Washington, Mar 4: In an apparent hate crime, a gurdwara in the US state of Washington was vandalised by a "naked" man who desecrated sacred items of the Sikh worship place, drawing condemnation from the community leaders.
The incident occurred on Wednesday when Jeffrey C Pittman, 44, broke into the gurdwara in Spokane. Deputies say that Pittman was arrested early Thursday morning wearing nothing but a sheet taken from the temple's furnishings. He was also holding the gurdwara's ceremonial sword.
He also desecrated sacred items of the gurdwara. Pittman was booked in Spokane County Jail connection with charges of burglary, malicious mischief and malicious harassment, which is the state's statute for a hate crime, The Seattle Globalist reported.
"All religions should be respected. Any crime committed due to someone's religious beliefs will be a priority and fully investigated," said Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich in a statement. "They (deputies) detained Pittman after a short altercation.
The damage is estimated to be several thousand dollars and there was damage to religiously sacred items of the Temple," Knezovich said. Gurdwara priest Gurjwet Singh Augla said he and another man were able to detain the person until police arrived.
"We don't know the motivations behind the vandalism yet, but we do know that police are treating the case seriously and that the perpetrator has been arrested.
There are no immediate indications that bias was involved," a statement issued by the the gurdwara said. "No house of worship in America should ever be vandalised.
The Sikh articles of faith, which include the turban and beard, show our commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all. These are not just Sikh values, they are American values," the statement said.
Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, expressed shock and anguish over the vandalising of the Sikh gurdwara in Spokane, Washington.
"This is terrible news for Sikhs in the Spokane area and nationwide," he said. "This kind of incidents should not become norm for us or for the country," he said.
"This can change and Americans can appreciate our values once they know that Sikhs believe in equality and tolerance towards other religions," said Singh, who is also the senior adviser to the National Sikh Campaign.
The incident is the latest in a number of hate crimes against Sikhs in America. A gurdwara in a suburb has been vandalised with hateful anti-ISIS graffiti in December. In September, a Sikh-American father was viciously assaulted in a suburb outside of Chicago after being called "Bin Laden".
In 2012, a gunman with Neo-Nazi ties walked into a Sikh gurdwara and shot and killed six innocent Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.