The discovery of anti-Sikh graffiti spray-painted inside New Hyde Park's almost-completed house of worship came just as the community was to commemorate the ninth anniversary of a mass shooting against fellow Sikhs in Wisconsin, noted the spokeswoman for a Sikh civil rights group.
"This aint ya trap," paired with a racial slur, she recalled the graffiti says.
"Jesus is the real GOD!"
"Trump 2024 Make America Great Again!"
Whoever vandalized the Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji ("The Court of Eternal Guru") — the house of worship under construction on Jericho Turnpike — remains at large, the Nassau County Police Department said in a news release.
The Sikh house of worship or center, set to open in about two months, has been under construction for several years, and had been delayed due to the pandemic, according to the civil rights group spokeswoman, Aasees Kaur of the Sikh Coalition. The group was founded in the days after 9/11 to protect Sikhs against animus directed at the community.
Sometime early this week, a vandal or vandals carried a ladder on the construction site, 383 Jericho Tpke., to the building roof, climbed up and into the building, and committed the vandalism, said Kaur, speaking at the request of the congregation. She said a nearby surveillance camera might have recorded the vandalism.
The center is the brainchild of several Sikh families in New York City and Long Island hoping to build a place for worship, religious education and secular tutoring for children.
"They wanted a place that truly is dedicated to youth, to the kids, to the next generation in helping them develop the skills they need, and making sure that they’re able to learn Sikh history, Sikh culture, heritage, the language, be proficient in gurmukhi," said Kaur, using the Punjabi word for the script of Sikh religious texts.
The Sikh religion, which believes in the equality of all humans, is the world's fifth largest, and one of its youngest, and is practiced by about 25 million people globally. There are about 15,000 Sikhs on Long Island, most of them of Indian ancestry, who live in Nassau and moved east from Queens, she estimated.
Kaur said the vandalism — graffiti in nine or 10 spots, a shattered window, a broken doorway, among other damage — felt especially raw because it coincides with the anniversary of the Aug. 5, 2012, shooting at a Sikh house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a white supremacist shot and killed six people and wounded four others, one of whom later died of his wounds last year.
"These community centers, the houses of worship, are sacred spaces. It’s where the community comes together. You grow. You spend time with each other. You comfort each other. You create support systems for one another," she said. "So to feel like someone could target a place like that — it’s very disheartening."
On Friday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran issued a statement condemning the vandalism.
"The vandalism found on the Sikh temple is nothing less than an act of hatred and Nassau County has zero tolerance for this type of behavior," Curran said. "I have been in contact with Nassau PD and the investigation is still underway."
Curran urged anyone with information about the vandalism to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS.