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US-based gurdwaras seek improvement in security funding

Washington, Aug 6 (IANS) Ten years after a white supremacist gunned down six Sikh worshippers at a gurdwara in the US state of Wisconsin, the White House is calling for a sharp increase in funding for a federal program that provides security grants for houses of worship.

But a Sikh-American advocacy group has said that many gurdwaras have not been able to take advantage of the six-year-old funding programme because of a complicated application process and tight deadlines, VOA reported.

“Too many gurdwaras are not getting funding, and that’s a real challenge,” said Sim Singh Attariwala, senior policy and advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition in Washington.

“We do think that more needs to be done to ensure that houses of worship across the nation are able to take advantage of some of the federal resources that would provide additional funding, which would then be used to harden security (and) to improve training,” Attariwala said.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state agencies, provides financial support for the physical security of non-governmental organisations, including houses of worship.

To make it easier for Sikh temples and other smaller houses of worship to apply to the program, a group of 89 US-based gurdwaras sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday urging his support for the NSGP Improvement Act, VOA reported.

“We believe that every community should have access to these resources, even those that do not want to bring law enforcement agencies into their houses of worship,” the group wrote in the letter.

The programme was created by Congress in 2016, nearly four years after Wade Michael Page, a radicalised Army veteran, killed six people and critically injured a seventh at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

The massacre was the deadliest attack on Sikhs in the US, VOA reported.

In the years since the mass killing, Sikh temples have hardened their security by installing security cameras and taking other measures, Attariwala said.

But the safety measures have been eclipsed by a steady stream of attacks against houses of worship in recent years, he said.

“We are seeing more and more attacks happening that are fuelled by violent white supremacist ideology, and that’s really concerning. More needs to be done to protect our communities.”

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