We have been receiving many calls and emails from viewers about the pronunciation of the Sikh religion. While many national organizations are pronouncing it "seek" our reporters on the scene at both the temple in Menasha and the temple in Oak Creek, have been asked specifically by the religious leaders to pronounce it "sick."
Here is the official from Kavneet Singh, the Secretary General of the World Sikh Council-American Region (WSC-AR)
"Thank you for inquiring about the correct pronunciation of the word, 'Sikh'. Sikh is pronounced as 'Sick' and Sikhs are pronounced as 'Six'."
We will defer to the people who know the religion best. We hope you can appreciate that people who have lost their loved ones are asking us to use 'Sick' to describe the name of their religion.The members of Wisconsin's Sikh community are among 20 million adherents of the world's fifth-largest faith, a monotheistic religion that stresses the equality of mankind, nonviolence and tolerance for other faiths.
How it started
Founded in the Punjab region between Pakistan and India in the 15th century, Sikhism is based on the teachings of founder Nanek Dev Ji and nine other gurus whose writings are ensconced in the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, considered a living guru itself.
Men traditionally take the name Singh (Lion) and women Kaur (Princess) as a sign of equality and eschewing of India's traditional caste system.
About 3,000 Sikh families live in southeastern Wisconsin, a tight-knit community that meets for religious services and weekly meals at temples in Oak Creek and Brookfield.
Although Sikhs have been in the United States for more than a century, many immigrated in the 1980s, fleeing political unrest in India and seeking a better life for their families, said Kavneet Singh of the Oakland, Calif.-based Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Members of the Oak Creek temple had worshipped since 1999 in an old commercial building near E. Lincoln and S. Kinnickinnic avenues before raising the $2.5 million to build their gurdwara, or house of worship, in an industrial area between W. Rawson and W. Drexel avenues in 2007.
It is the spiritual home of an economically diverse community.
"Sikhs are in every profession. We have taxi drivers, gas station owners, doctors and veterinarians," said Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president of the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin in Brookfield.
Sikhs in the Milwaukee area and across the country have carved out a business niche of gas station ownership. Most prominent in Wisconsin has been Darshan Dhaliwal, whose Bulk Petroleum Co. once owned hundreds of stations in several states and went bankrupt amid controversy.
Many Sikhs have been the subject of hate crimes, especially after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by individuals who confuse them with Muslims.
"We've seen a remarkable increase in violence against our community" after 9-11, said Kavneet Singh of the Sikh legal defense fund.
Awareness of the confusion prompted the Islamic Society of Milwaukee at S. 13th St. and W. Layton Ave. to lock down its mosque Sunday morning, allowing only those known to members there to enter for Ramadan prayers.
"We are aware of the fact that ignorant people who seek to do violence against Muslims sometimes confuse Muslims and Sikhs," said Islamic Society of Milwaukee President Ahmed Quereshi.
Sikhs have lent their voice to Milwaukee's interfaith dialogue, speaking at educational gatherings and offering a prayer at a program last year marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2011.
Reaction from others
Sunday's rampage at the Sikh temple drew condemnation from many in Milwaukee's interfaith community, including Catholics, Muslims, Jews and others.
At least two Christian churches and an independent group of friends staged prayer vigils.
The Islamic Society offered the use of its facilities to the local Sikhs while their building is closed during the investigation.
"The Islamic Society of Milwaukee condemns the cowardly and senseless attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and expresses its condolences to the families of the victims," the Islamic Society said in a statement. "We also pray for those who were injured, including law enforcement personnel from Oak Creek whose courageous actions prevented a much larger tragedy from taking place."
Milwaukee's Catholic Archbishop Jerome Listecki issued a statement saying, "Our prayers go out to the congregation at the temple and to the entire Sikh community. It is in times like these that we turn to God who is the consolation and hope for all of us."
"We grieve for the dead. We grieve for the wounded," said the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
"No one yet knows what was in the heart of the shooter and why he chose to commit this heinous act. As more becomes known, we will work together as a people of faith to bring us all to a better future."