Led by New York Congressman, Joseph Crowley, the Congressmen wrote a letter to Department of Justice urging FBI to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Sikh-Americans, noting that this is a community, which is acutely susceptible to violence because of their appearance.
"The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice," Crowley said in a statement. "The Department of Justice and FBI have carried out important outreach efforts in coalition with the Sikh community, but these efforts must also be paired with data collection to ensure we are doing everything possible to crack down on hate crimes against the Sikh community," he said.
Sikh-Americans are often targeted for hate crimes because of their distinct identity and common misperceptions with respect to their attire and appearance, said the statement issued by Crowley's office. Attackers often appear to erroneously believe that Sikh-Americans are affiliated with extremists and were somehow responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, it said.
Over the past year, Sikh-Americans and their religious institutions have been threatened or attacked in highly-publicised incidents in New York, Michigan, Virginia and California, where two men were murdered. Advocacy groups believe it is likely that many other incidents have occurred but went unreported, it added. The lawmakers' letter calls for the FBI to update the Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699) to include crimes committed against Sikh-Americans.
While the FBI tracks hate crimes committed with a bias against particular groups, there is no designation on the Report Form for hate crimes committed against Sikhs. 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 Sikhs in hate crime data collection efforts not only diminishes the safety of the 500,000 strong Sikh-American community, but also weakens the quality of hate crime data overall, it said.