The Sikh community in Union City is reeling after a man allegedly defiled a Guru Granth Sahib, a book that contains religious scriptures and is considered holy by the group.
In the presence of Sikhs, who gathered at Contempo Park around 7 p.m. Thursday, the still unidentified man ripped the book to shreds, police said. He did not threaten the onlookers, and simply walked to his car and drove away after destroying the book.
"We didn't say anything to anybody," Trilok Kumar said, clearly feeling exasperated. "Why they do that to us...I know it's a crime. For us, it's a crime."ll
No one knew the man or made note of his car’s license plate number after what police called “a disgusting and dishonorable act.”
Legally, however, the police department, although encouraging a “feeling of safety and solidarity” in Union City, said its hands are tied because the First Amendment protects people’s right to free speech.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Pleasanton) issued a statement decrying the incident. He accused the perpetrator of seeking to “foment strife within our community.”
“This act was hateful and wrong, but we must reject this invitation to be divided,” Swalwell said.
As a member of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, Swalwell noted that Sikhs have contributed to Union City for 130-plus years.
“We must ensure all faiths and cultures are respected,” he stressed. “We won’t tolerate religious hatred; we will stand together."
Union City Police concurred with the congressman, although she says prosecuting the suspect would be a bit tricky.
"He really didn't break any laws in the United States," said Spokesperson Lisa Graetz. "It might be repugnant and offensive, but he didn't break any laws. He had the first amendment right to do what he did."
Police would like to speak to the man and are requesting people with information about the incident to call (510) 675-5207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.