Young Sikh Who Lost Mother Will Ask That She Has “Dignity of Being a Statistic”
(New York, New York) September 19, 2012 – At a Senate hate crime hearing today, Sikhs will demand that the federal government turn its attention to domestic extremism in the United States. The hearing, to be held this afternoon before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, comes after last month’s tragic massacre of six Sikh worshipers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin by a man with known ties to neo-Nazi groups.
Harpreet Singh Saini, an 18-year-old who lost his mother in the massacre, will testify at today’s hearing. His testimony will call on the Department of Justice to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs.
“I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs,” reads a portion of Mr. Saini’s written testimony. “My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize.”
The request that the Justice Department and the FBI track hate crimes against Sikhs is a longstanding request of the Sikh American community. In April, working with the Sikh Coalition, Congressman Joseph Crowley led over 90 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who called on the Justice Department to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs. On August 23, nineteen U.S. Senators, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, issued a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the same.
Sikhs will also urge the federal government turn its attention to domestic extremism in the wake of the Oak Creek massacre.
“The threat of hate violence committed by domestic extremists is real, ever-present, and growing,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition. “What happened in Oak Creek was not an isolated incident. It is a trend. Our government needs to address it.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the United States has grown by almost 70% since 2000. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009, but later repudiated in the face of political opposition, predicted that the prevailing socio-economic climate in the United States is conducive to an upsurge in domestic extremist activity. The report’s author, Daryl Johnson, will testify at today’s hearing. Think Progress suggests that 88% of terrorist incidents in United States from 1995 through 2011 have been committed by non-Muslim extremists.
Advocates today will propose that the federal government create an interagency taskforce on hate crimes and domestic extremism, similar to the successful taskforce established by President Clinton following the church arsons of the 1990s. Similarly, advocates will ask political leaders to pledge to refrain from rhetoric that incites bigotry towards individuals or communities on the basis of race, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and the like.
“Sitting on our hands while we watch hate violence tied to domestic extremists grow is not acceptable,” said Amardeep Singh. “It is just wrong that civil society organizations were doing a better job tracking the killer in Oak Creek than our government. We all must commit to ensuring we never live through another Oak Creek.”
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About the Sikh Coalition
The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.
We pursue our mission by:
Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
Advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment
With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.