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Son of Victim in Sikh Temple Attack Unites with Former White Supremacist to Fight Violence and Hate

"I got involved in white power skinhead groups really just as a angry, bored, unchallenged teenager."

The following transcript originally appeared on   Democracy Now! on August 9, 2013.

AMY GOODMAN: This week marks the one-year anniversary of the attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, that left six people dead and five wounded. People of all faiths joined the Sikh community for vigils to remember those who died August 5th, 2012, when neo-Nazi gunman Wade Michael Page opened fire on worshipers in the temple.

The Oak Creek tragedy brought national attention to the threat of hate and discrimination that’s become routine for millions of Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Arab Americans in the last decade. According to reports, hate crimes against these communities are now at their highest since 2001, and the number of hate groups has more than doubled since 2000. Last Friday, ahead of the anniversary, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department will begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Sikhs along with other religious groups. The Sikh community has long sought such inclusion. This is Jasjit Singh of the Sikh American Legal Defense Fund.

JASJIT SINGH: In the year after Oak Creek, we have made some progress with the government. And, you know, in one year, to get the FBI to agree to start tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, that’s progress, in the context of one year later. You know, we know that the government has challenges in moving quickly, especially in this environment. But for them to recognize the need and move on it, that should be absolutely acknowledged, and we applaud that effort. At the same time, it’s not exactly a victory, in the sense that we’re simply requesting that we be recognized when we are facing these horrific challenges, and so it gives you a sense for how much work really there is to be done in a broader scope.

AMY GOODMAN: On the day after the anniversary of the shooting, five golden domes were added to the Oak Creek Sikh temple, something the late temple president, who was killed in last year’s massacre, had wanted.

Well, to talk more about the implications of this tragedy, one year later, we go to Milwaukee where we’re joined by two guests, whose unlikely alliance was born out of this tragedy. Pardeep Kaleka is the son of slain temple president Satwant Kaleka. He’s a founder of Serve 2 Unite. Arno Michaelis is also with us, former white supremacist, author of My Life After Hate. He is an educator with Pardeep in Serve 2 Unite.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Pardeep, I’d like to begin with you, and it is a year later. My condolences on the death of your father and the others in your community. Talk about what happened that day.

PARDEEP KALEKA: Good morning, Amy. Yeah, thank you.

That day, August 5th, I guess sort of marked—marked our community being victimized by a hate crime committed by a white supremacist that—I mean, I think, you know, he didn’t think that we represented what America was about. And basically he came into the temple that day and shot six people dead, one including my father, and, you know, others injured and some still—one’s still critically in a vegetative state. This past weekend—I’m glad that you talked about this past weekend—was a healing process. It’s been a healing process throughout the year, but this past weekend especially, with the marking of the one-year vigil and obviously with the domes going up. One of the wishes that my dad really wanted is for the gurdwara to look like a gurdwara.

AMY GOODMAN: Pardeep, can you talk about the guest you’re sitting next to right now? Can you talk about how the two of you met after this killing last year?

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