JURUPA VALLEY: Sikh open house to build understanding after vandalism BY DAVID OLSON http://www.pe.com/local-news/rivers...se-to-build-understanding-after-vandalism.ece A month and a half after a Sikh temple in Jurupa Valley was vandalized in what police termed a hate crime, members of the congregation answered Inland residents' questions about their faith and stressed Sikhism's message of peace and unity. Santokh Singh Sahi, 72, a member of the temple, Riverside Gurdwara, said the open house Tuesday night, Sept. 10, and the support the temple has received leading up to it decreased the apprehension temple members felt after the vandalism. “We feel more safe and secure because of his efforts,” Singh said after the event at the Glen Avon Regional Library in Jurupa Valley, glancing toward Antonio Arias. Arias, 62, the Jurupa Valley resident who proposed the open house as a reaction to the vandalism, said the hate crime was a result of ignorance about Sikhism. “We all become strong by knowing each other,” said Arias. Sikhs have repeatedly been targets of violence and harassment across the country, especially since 9/11. Most Sikh men wear turbans and long beards and often are attacked because their assailants believe they are Muslim. On the night of July 29, a vandal spray-painted “terrorist” and “terrist” on the wall that surrounds the temple. A week later, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 17-year-old Jurupa Valley boy on suspicion of committing a hate crime and vandalism. The boy also was suspected in 32 other incidents of vandalism, none of which involved an alleged hate crime or house of worship, sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa McConnell said. U.S. Sikhs are still scarred by the August 2012 slaying of six Sikhs and the wounding of four others at a Wisconsin temple by a man with links to the white-power movement. One reason the event was held at the library was because, after the shootings, some temple members were nervous about an open house inside their house of worship, Singh said. In addition, some non-Sikhs may have been more likely to attend an event in a familiar public library than inside a temple, he said. Singh said he hoped the event dispels misconceptions about Sikhism. “People don’t understand,” he said. “We are a peaceful people. We are not terrorists. We had nothing to do with 9/11. We need to erase the impression that we’re followers of bin Laden.” As about 25 people ate traditional Indian food prepared by temple members, Singh explained the basic tenets of his faith. Singh explained that Sikhs do not cut their hair because they view it as part of their bodies and something not to be tampered with. He leavened his discussion with humor. “If you tell me why you shave, I'll tell you why I keep my hair,” Singh said to laughs. Jeff Green, 46, who helped organize the event, acknowledged that the event was unlikely to draw anti-Sikh bigots whose minds would be illuminated by the discussion. But he hoped they would take their knowledge of Sikhism back to their neighborhoods and be armed with correct information when talking to neighbors, family and friends. The event was primarily a signal to Sikhs that they are welcome in Jurupa Valley, Green said. “It’s more to get people in the community to meet them and say, ‘We want you here’ and make them comfortable living in the community,” he said.