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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Support for Sikhs reflects community’s values

A Sikh temple in Spokane Valley was vandalized Thursday morning, apparently by a man who thought it was a mosque sympathetic to the Islamic State terrorist organization.

Jeffrey C. Pittman was found naked and holding a ceremonial Sikh sword. After a brief altercation with sheriff’s deputies, he was arrested and booked on charges of armed burglary, malicious mischief and malicious harassment based on religious discrimination. About $30,000 in damage was done.

Was it a hate crime, or the act of a man in need of mental health care? It’s not certain at this point, so judgment on the motive should be reserved.

But it’s safe to say that if the perpetrator were Muslim and the trashed venue were a Christian church, we’d see a greater desire to affix the crime to a larger narrative, rather than treat it as an isolated incident that implicates nobody’s beliefs.

There is no point in rushing to judgment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rally in support. The community did a nice job of that.

By Thursday afternoon, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins, Spokane Mayor David Condon were joined by other political and law enforcement officials to swiftly condemn the act and affirm the values of tolerance and understanding. Representatives of several faith communities, including Muslim, were also on hand.

If it turns out that this wasn’t a hate crime, there is still great value in having leaders gather to convey a message of solidarity.

“Sikh values are intrinsic to who we are,” Condon said.

“This is not who the people of the Valley are,” Higgins said.

Temple members offered the in-custody suspect traditional chai tea. Some threat.

Political rhetoric has inflamed many Americans, turning them against people who are different. From there, a glimpse at a turban or any foreign-looking garb can cause people to take leave of their senses.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is the leading practitioner of the politics of fear, which partly explains his rise to the top of the GOP field.

This fear has spread to Idaho, where some lawmakers are convinced that pockets of Muslim terrorists are forming in the Gem State.

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Post Falls, decided his first-ever bill should be a measure banning recognition of Sharia, or Islamic, law in Idaho courts. On Wednesday, the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee voted to introduce the measure. Redman distributed a photo of a severed hand to committee members.

Thoughtful leaders understand the danger of stoking unwarranted fear. It can, for instance, cause people to act rashly when no threat is imminent.

We don’t know why the temple was vandalized, but we do know that community leaders were sincerely concerned.

That’s a reassuring sign in this climate of fear, and a point of pride.

To respond to this editorial online, go to and click on “Opinion.”

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