Washington: An independent FBI advisory board is being asked to examine whether the current hate crime reporting categories should be expanded to include those against the Sikhs, a top US official announced on Wednesday.
Such a move by the Department of Justice comes in the wake of top US lawmakers and human rights bodies and Sikh organisations writing to the Attorney General in this regard. This week as many as 81 Congressman introduced a resolution to include crimes against Sikhs to be included as hate crimes.
"We will ask the FBI's Advisory Policy Board, an independent federal advisory committee that is authorised to propose changes to the Uniform Crime Reports, to examine whether the current hate crime reporting categories should be expanded to include additional categories of religious hate crimes ? particularly including hate crimes motivated by anti-Sikh bias," Deputy Attorney General James M Cole said.
"The Advisory Policy Board includes representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and it will make an independent assessment. We will ask that it look at this issue so that there will be a systematic process for considering this question," Cole said in his address to the Sikh Cultural Competency Training being organized by the Justice Department.
Being held in the aftermath of the tragic events in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in which six Sikh worshippers were killed by a white supremacist in a Gurdwara on August 5.
This was a chilling reminder of the need to do to foster tolerance, understanding and respect among the diverse faiths, communities and peoples that make up America.
Violence based on religious intolerance and prejudice has no place in America, Cole added. "Sikh Americans have been part of the American family for many decades and in fact this year will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Sikh Gurdwara in the United States. Yet many do not understand the long history of the Sikh faith and culture in America. It is our hope that with greater understanding of that rich history and the contributions of Sikh Americans, there will be greater respect for our common humanity. Sikhs and law enffrom across the nation," Cole said.
He said Sikh Americans must never be made to feel that their religious practices subject them to unfair scrutiny from their government.
"Sikh children should not have to wonder whether their faith in God will subject them to attack. No one should have to worry that they will be targeted with violence because of their religion. That is unacceptable and un-American, and we will do everything we can to prevent it," he asserted.
The Acting Associate Attorney General, Tony West, hoped that the training will inspire even broader collaborations in communities across the nation and forge lasting partnerships among law enforcement, elected officials, non-Sikh communities, and their Sikh neighbors.
Referring to a Sikh temple in his hometown of San Jose, California, West said this is the largest gurdwara in North America and he has had the great privilege of visiting that temple on more than one occasion.
"And every time I visit, I am struck not just by the breathtaking beauty of the architecture -- although it is beautiful -- or the impressive golden dome and surrounding cupolas -- although they are impressive. What always strikes me is not just the structure but the people: those who congregate at the temple. They are Sikh, but not just Sikh; they are people of all faiths, of all ethnicities, of all races and backgrounds," he noted.
"At that temple you will see the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area, all there together. Worshipping in the Prayer Hall. Gathering in the Community Kitchen. Their welcome presence at that gurdwara embodies the principle of universality; that none is a stranger and no one an enemy," he said.
First Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 22:29