 2004 election of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first Sikh to hold India's most powerful office. But adherents have traveled a bloody road to acceptance: After the 1984 siege of the holy Golden Temple by Sikh separatists and the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards the same year, India saw waves of retaliatory anti-Sikh riots, including a siege of one of the holiest Sikh temples. In a virtual pogrom that torched Sikh homes, storefronts, and temples across the capital New Delhi, mobs killed almost 3,000 people. Many Sikhs fled to the United States. Once again, they have faced persecution, including incidents of violence and a spate of hate crimes, sometimes after being misidentified as Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Above, police swarm the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin grounds after the shootout. Three people, including the police officer who shot the suspect, were hospitalized for critical injuries. The FBI has not released an official motive.
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