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Deadly Shooting At Temple Near Milwaukee Hits Home For Colorado Sikhs

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Sikhs at the temple in Commerce City (credit: CBS)

Sikhs at the temple in Commerce City (credit: CBS)

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – Worshippers a Sikh temple in Commerce City say they are shocked by the shootings in Oak Creek, Wis.

A Sikh temple has four doors. The religion started in India. The doors welcome Sihks, Hindus, Muslims and Christians — the four main religions of India. Despite the Wisconsin shootings, their faith remains.

Members of the Sikh religion say their faith is built on a foundation of peace for all. So when members of the temple in Commerce City learned six of their fellow believers were shot to death, they were left searching for answers.

“I don’t know if it’s a hate crime or it was somebody crazy like what happened up here in Aurora,” Sikh leader Rajbir Singh Dhillon said.

One young Sikh told CBS4 her childhood friend attends the same temple in Wisconsin where the shootings occurred.

“It definitely hits home … just thankful that for some reason they decided not to go,” Puneet Shahi of Denver said.

The shooting has left Sikhs in Colorado wondering if they could ever face a gunman.

“What should I do if something like this happens? What caution should I take before going to temple? Which is a question that nobody should have to ask,” Jasmeet Bajwa of Commerce City said.

Since Sept. 11 American Sikhs have been mistaken for Muslims and have faced verbal assaults and worse. Shahi described a recent incident while visiting the 16th Street Mall.

“We heard somebody say, ‘Are you guys related to Osama bin Laden?’ ” Shahi said.

Instead of allowing anger to overcome here, Shahi used her faith and turned a nasty encounter into a teachable moment.

“We just said, ‘No, we’re not. We’re not related to Osama bin Laden. We’re not Muslim, and maybe you should take some time and learn about something that is outside of your box,’ ” Shahi said.

The Sikh temple in Commerce City will be adding extra surveillance cameras and be keeping an eye out for unfamiliar faces. They say guns are not allowed inside the temple.

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