US authorities have moved to start tracking hate crimes against Arab Americans, Sikhs and Hindus after calls for more rigorous action following a massacre by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation already compiles statistics on violence against Muslims, Jews, atheists and several other religious affiliations but did not specifically list crimes against Sikh, Hindu or Arab Americans.
An FBI policy board, at a meeting in Virginia, voted to start listing all groups that appeared in two major recent studies of religion in the United States, agency spokesman Stephen Fischer said late Wednesday.
The updated list will include Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Protestant Christians and Sikhs and also start a category for anti-Arab crimes, he said.
The FBI anticipates that it will start compiling the statistics in 2015, although the decision needs formal approval by FBI director Robert Mueller, Fischer said.
Representative Joe Crowley, who led a push by lawmakers to urge action against hate crimes against Sikhs and other groups, called on Mueller to carry out the changes “fully and urgently.”
A step forward
“While this is a monumental step forward, our work cannot end here,” said Crowley, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party from New York City.
Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group, said that the FBI decision will “give our community the dignity of recognition.”
“The new changes will strengthen diagnostic and deterrence efforts, increase awareness about Sikhs among law enforcement officials nationwide, and encourage Sikhs to begin reporting hate crimes to local, state and federal authorities,” he said.
Sikhs, whose faith requires men to wear turbans, have faced a wave of violence since the September 11, 2001 attacks by assailants who incorrectly associate the religion with radical Islam.
In the worst attack, a white former US Army specialist barged into a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 5 last year, killing six people and wounding three.
In 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, authorities reported to the FBI a total of 6,222 hate crimes in the United States. Nearly half were racial attacks, with around 20 percent motivated by religious hatred and another one-fifth triggered by bias based on sexual orientation.