US Lawmakers Urge Stronger Action to Protect Sikh, Hindu, Arab-American Communities

Sikh boys at the vigil in front of the White House against hate crimes including Oak Creek massacre

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Washington, DC – Hundreds of US lawmakers along with major national organizations on March 21 asked law enforcement agencies to broaden the tracking and documenting of hate crimes against minorities in the United States.

In a letter to the FBI Advisory Board, the only Indian American member of Congress, Ami Bera, joined Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Michael Honda, Adam Schiff, Gary Peters, Judy Chu, Tulsi Gabbard, Eric Swalwell, and 97 Members of the House of Representatives to express strong support for an initiative to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans.

“Given the scale of the problem and that these discrete communities are so acutely susceptible to hate violence in the United States, we urge the Advisory Board to support adding these three categories to the existing HCSA data collection mandate for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. We also believe that doing so will encourage affected community members to report hate crimes to law enforcement officials and strengthen relationships between communities, local and state law enforcement, the FBI and the Department of Justice,” the lawmakers stated in a letter.

The FBI Advisory Policy Board, which plays a leading role in decision making on hate crimes documentation, is expected to meet soon to review the issue of whether these categories should be added to hate crimes forms used by the FBI and Department of Justice.

Although the FBI tracks and documents hate crimes reported from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, there is currently no federal data collected on hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans, noted the lawmakers, adding that hate crimes against these groups are sometimes categorized as “anti-Muslim,” even though the victims have been attacked because of their unique identities.

Citing anecdotal and non-government data, the lawmakers stressed that the commission of hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab-Americans has become a deadly problem. The massacre at the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, the murder of Hindu Senando Sen on the New York subway, along with attacks across the United States, underscore the severity of the issue. “In fact, according to community surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 10 percent of Sikh Americans felt they had already been a victim of a hate crime. Attacks on persons or property in Michigan and elsewhere add urgency to these concerns,” the lawmakers underlined.

“We are also deeply concerned about this issue because attacks and threats against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs appear to be aimed in part at our nation’s youth. For instance, in one major urban area, a shocking three out of four turbaned Sikh boys reported being harassed and bullied in schools because of their appearance and Sikh identity,” continue the lawmakers.

At present, the FBI’s Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699), which law enforcement officials use to collect data, does not include categories for these groups. The form serves as the primary mechanism for the federal government to document hate crimes committed in the US and is related to the allocation of law enforcement resources to abate such crimes.

“Excluding Sikh, Hindu, and Arab-Americans in hate crime data collection efforts not only diminishes the safety of these communities, but also weakens the quality of hate crime data overall,” stated the lawmakers.

The American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Hindu American Foundation, Indian American Forum for Political Education, Sikh Coalition, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) are among other leading national organizations throwing their support behind this initiative.

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