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Stockton Sikh temple's 100th anniversary noted in Congress

November 13, 2012 |  1:42 pm

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

A Northern California congressman on Tuesday honored the state’s longstanding Sikh community by formally acknowledging the Stockton temple’s 100-year anniversary in the Congressional Record.

In his statement, Rep Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) compared members of the world’s fifth-largest religion to the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower in 1620 “seeking a better future in a free land for their descendants.

“It is the very same story of pilgrims like Baba Vasakha Singh and Baba Jawala Singh Thathian who founded the Stockton Gurdwara Sahib a century ago, and all those who have followed since,” the statement said.

Sikhism was founded in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent more than 500 years ago on the tenets of monotheism, equality -- of gender, class and faith -- and community service.

The earliest Sikh immigrants to North America settled in the Central Valley, establishing the Stockton temple, or Gurdwara, in 1912. They launched the country’s first Punjabi-language newspaper and formed the Ghadar Party, influencing India’s campaign for independence from Britain.

Of the 650,000 or so Sikhs now in the U.S., about 250,000 are in the Golden State.  A conservative Christian, McClintock represents a district east of Sacramento with a sizable Sikh population.

His statement read Tuesday into the Congressional Record says there is “no religion more attuned to the principles of the American Declaration of Independence than the Sikh religion.”

McClintock’s gesture comes as Sikhs in the U.S. press for greater understanding as they battle misconceptions that have made them targets of hate crimes since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“It bodes well for all in America,” said Bhajan Singh Bhinder, who coordinated the Stockton Gurdwara’s centennial celebration.

A state legislative resolution approved in September also recognized the Gurdwara’s centennial and detailed its historic significance.

The Sikh American community, that resolution said, “continues to peacefully overcome attacks on its identity and practices … whether in the form of school harassment, employment discrimination, or murder,” including those of six Sikhs at an Oak Creek, Wis., temple shot to death in August by a man with white supremacist ties.

[For the Record, 3:47 p.m. Nov. 13: An earlier version of the headline of this post incorrectly said that the temple was in Sacramento.]

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-- Lee Romney in San Francisco


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