Senators want US govt to keep track of hate crimes agt Sikhs
From Lalit K Jha
Washington, Aug 23 (PTI) A bipartisan group of 19 influential Senators today appealed to the US Department of Justice and the FBI to revise hate crime monitoring process to allow for the tracking of hate crimes committed against Sikh Americans and collection of their data.
Led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senators sent a letter to US Attorney General, Eric Holder, who had earlier termed it an act of ''domestic terrorism''.
The Sikh community, had however, said it believed the Gurdwara shooting by a former Army man, was a hate crime.
"From all indications, (Wade Michael) Page targeted members of the Sikh Temple because of their religion," the Senators wrote.
"This tragic shooting is the latest hate crime committed against Sikhs in the United States," they wrote.
Over the past two years, two Sikhs in California were murdered, a Sikh temple in Michigan was desecrated, a Sikh transit worker in New York City was assaulted, and a Sikh taxi driver in California was severely beaten up.
"Although the limited data available suggests that a disproportionately high rate of violence and other crimes are committed against Sikhs, it is difficult to understand the true scope of the problem because the Department of Justice does not specifically track hate crimes against Sikhs," the Senators wrote.
According to a recent survey of 1,370 Sikhs living in the California Bay Area, 10 per cent reported being victims of a hate crime. Sixty-eight per cent of those crimes were in the form of physical attacks, said the letter a copy of which was released to the press.
The letter noted that as many Sikhs wear turbans and do not cut their facial hair, they are often viewed as foreign and are easy to target for harassment and crime.
"Sikhs are particularly susceptible to violence committed because of their Sikh identity, even if the perpetrator does not understand that the victim is a Sikh," they wrote.
The Senators said the Hate Crime Statistics Act in its present form does not allow an officer to denote that a crime was motivated by a bias against Sikhs.
It is important to collect data on hate crimes committed against Sikhs because this data can identify trends and help federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies properly allocate resources, they argued.
"We urge you to take prompt action to ensure that hate crimes against Sikhs are recorded and tracked," they said.
The letter was released on a day the US First Lady Michelle Obama met members of the families of the victims of the Oak Creek Gurdwara shootout.
Among the Senators who signed the letter were Dianne Feinstein, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez, Scott P Brown, Patrick Leahy, Mark Kirk, and Charles E Schumer, among others.