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Being Sikh in Sussex: Businessman Reflects on Tragedy

Sussex Liquor’s Pav Sangha talks about the Oak Creek temple shooting, being the target of hate crimes and why he feared there would be violence against members of his religion.

Upon hearing the news of the , Sussex’s Paviter Singh Sangha jumped on his motorcycle and took off.

“I found out Sunday morning from my little sister,” Sangha said. “My heart sank... I just flew over to the Brookfield temple. We all thought there was going to be a second attack.”

Sangha, 27, on Main Street in May of 2011 after first moving to the Sussex area in 1993, is a Sikh and knows a few of those who died in Oak Creek on Sunday. His mother taught Sunday school to the sons of a woman who was killed. His father was a close friend of the Temple president, who died trying to take down the shooter.

But as hard as these last few days have been, disturbingly, Sangha said he knew this day would come.

“On the way to the Brookfield temple I had my gun with me, and I’ve been mentally preparing for this,” he said. “I’ve been carrying since the concealed carry law passed just for my family and my protection. I knew one day there would be something like this because I’ve been a target of hate crimes many times before.”

Between bar fights at Summerfest and shouts while walking down the street, Sangha said he’ll give someone a week to write down every slur they can think of, and then he’ll double it.

“I’ve been called Osama bin Laden more times than I’d like to admit,” Sangha said.

"You look at the people around us – who’s supporting us? Americans. That man, I can’t speak of him, but he’s not American. Those aren’t American ideals.”

However, according to Sangha, the same hatred doesn’t extend into Sussex or Lake Country. After living in Germantown and working in Sussex for almost 20 years, he says he hasn’t been harassed in the village. Not once.

“Since I’ve owned the store, no single person has said anything to me regarding my faith,” Sangha said. “Sussex has been beautiful. I’d like to thank the people of Sussex. A ton of my customers came in on Sunday asking if I was OK, asking about my dad, asking about me. I’ve gotten cards and hugs and handshakes. They’re not here to shop. They’re here to see me.”

It’s Sussex and the community’s faith in him that keeps Sangha’s faith in America burning bright. On Sunday, he many police officers arrived at the Brookfield Sikh temple to provide protection. On Monday, he noticed people from every walk of life attending .

When asked if the Oak Creek gunman affected his perspective on the United States, Sangha said simply: “Not at all.”

“I once asked my father why he came from India to America, and he said he wanted to have a better life and education for his children,” Sangha began. “We love America, and every day we pray for America.

"You look at the people around us – who’s supporting us? Americans. That man, I can’t speak of him, but he’s not American," he said of the gunman, Wade Michael Page. "Those aren’t American ideals.”

Sangha said, if anything has come of this tragedy, now more people than ever are aware of the Sikh community. But if anyone has questions or is confused, his doors are open.

“Anyone who has any questions in Sussex – they don’t have to be a customer or anything like that – my doors are open to anyone with questions,” Sangha said.

Anyone interested in helping the community after the Oak Creek tragedy can visit WeAreSikhs.com, a website taking donations to help lower-income families who lost loved ones, those injured in the shooting and to help repair the temple.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the website already collected more than $170,000.

Editor's Note: The article was motified on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. to better reflect how long Sangha has been in the Sussex community. 

Jeff August 10, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Amen!!! Look up the Aldi incident!!
Cheryl M Meunier August 10, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I feel sorry for the ignorance of those people who will not shop where the owner is LEGALLY carrying a concealed weapon. Will you now walk into a store, ask the owner if they have a gun before you shop? Had this tragic event never happened you would have had no idea that this poor man even carried a weapon. Please don't take this the wrong way, but that is beyond ignorant!
Jane August 11, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Packing firearms reinforces an extreme egocentric worldview. The act of carrying objectifies other people; the potential threat from others is emphasized, while their potential as collaborators is de-emphasized. This paranoid perspective is quite damaging to our nation’s social fabric (see T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland”). You are correct that I will not know whether each business owner does or does not carry a gun. But, we must do what we can, however small, to curtail this madness. We owe it to our posterity.
Heather August 27, 2012 at 06:51 PM
To all of those saying that you wouldn't shop there if you knew the store owne had a gun... I have been shopping at Pav's for over a year now. I consider him a friend. I would've never known until now that he carried a gun as he doesn't advertise that. He was simply stating his opinion on the matter. When I read the article, it saddened me that he felt this way, but I understood. Also, know Pav, I know that if something were to, God forbid, happen in his store, his gun would be his last resort.
Jane August 28, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Hi Heather, I have nothing against Pav personally. But, knowing that he carries a firearm, I no longer patronize his business.

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