After 9/11, Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs began to see an increase in the amount of hate crimes directed toward their groups. This is a problem the FBI has finally decided to formally address.
An FBI advisory board met on Wednesday in Portsmouth, Va., and voted to widen the scope of the hate crime police reports used nationwide to include these three groups. This change will greatly help law enforcement more accurately report hate crimes, not to mention offer better protection for Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs against religious or race-motivated crimes.
Advocates for the three groups are pleased with the decision and hope that law enforcement officials will be better able to distinguish the differences among them.
"We can't go to policy makers or law enforcement to make the case about crimes against our communities unless we have the official data," said Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for a civil rights group called the Sikh Coalition.
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The group has pressured law enforcement officials to take action against the underreported hate crimes against Sikhs for more than two years. Individuals who practice the Sikh religion often have similar appearances to Muslims, as men of both religions wear turbans and grow their beards long.
Many violent anti-Sikh incidents have occurred in California, New York, Florida and Washington, but the most notable was the attack last August in Oak Creek, Wisc., when six Sikh worshippers were shot inside a temple by a white supremacist.
"After 9/11 in the Arab-American community, the fact that hate crimes increased is no secret," said Abed Ayoub, legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "But we were running into underreporting by community members. They wouldn't come forward because they felt nobody would listen or count them."
Currently, the only religion-motivated hate crimes the FBI tracks are against Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and atheists/agnostics. According to the 2011 FBI religious hate crime statistics, most reported crimes were against Jews, but more than 10 percent of the crimes are for unspecified religions. This decision will likely help clarify the “unspecified” religious groups, which in turn will help the communities that advocated for better protection.