|Supervisor Loren "Shorty" Crabtree|
Members of the Sacramento Sikh Temple have asked for a meeting with Modoc County Supervisor Loren “Shorty” Crabtree after he remarked that people attending a Woodland auction were “wearing rags around their heads.”
"Given recent hate crimes and attacks against Sikhs in the Sacramento area, the remarks by Chairperson Crabtree are very troubling," said Amar Shergill, attorney and board member for the Sacramento Sikh Temple in an e-mail to the Modoc County Daily News.
Hate crimes and attacks against Sikhs in the Sacramento area referred to by Shergill include the fatal shooting last November of an Elk Grove grandfather who was gunned down during his daily afternoon walk with a friend who was also struck in the gunfire and remains in critical condition. Both were wearing turbans.
Last November a Sikh taxi driver in the Sacramento area was robbed and severely beaten by two men calling him Osama Bin Laden. The taxi driver was wearing a turban because he was Sikh, according to a KTXL-TV report.
"It is important that community leaders, like Mr. Crabtree and his audience at the meeting, understand that these types of offensive remarks have serious consequences,” Shergill continued. “It is up to us to educate our neighbors that the only group that wears turbans in the United States is the Sikh Community.
“Therefore, the Sacramento Sikh Temple has invited Mr. Crabtree and the entire Modoc County Board of Supervisors for a private meeting to discuss the remarks and learn more about the Sikh faith. Mr. Crabtree accepted our invitation. We trust that all parties will take this opportunity to deal with this issue in a constructive manner."
Crabtree confirmed he would meet with Shergill and members of the Sacramento Sikh Temple at a meeting tentatively set for Thursday, and that he intended to make a statement about his “rags” comment at tomorrow’s (April 26) Board of Supervisors meeting.
“They want to hear my side of the thing and what kind of guy I am and tell me about their religion and how it works,” Crabtree said. “Their religion doesn’t bother me a bit and I don’t know anything about it and I don’t want to know anything about it. What I said was a slip of the tongue, I guess. I’m just sorry I said it and I wish I could back it off.”
Representatives of the Sacramento Sikh community complained to Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, who represents Modoc County and he reportedly acted as a mediator in setting up the meeting, according to a knowledgeable source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Nielsen.
Nielsen’s office did not immediately respond to repeated requests for a statement regarding his involvement.
It’s unclear if Crabtree -- or any of Modoc County’s supervisors -- will meet with the Sacramento Sikh Temple members on Thursday because he is scheduled that day to hold a subcommittee meeting on the county’s budget, according to Supervisor Geri Byrne, who is also on the budget committee.
Supervisors Patricia Cantrall, Jeff Bullock and Dave Allan did not immediately respond to e-mail messages inquiring if they intended to accept the invitation from the Sacramento Sikh Temple.
“Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world,” according to attorney Shergill. “Sikhs have been living and working in Northern California for over one 100 years. There are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs in the United States and about the same number in Canada. Approximately 40 percent of American Sikhs live in California. Sikhs keep their hair unshorn as part of their commitment to live in harmony with the will of God. Therefore, the turban has immense spiritual significance for all Sikhs."
-- Ray A. March