August 10, 2012
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Holder:
On behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, we write to urge the Department to collect separate data on hate crimes directed against Sikhs as part of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) data collection programs. There is substantial evidence that Sikhs have been specifically targeted for violence because of their religious practices, appearance, and apparel, including the distinctive beards, turbans, and head coverings worn by many observant Sikhs.
As you stated in your speech at the memorial service for members of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Guardwara today, violence against the Sikh community has become too common in recent years. The tragic shooting that targeted Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek is only the latest in a disturbing series of violent attacks against Sikhs and their houses of worship. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the number of hate crimes directed against Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs escalated dramatically. Just four days after the September 11 attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American, was murdered in Phoenix by an individual who irrationally acted against him in the mistaken belief that he was in some way connected with this terrorism. In March, 2011, two elderly Sikhs wearing traditional turbans were shot and killed on a street in Elk Grove California.
In fact, the FBI has tabulated 80 bias-motivated murders under the HCSA since 2001. Though a disturbingly high number of these individuals have been Sikhs, the Bureau does not currently separately track that information, The only religion-related bias motivations that the FBI current disaggregates are: Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslims, Atheists/Agnostics, and "Other."
The federal government appropriately has done substantial work to educate officials and the public about Sikhs including a 2007 Community Relations Service roll call training video for state and local law enforcement officials, and TSA posters about "Common Sikh American Head Coverings" and "Sikh Americans and the Kirpan." Under your leadership, Sikhs have been included in the very significant outreach and engagement efforts US Attorneys and other Justice Department officials have made with Arab and Muslim community members.
As you know, the Anti-Defamation League has been a national leader in crafting innovative programs, policies, and laws to confront violent bigotry. We have worked closely with you and other Justice Department and FBI officials to implement and expand the BureauÕs excellent hate crime data collection and outreach efforts. Despite an incomplete reporting record over the first twenty years of the program, the FBIÕs HCSA program has proven to be a powerful mechanism to confront violent bigotry against individuals on the basis of their personal characteristics. Importantly, the HCSA has also increased public awareness of the problem and sparked improvements in the local response of the criminal justice system to hate violence.
We urge you to task the FBI to separately tabulate hate crimes directed against Sikhs. A mandate that the FBI expand their fine HCSA work to begin collecting specific data on hate crimes directed against Sikhs will increase public awareness of these crimes, encourage Sikhs to report these crimes, and expand relationships between law enforcement authorities and the Sikh community.
Abraham H. Foxman
cc: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III