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FBI, Local Police Investigate Shooting of Sikh Man as Community Rallies Support


Local police and the FBI continue to look for the white male who shot a Sikh man after telling him to "go back to your own country" in a Seattle, Washington (state) suburb Friday.

The victim had been released from the hospital Sunday, but wishes to remain anonymous and has not made any public statement after being shot in his own driveway in the town of Kent.

Local Sikhs, however, quickly came together over the weekend to work on increasing awareness and understanding of their community. And the larger community of Kent has expressed their solidarity as well.

"We have been getting so much appreciation, love, amazing support from the community. Everybody is rallying behind us," Satwinder Kaur, a Sikh, candidate for Kent city council, and longtime local resident, told VOA.

"People are scared. But...we are not going to let this crime bring us down. We're going to continue educating people. And we are going to talk about our culture and our community," she said, speaking from her car as she drove to the local Sikh temple to speak on upcoming community outreach programs.

The town of Kent, which recorded a population of just over 125,000 according to 2015 census data, is about 15 percent Asian, including South Asians. Kent, just south of Seattle in the Northwestern state of Washington, boasts diversity, claiming its school district speaks 138 different languages.

The shooting of the Sikh man in Kent comes just one week after an Indian-American was fatally shot in Kansas City. Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died of the wounds he sustained when a man allegedly opened fire in a crowded bar in suburban Kansas last Wednesday. Another Indian and an American who tried to intervene were injured in the incident.

The Kansas City Star quoted a witness as saying a man shouted “Get out of my country” before shooting at the Indian men.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the backlash against Muslims across the U.S. at times also included members of the Sikh faith. Followers of the Sikh faith, a monotheistic religion that originated in northern India, are often confused with Muslims.

Over the past year, the number of incidents of anti-Muslim (whether actually Muslim or simply perceived as Muslim) violence has risen dramatically, according to a report released by Georgetown's Bridge Initiative (in December).

Despite growing unease among American-South Asians as anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate crimes increase, Satwinder says that for her and the town of Kent, focusing on the local is what is important.

"We will just need to be more vigilant, more aware, stay in close touch with our authorities at the local level - that's what you can do. We can't really wait on our administration right now," she said.

"There's no hope there, I think."

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