A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) panel will look into demands to track hate crimes against Sikhs motivated by religious bias in the wake of the August 5 shooting at a Wisconsin gurdwara.
The FBI's advisory policy board will be asked to look into expansion of current hate crime reporting categories to include hate crimes motivated by anti-Sikh bias, deputy attorney general James M Cole told a US senate panel on Wednesday. The official made the announcement as Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother Paramjit Kaur was one of six killed by a white supremacist in the attack on the Oak Creek gurdwara, and several other witnesses asked the panel to urge the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs.
The two-hour hearing on 'Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism' before the senate judiciary committee's sub-committee on the constitution, civil rights and human rights was convened by its Democratic chairman, senator Dick Durbin, in response to the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting at the request of more than 150 organisations, led by the Sikh Coalition.
"I just had my first day of college, and my mother wasn't there to send me off," Saini said. "She won't be there at my graduation or my wedding day. I want to tell the gunman… you may be full of hate, but my mother was full of love."
Saini pointed out that the FBI does not count the number of hate crimes against Sikhs specifically, instead lumping those attacks in the anti-Muslim hate-crime category. "I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic," he said. "We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognise."
Chairing the hearing, senator Richard Durbin agreed that sadly the shooting in Oak Creek was not an isolated incident. "More than 6,600 hate crimes were reported to the FBI in the calendar year 2010, the most recent year for statistics. And a 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics believes that even those crimes that are reported are just a fraction of those that actually occur," he noted.
Responding to a question from senator Durbin, Austin said, "There will be a meeting mid-October in which what the department of justice finds will be presented to an FBI committee. At that point, the decision will be known."
As many as 81 members of Congress have also introduced a resolution asking the FBI to track anti-Sikh hate crimes. Michael A Clancy, a counter-terrorism official at the FBI, testified that while the agency was aware that the Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page was a white supremacist, the FBI "never had any information that he posed a threat to any group, particularly the Sikhs".