USA Fire Targeted Sikh-owned Shop In Clay County GA


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
HAYESVILLE — Authorities are investigating a possible hate crime at a small grocery store in rural Clay County near the Georgia line.

Someone set fire to State Line Grocery on N.C. 69 and spray-painted “911 Go Home” on the outside of the shop.

The owners are Sikh, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes nationally. The owners could not be be reached Monday.

Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Wingate said the investigation is “still in the early stages.” An accelerant was used to start the fire, he said.

The State Bureau of Investigation assisted with the arson part of the case, said agency spokeswoman Noelle Talley.

It is not handling the suspected hate crime aspect, she said.

An FBI official in Charlotte would not say whether a federal investigation is under way.

A sheriff’s deputy was the first on the scene of the early Wednesday morning fire and used an extinguisher and a garden hose on the blaze until the fire department arrived.

Sandeep Amy Kaur, staff attorney at the New York-based Sikh Coalition, said the group is monitoring law enforcement response to the crime and has been in touch with the FBI.

Attacks against Sikhs are on the rise, according to the law center.

Sikhs are often viewed with suspicion and as potential terrorists because their religion requires unshorn hair, beards and turbans, Kaur said.

“That is what we have to combat,” she said.

Her group was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to stop violence against Sikhs through education.

More than 25 million people worldwide follow the Sikh faith.

Sikhism was revealed to Guru Nanak more than 500 years ago in the Punjab region, which boarders Pakistan and India.

The faith, according to the coalition’s website “preaches a message of devotion, remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality between all human beings, social justice, while emphatically denouncing superstitions and blind rituals.”|topnews|text|Frontpage