Victory! 10 Months After Oak Creek, FBI Group Votes to Track Sikh Hate Crimes
The board voted to create new religion tracking categories based on religious groups enumerated in Pew Forum studies and the last edition of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States, which includes Sikhs. The new changes are expected to be implemented by 2015.
The highly anticipated decision comes more than two years after the Sikh Coalition first requested that the agency begin tracking hate crimes against Sikh Americans, the way it does for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Atheists. During this period, Sikhs have been subjected to a spate of suspected hate attacks in California, Florida, New York, Washington, and the massacre of six worshippers on August 5, 2012 at a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Over 140 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and American Sikh Congressional Caucus, as well as the U.S. Attorney General, endorsed the Sikh Coalition’s request to add hate crime tracking categories for Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs.
The request for Sikh hate crime tracking was also poignantly made at a U.S. Senate hearing last September by Harpreet Singh Saini, who lost his mother during the Oak Creek attack.
According to Sikh Coalition surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 10 percent of Sikh adults claim they have experienced physical violence or property damage because of their religion. This suggests that Sikhs may be hundreds of times more likely than their fellow Americans to experience hate crimes.
“We are grateful to the FBI’s advisory policy board for recognizing that Sikhs are targeted because of their distinct Sikh identity, especially their turbans, and for voting to give our community the dignity of recognition,” said Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition. “The new changes will strengthen diagnostic and deterrence efforts; increase awareness about Sikhs among law enforcement officials nationwide; and encourage Sikhs to begin reporting hate crimes to local, state, and federal authorities.”
“I am thrilled the FBI’s law enforcement advisory board agrees that the Hate Crimes Incident Report Forms must be updated to include at-risk communities like Sikhs, Hindus and Arab Americans. This has been a long time in the making, and today wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the determination and commitment by the Sikh Coalition,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY). “While today is a great victory, our work to fight hate crimes against Sikhs cannot and will not end here. I’m proud to have worked with the Sikh Coalition from the very beginning on this issue, and will continue to work to put an end to these attacks once and for all.”
The Sikh Coalition is grateful to government officials who have supported our more than two year effort, including Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman David Valadao, Attorney General Eric Holder, the White House and the Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice. We are also grateful to our coalition partners, including the Anti-Defamation League, and the interfaith community for supporting our campaign.
Most of all, the Sikh Coalition is extremely grateful to and inspired by the Sikh American community, especially the community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for emailing, calling, and speaking with government officials and the media about the need to track hate crimes against Sikhs.
In the coming months, the Sikh Coalition looks forward to working with the FBI to quickly implement the new changes and ensure that we have accurate statistics about hate crimes against our community. This will help government officials allocate resources efficiently to address the problem and make our community safer.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges Sikhs everywhere to practice their faith fearlessly.