On 05 August 2012, a threat actor entered the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee and started to open fire on congregants who were gathering for services. Those inside ran for cover or hid while trying to call for police. In total, six people were killed and three others were wounded. The threat actor committed suicide when police arrived. The threat actor is an American white supremacist and Army veteran from Cudahy, Wisconsin. Apart from the shooter, all of those killed were members of the Sikh faith. 05 August 2022 marks the 10-year anniversary of the attack and is a reminder that religious groups of all types have been targets of attacks, which is especially important considering the release of extremist and accelerationist materials over the past several years.
Sikhism is the world's fifth most popular religion and is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others. There are 25 million Sikhs around the world of which about 700,000 live in the United States. Most Sikhs are in India. There are many Sikh organizations that seek to educate on Sikhism. Many of those organizations are also advocates for the Sikh community. One of those organizations is Saldef. Saldef is commemorating the attack at the Gurdwara at Oak Creek, Wisconsin in several different ways to include a call for action and a remembrance event.
Attacks against people of faith are not uncommon and can range in scale from vandalism and harassment all the way through the kind of attack that took place at the Gurdwara on 05 August 2012 as well as many others to include the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue on 27 October 2018. And unfortunately, there is extensive history behind these events, which makes it all the more important for organizations to plan and prepare for all potential risk and then use a risk-based approach to determine appropriate security measures. The 2019 FBI Hate Based Statistics noted that of the 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
- 60.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
- 13.2 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
- 3.8 percent were victims of anti-Catholic bias.
- 3.8 percent were victims of anti-Other Christian bias.
- 3.5 percent were victims of anti-Sikh bias.
- 2.9 percent were victims of anti-Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Other) bias.
- 2.6 percent were victims of bias against groups of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
- 1.4 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.
FB-ISAO has continuously provided members with updated information on the heightened threat environment. The Department of Homeland security issued an update to the National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin on 07 June 2022 which specifically calls out faith-Based organizations “The United States remains in a heightened threat environment, as noted in the previous Bulletin, and several recent attacks have highlighted the dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment. In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets. These targets could include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.” The FB-ISAO Threat Level Statement, issued 16 June 2022, highlights some of these concerns and others as well to include concerns about the on-going pandemic, cyber threats and fall-out from protests related to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The community of faith is reminded that preparedness is not a ‘once and done’ but rather that preparedness is a continuum. The best approach to preparedness is by undertaking small manageable steps towards a larger goal.
FB-ISAO maintains a library of resources that can be used by faith-based organizations to assist with preparedness initiatives. Below is a list just a few of the resources that pertain to securing houses of worship.