Nineteen US senators, led by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, have urged the Justice Department to track hate crimes against Sikhs as they are particularly susceptible to violence because of their Sikh identity.
"Because many Sikhs wear turbans and do not cut their facial hair, they are often viewed as foreign and are easy to target for harassment and crime," they said in a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday.
"Thus, Sikhs are particularly susceptible to violence committed because of their Sikh identity, even if the perpetrator does not understand that the victim is a Sikh," the lawmakers wrote, pointing to the August 5 killing of six worshippers in an Oak Creek, Wisconsin, gurdwara.
"It is important to collect data on hate crimes committed against Sikhs because the data can identify trends and help federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies properly allocate resources."
The request that the Justice Department and the FBI track hate crimes against Sikhs is a longstanding demand of the Sikh Coalition, a group of major Sikh advocacy organisations in the US. In April, working with the Sikh Coalition, Congressman Joseph Crowley led over 90 members of the US House of Representatives, calling on the Justice Department to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs.
In a statement, the Sikh Coalition said it is grateful to concerned community members for making phone calls and signing petitions to their members of Congress in support of this important effort. "We are also grateful to the 100 plus members of Congress who have supported our call for improved data collection by the Justice Department," the group said.
"It is impossible to address a problem unless it is being measured, and Sikhs who experience hate crimes at the very least deserve the dignity of being a statistic. Now is the time for the Justice Department and the FBI to act," it added.