Meeting a long-pending demand of Sikhs and Hindus in the US, attorney general Eric Holder has recommended widening the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mandate to include the two communities among victims of growing hate crimes.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Holder said he made this recommendation to the advisory policy board of the FBI to make necessary changes in the uniform crime reporting (UCR) in this regard.
"The (justice) department recommended to the advisory policy board last year that the UCR be amended to include anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu, anti-Arab, anti-Middle Eastern categories in the ethnicity or race section," Holder said.
"The board is supposed to meet again in June, when it will consider those potential changes before they make them to the FBI director. But it would be my strong recommendation that the form be modified so that it captures anti-Sikh, anti-Muslim, anti-Middle Eastern violence," the attorney general said.
Holder was responding to questions from California Congresswoman Judy Chu, who recently announced the formation of the first-ever American Sikh Congressional Caucus.
Chu recounted last week's vicious attack on 82-year-old Piara Singh, who was beaten with an iron bar, puncturing one of his lungs, fracturing his face and breaking several ribs.
She said this was only the latest of a string of attacks on American Sikhs in recent years.
"In the past two years alone, two elderly Sikhs were murdered in Elk Grove, California; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Sacramento, California; a Sikh transit worker was assaulted in New York City; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Seattle, Washington; a Sikh business owner was shot and injured in Port Orange, Florida; and six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were murdered, of course, in one of the worst attacks in a US place of worship since the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church," Chu said.
Chu said the FBI tracked hate crimes on its Form 1699.
"There is no current way to document hate crimes against Sikhs on this form, even though Sikh Americans continue to experience hate crimes at rates that are disproportionate to their population," she said.
Arab Americans and Hindu Americans also face hate crimes, but they, too, are excluded from tracking.
"If someone were to look at FBI data today, it would be as though Sikhs, Arab-Americans and Hindus did not exist," Chu said.