NEW YORK: The advisory policy board of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday voted to begin tracking of hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs.
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 FBI move comes more than two years after the Sikh Coalition, which is an non-profit that works to protect the rights of Sikhs, started lobbying for the action. But the issue acquired urgency after the killing of six Sikhs by a white man in the Oak Creek Sikh Temple in August last year.
In March this year, over 100 members of the US House of representatives and the Senate as well as the US attorney general joined the Sikhs in asking the FBI to start tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs as it does with other groups.
Because of their beards and turbans, the Sikhs in the US have been the target of racial attacks since 9/11. The Sikh Coalition says its surveys show that 10 percent of the Sikhs in New York and San Francisco have experienced physical violence or property damage because of their religion.
Thanking the FBI, Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition, said, “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.
“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.”
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) said, “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.’’