Somali restaurateur to break bread with Sikh leaders

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The deadly shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin last week rattled Abdirahman Ahmed, and he knew he had to do something.

Ahmed, a Muslim, decided the best way to show his support for the Sikh community is to do what comes naturally: feed them.

Ahmed has invited Sikh leaders to a private dinner Wednesday at his Safari Restaurant, a popular gathering spot for the Somali-American community in Minneapolis. Muslim and Somali community leaders will join them for the meal. Leaders with the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations are helping organize the event.

“My whole goal is to show the Sikh people solidarity and condolences,” Ahmed said. “Any crime against any person is a crime against all of us.”

It’s just the latest comforting gesture from various faith communities in Minnesota who were compelled to take action after the Milwaukee-area shootings.

More than 700 people — about three times the usual turnout — attended Friday’s prayer service at the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Society of Minnesota in Bloomington, said Kehar Singh, past president of the society. The service honored the victims of the shooting. Many who attended were people outside of the religion who simply wanted to take a stand against hate.

“Out of this unfortunate tragedy, what we are looking at is a better understanding,” Singh said.

Ahmed lived, studied, and worked alongside Sikhs while attending college in India, but he has had few interactions in Minnesota with the small Sikh community, which is about 500 families and growing. Here and across the U.S., some Americans have mistaken Sikhs for Muslims because of the turbans and beards favored by many Sikh men.

Although Ahmed is not Sikh, he knew that the gunfire that claimed the lives of six victims in Milwaukee could have erupted at a mosque or any other house of worship where people are seeking peace and guidance, he said. In fact, two Muslim institutions were the subjects of attack in suburban Chicago last weekend.

Ahmed isn’t the only Muslim-American reaching out to Sikh neighbors. The Sacramento Bee had a moving story last week about a spoken-word poet’s tribute to his Sikh friends. Zaki Syed recalled that in the volatile period following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sikh students at school would defend him when he was “about to get hurt.”

“Not once did anybody blame me as a Muslim. They just protected me,” he told the crowd. “Hope people can finally understand they’re peaceful people, and what great friends they are.”

(Photo courtesy of Abdirahman Ahmed)

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