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The Kirtan – Hate Punk Disconnection in Wisconsin’s Tragic Sikh Temple Shooting

in YD News

An interesting article on music blog Stereogum takes a look at the horrible shooting that took place at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin this past Sunday killing 6 members of the congregation and injuring 3 more including a non-Sikh policeman.

The gunman, who eventually shot and killed himself, was identified as Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old discharged US military soldier with a 9/11 tattoo and a history of hate as a member of white supremacist group “Hammerskin Nation” as well as a devoted member of hate punk bands playing the most racist music you could imagine about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and other targeted enemies.

The post’s author, Amrit Singh, describes the tragedy as “not only a hate crime, but one with deeply illustrative, and bitterly ironic, aesthetic dimension.”

The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is essentially a book of songs. It is a compilation of teachings by a series of ten Gurus. These Gurus were mystic songwriters. Each of their prayers (or banis) comes with a prescribed raga (a collection of notes, not unlike a mode, but with set melodic implications) and taal (a time signature but with a more complicated, cyclical component than Western bar measures). Services at a gurdwara are almost entirely comprised of kirtan, or devotional singing of shabads (verses from the SGGS) set to harmonium and tabla. Aspirants chant and meditate. While Sikhs explicitly believe that all religions are equally valid belief systems with a common goal and a common destination — making it one of the most inclusive religions imaginable — Sikhs’ specific practice is predicated upon the power of vibration and song: By singing these songs, alone or in the saad sangat (the congregation at a gurdwara), it is believed that one can commune with the vibratory essence underlying all noumena; that by meditating on these songs, you can shift your frequency, still your mind, transcend yourself, be enlightened. And in this state, one can live a good life, of love and commitment to hard work, truth, service, prosperity, and greater peace.

After knowing that, how fatally ironic does it seem that this killing was committed by a hate rock stalwart? That a man so committed to his hateful cause as to become a prominent figure in his music scene turned up at what is essentially a spiritual concert, to murder aspirants who were using music to achieve a diametrically opposed end? Essentially, a lead singer from one genre came to murder the fans of another. From hate punk to kirtan. And by turning up to the gurdwara as early as he did, before things really got underway, Page killed only the most devout members of the congregation: those preparing for the day’s services, those preparing the langar, or the food that is offered freely to anyone, no matter cast or creed, that turns up to a gurdwara needing a meal. Even Page could have had langar, if he chose to feed his hunger over his hatred.

It is truly tragically ironic that songs with a passion for hate fueled a crime against songs being sung for peace. And it’s really something for us to think about, especially if you’re white. May your next yogi kirtans take on a little extra meaning when you gather together freely to bang on the drums and chant in meditation.

(photo credit)



10 comments… add one
  • Thank you for taking the time to share this. I will definitely be spending extra time devoting my practice to tolerance.

  • I think the kirtan prevails. His hatred was absorbed into peace more than peace was absorbed into hatred. Not without difficulty, of course. As Buddha taught, hatred does not end by hatred. It is so important that we don’t harden because of these acts. The Sikhs have much to teach on this subject through their song.

  • Janet

    That shooter went to the Sikh temple thinking that they were Muslims, because in his ignorant mind, he didn’t know or care to know what the differences were. Sikhs have increasingly been targeted and mistaken for being Muslims because of their beards and turbans.
    Muslims, and Sufis in particular also have songs and poetry to share which would benefit all. I think there needs to be more understanding, dialogue and outreach and exchange with ALL groups to A)demystify them to people who don’t know anything about them B)it enriches our own world and knowledge base as well

  • Chris

    The Sikhs are one of several groups of Hindus in 14th-century India, who sprang into militant-action, in order to save Hinduism from the barbaric onslaught of Islam in ancient India. Read up about the Moslem tryrant Aurangzeb, and the insane savageries that he committed upon the Sikhs.

    As these particularly militant band of Hindus rallied forth against the onslaught of Islam, in time they came to form their own identity, somewhat distinct from the parent Hindu religion that had spawned them. They would go on to form their own religion, Sikhism.

    Thus, Sikhism, like Buddhism and Jainism before it, is an offshoot of Hinduism, and is therefore in perfect harmony with Hinduism.

    It is worth noting that the brave people of India have, for the last 1500 years, single-handedly been waging a valiant battle against the Arabic Plague of Islum. During these 1500 years of battle against the savage, primitive Islumic barbarians, the corpses of the slaughtered Hindus of India have, literally, been stacked in towering heaps by the Islamic barbarians. (The atrocities committed by Islam upon the people of India, over the last 1500 years, dwarfs the Holocaust committed upon the Jews, by several order of magnitude).

    It is only in the last 10 years that the US is doing its bit towards Mankind’s long struggle against the Arabic Plague of Islam.

    • Janet

      And if this isn’t a racist diatribe, I don’t know what is. How ironic on a posting about furthering tolerance, the intolerance comes out of the woodwork… YD, you really need to moderate some of these comments a wee tad better.

      • Chris

        Janet, Fateh and YD :

        Open your eyes. Islum is NOT a Religion of Peace.
        Ask any American serviceman, who has served in Iraq or in Afganistan.

        I’m trying to save innocent lives here. Like the life of the woman in Afghanistan, who, in full accordance with the tenets of Islum, is being executed by being stoned to death, on charges of “adultery”, because she had the misfortune of getting raped by some lowlife.

        Islum is the ONLY religion that calls upon its followers to “Kill the Unbelievers”, and to continue doing so, until all the World has “accepted” Islum. That is how they “spread the word of God”. That is how PedoMo spread the “Word of God”, 1500 years ago.

        The sooner that intelligent people realize the truth about Islum, the sooner can innocent lives be saved.

        I have seen Islum, in all of its ugliness, during my several visits to India. Indians have tragically been exposed to the ugly truth of Islum, for the last 1500 years.

        If we in the US had learned this ugly truth sooner, 9/11 could perhaps have been avoided.

      • Chris


        In Karachi, Pakistan, a Muslim civil-contractor demolished a 100-year-old Hindu temple, and the houses of 50 Hindus adjoining the Hindu temple, on December 1, 2012.


        This is how religious-Minorities, such as the Hindus of Pakistan, are treated in Islamic countries, such as Pakistan.

        Are there still people out here in the US, saying damn-fool things like ” Islam is a Religion of Peace ” ? Hope not !

    • @Chris, this is a shameful thing you wrote. But I’ve heard this all before from some Hindi Indians — it’s a shame they teach this in India, and a shame when I see this boiler-plate radical and racially divisive opinion espoused in blind ignorance as if it was some kind of law. And these people never change their view. Best thing to do is bless them, and move on.

      • Chris

        Bill Cosby got it right !

        Excerpts from his ” I’m 83 and Tired” :

        I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honor”; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.

        I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries use our oil money to fund Mosques and Madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in Australia , New Zealand , UK, America and Canada , while no one from these countries are allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country to teach love and tolerance..

  • To lighten the load, my teacher shared with me this incredible article written by a Kundalini Yoga student who dabbled with, but in the end did not take the full plunge to being a full-fledged Sikh. However, his perspective of what it is really about is so “right on” and very accurately revealing. Must reading for anyone who does not understand why the commitment to Sikhism (or any equivalent spiritual commitment) is inclusive AND beyond anything that one can experience merely practicing Kundalini Yoga. Here is the link:


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