Washington: Cutting across party lines, as many as 107 US Congressmen on Thursday wrote a letter to the FBI Advisory Board to add a new category in the agency`s tracking of hate crimes for the Hindus, Sikhs and Arab Americans.
The letter comes ahead of the meeting of the FBI Advisory Board, which plays a leading role in decision-making on hate crimes documentation. The meeting is expected to review the issue of whether these categories should be added to hate crimes forms used by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
"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," the lawmakers wrote.
"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," they wrote in the letter dated March 21.
Prominent among the lawmakers include Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Michael Honda, Adam Schiff, Gary Peters, Judy Chu, Ami Bera, Tulsi Gabbard, and Eric Swalwell.
Hindu, Sikhs and Arab-Americans, the lawmakers argue, have all too often been the victim of violent and deadly attacks, and many are targeted with violence for reasons attackers chillingly claim are related to hatred.
Unfortunately, anecdotal and non-government data indicate that the commission of hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab-Americans has become a deadly problem: the massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and the murder of Hindu Senando Sen on the New York City subway - along with attacks across the United States - underscore the severity of the issue, the Congressmen said.
In fact, according to community surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 10 per cent 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, they said.
Though FBI has been tracking and documenting hate crimes reported from federal, state and local law enforcement officials since 1991 under the bipartisan Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, there is no federal data collected on hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans.
As a result, hate crimes against these groups may sometimes be categorised as "anti-Muslim," even though the victims have often been attacked because of their unique identities.
The lawmakers` letter calls for the FBI to track crimes committed against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab-Americans.
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 Report 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.
"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," the lawmakers wrote.
This effort is supported by 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) among other leading national organizations.