Oak Creek: As thousands of mourners paid their last respects to six Sikh worshippers gunned down at a Sikh gurdwara at Oak Creek, US Attorney General Eric Holder called it "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime."
Holder spoke at an emotional memorial service at Oak Creek High School for the victims of the attack at the gurdwara in a Milwaukee suburb that brought an unending stream of tearful mourners from all walks of life and from as far away as India.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has chosen to probe Sunday's attack by white supremacist Wade Michael page as an act of "domestic terrorism", but Holder was forthright in acknowledging it for the first time as a hate crime.
Since the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Sikhs in America have been targeted at least 700 times apparently mistaken for Muslims because of their beards and traditional turbans, according to New York-based advocacy group Sikh Coalition.
"In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted and victimised simply because of who they are, how they look, and what they believe," Holder was quoted as saying by CNN. "That is wrong. It is unacceptable. And it will not be tolerated."
He called for a national discussion on changing laws to prevent future shooting attacks, as well as "how we might change the hearts of those so filled with hate that the despicable act we mourn today could ever have occurred." Holder mentioned no specific laws.
Holder also declared the attack to be "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime "that is anathema to the founding principles of our nation and to who we are as an American people."
Earlier, Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker said the Sikh community lived the words of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. this week by responding with love to the attack.
Wearing an orange head covering in keeping with Sikh tradition, Walker quoted King's assertion that only love can overcome hate, and said he witnessed that truth in the aftermath of Sunday's attack at the gurdwara.
"This week, our friends and neighbours in the Sikh community have shown us the best way to respond is with love," he said.