Victory! The FBI will track hate crimes against Sikh Americans

  |June 6, 2013

On Wednesday, June 5th, an FBI advisory policy board voted to track hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans. We did this together!

On August 5th, 2012, six Sikh Americans were murdered in a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in one of the greatest hate-based mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

Within 48 hours, thousands of Groundswell members sent prayers and messages of solidarity from all over the country.

I delivered them in Wisconsin the first Sunday after the mass shooting.

At 2:58, when Valarie delivers the notes, you can hear Sikhs shout “Jakara” (an exultation). “Bole So Nihal” means, Whoever utters shall be fulfilled. The congregation responds, “Sat Sri Akal!” Eternal and True is the Divine (God).

And in the following months, you signed and shared the petition telling the FBI to do the right thing and track hate crimes against Sikh Americans — supporting a campaign started nearly two years ago by the Sikh Coalition.

We helped the Sikh community keep Oak Creek in the headlines on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Associated Press, Salon, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.

I had the privilege of bringing your prayers, petitions and a testimonial to a historic Senate hearing on Oak Creek.

There, Harpreet Saini, who lost his mother in the Oak Creek shooting, asked the government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and all at-risk communities. He became the first Sikh in U.S. history to testify before Congress, and we echoed his calls for justice.

We continued to follow the leadership of the Sikh Coalition and kept up the pressure on the FBI right up through last week, after 82-year-old Piara Singh was attacked in Fresno. “Will he be counted?” we asked.

The answer is now yes. For the first time in history, victims of hate crimes in Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American communities will have the dignity of being counted.

The FBI will create new religion tracking categories and implement the changes by 2015. And then, again for the first time in history, law enforcement, government agencies, and community organizations will have the data necessary to prevent and respond to these hate crimes.

This is a win for all of us, and I wanted to take a moment to share two pieces of gratitude.

The first a message from the Sikh Coalition’s Rajdeep Singh, Law and Policy Director:

“The Sikh Coalition would like to thank the tens of thousands of engaged, active Groundswell supporters who stood in solidarity with Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs to ensure the FBI recognizes hate crimes against our communities.”

And the second is a short video I made with my partner Sharat Raju that tells the story of what happened in Oak Creek. I hope it communicates how the groundswell of solidarity in the wake of Oak Creek has done so much to heal the Sikh community in Wisconsin and beyond.


Oak Creek: In Memoriam.

We have much work ahead. We still have a long way to go for all to live, work and practice their faith in America without fear. But if people of faith and values can campaign to get the FBI to track hate crimes against at-risk communities, what else can we accomplish together? I hope you’ll check out and join other campaigns being run by Groundswell members.

In Chardi Kala – the Sikh spirit of everlasting high spirits,

Valarie Kaur
Groundswell

We are proud to follow the leadership of the Sikh Coalition on this important effort. As a result of their advocacy, Congressman Joe Crowley, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Dick Durbin, more than 100 bipartisan members of Congress and Attorney General Eric Holder publicly endorsed the request. Thank you also to all our partner organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). We are especially grateful to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) for first championing this issue with the FBI in 2010. They are among many tireless advocates who worked for years to make this day possible.


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