"He was also a brother of someone, maybe the husband of someone. He was also the son of someone," Brookfield Sikh temple head priest Surjit Singh told Patch. "What he has done is no good, no good. But whenever someone is dead, I have heart."
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Surjit Singh said he grieves for all who lost their lives. He said Oak Creek temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, 62, who was shot to death while reportedly trying to stop the gunman outside the Gurudwara, was an admirable and religious man.
"He was very loving and very helpful for everybody," Surjit Singh said of Satwant Kaleka, who founded the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. "(Helpful) not only for the Sikh community, but for anybody who comes to meet him, saying 'oh I have this problem.'"
Najar Singh, another priest at the Brookfield temple, said members will not be frightened away from returning to worship, either in Brookfield or in Oak Creek where federal authorities reopen the facility.
"We are not cowards, we are brave people," Najar Singh told Patch. "We will go back. We can face that."
Sikh priest: they mistake us for terrorists
He said he fears the gunman mistook the Sikhs in Oak Creek as Islamic fundamentalists responsible for attacks such as on 9/11. The Sikh religion, an offshoot of Hinduism, is based in India and not affiliated with Muslims, whose peaceful majority also get unfairly brushed by the terrorist brush, Najar Singh said.
"They misunderstand, they look at the picture of us, and it looks like they're the Taliban. Because of the turban, full beard. We don’t cut the beards. They think we are the terrorists who attacked on 9/11," Najar Singh said.
There are two Sikh temples in Wisconsin — the one that opened in Brookfield in October 1997 after moving from near 55th and Fond du Lac Avenue in Milwaukee — and the one that opened in Oak Creek in 2007.
Brookfield worshippers prayed, some fled home
About 200 people were worshipping at the Sikh temple in Brookfield Sunday morning when the first phone calls rang in with startling news of a shooting at the Oak Creek facility.
Priest Surjit Singh made an announcement, asking the congregation — the sangat — to continue to pray for the safety of their fellow Sikhs, some of whom were still barracaded inside, hiding in closets and pantries amid reports there may be another shooter.
Most stayed inside the Brookfield temple to pray. About 10 to 20 families left, some to go to the parking lot to call to make sure their loved ones were safe, said Jagmohan Singh, who lives next door with his wife and three children. Others left because they were afraid the Brookfield temple would be a target yet that morning.
"They went home — they were afraid, saying, 'Let's go home, let's go home, be safe,'" Jagmohan Singh said.
"We didn't stop the service and said it's in God's hands," he said.
Brookfield police squads came, as did a sniper for awhile, he added. Squads returned to watch the site all day Monday as a precaution, Mayor Steve Ponto said.
No problems reported at Brookfield temple
Brookfield temple members and the mayor said the Sikhs have had no problems with threats or safety, and have been welcomed by the community.
“Obviously it’s a terrible thing that happened in Oak Creek," Mayor Ponto said. "I don’t know what possesses people to kill others randomly because of their culture, religion, whatever. I think it’s deplorable.
"That’s why I’m so glad here in Brookfield we make a real effort in accommodating all faiths," Ponto said.
The Brookfield temple will be open to the public from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday.
Leaders stressed that anyone is welcome, not just Sikhs, and that their open doors extend to their weekly worship times in Brookfield — from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
The Brookfield temple also has another previously scheduled public event — a Aug. 26 parade down Calhoun Road south to the city's Civic Plaza for a ceremony.
Interfaith network expresses prayers, empathy
The Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network, comprised of leaders from a diverse group of faiths, expressed its empathy for its Sikh neighbors.
"(We) stand with our Sikh neighbors in the wake of the terrible tragedy at the Oak Creek Sikh Temple," a statement from BEGIN said. "We have reached out to the Sikh Temple in Brookfield, and will continue to reach out with our support in every possible way."
Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield also offered prayers "and our most sincere sympathies" to the Sikh community.
"We are outraged that such acts of violence have been directed at our brothers and sisters whose religious faith is so peaceful and full of acceptance for all people," said UUCW Rev. Suzelle Lynch. "We continue to work for peace and understanding between people of all faiths in our community and across our world. This is our promise to you."