By Rob Young, Marysville-Yuba City, California
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The FBI is helping investigate a threat to destroy the Sikh temple on Tierra Buena Road, Sutter County Sheriff Jim Denney said Tuesday. Copies of the written threat were received in the mail by the sheriff, the Yuba City Police Department.
The threat came as the Sikh Temple prepares for its 27th annual festival and parade through Yuba City on Sunday, an event attended by thousands of Sikhs from around the state and country.
Ed Vasquez, spokesman for the San Jose-based Sikh Communication Council, said local Sikhs and Muslims have had a good working relationship. The council was founded after 9-11 in response to violence against Sikhs whose beards and turbans caused them to be mistaken for Muslims. Sikh leaders suspect the role of right wing hindutva elements behind the hoax letter. Most of the muslims in the area is of Pakistani origin, but do have a very cordial relation with Sikhs.
When an arson fire destroyed the Islamic Center's mosque in 1994, local Sikhs contributed money to help rebuild it, said Abdul Kabir Krambo, spokesman for the Yuba City Islamic Center. Relations between local Sikhs and Muslims are generally good, “depending on who you talk to,” said Krambo.
“Oh, great,” said ,Krambo about the letter. The center's mosque is near the Sikh Temple on Tierra Buena Road. Krambo called the threat “just awful. As if we didn't have enough problems already.”
“We hope this doesn't mean problems between Sikhs and Muslims,” he said.
Threats of violence are inconsistent with the “Sufi-oriented” Muslim religion practiced at the Yuba City mosque, he said.
Krambo said he would warn his Pakistani Muslim friends to be on the lookout for outsiders or “anyone talking crap.”
Bains, Krambo and law enforcement officials said they were unaware of any actual groups called the Muslim Union or Taliban Group or of a Taliban leader being sentenced in India.
Karen Ernst, FBI spokeswoman in Sacramento, said law enforcement agencies don't consider the threat credible but are not totally dismissing it. “We're going to be investigating if there are leads to be followed up on,” said Ernst. “The main thing is that people should feel like they can go about their business and participate without being too terribly worried.”
The letter, which purports to be from the “Muslim Union” and is signed by the “Taliban group,” also contains a threat to destroy the Golden Temple in India because “our leader in India punish by sikh ladi judge.”
The Golden Temple is the holiest Sikh site in India and Muslims and Sikhs enjoy cordial relationship. “We also know they have Sikh temple in Yuba City and they are going to be celebrate Sikh guru birthday the first day of November. We are going to destroy the sikh temple in Yuba City on that day,” the letter went on.
Didar Singh Bains, chairman of the annual Sikh event, said temple leaders were “kind of surprised” by the threat but aren't varying their plans, except for adding extra security.
Since Sept. 11, it's hard to tell which threats are credible, said Bains.
“We are alert,” he said. Denney, who met with temple leaders, said the threat is being taken seriously because it deals with international terrorism.