New this month, members of Sikh, Hindu and Arab-American communities can expect better tracking by the FBI of violence targeting their respective religious or ethnic group. Hate crimes towards Sikhs for example, activists say, have largely been obscured as many Americans mistake Sikh men wearing turbans for Muslims. That’s led to those acts of violence being classified as “anti-Muslim hate crimes.” Now, with the release this week of the FBI’s updated hate crime training manual, Sikh communities around the country can expect to be counted by law enforcement when hate crimes target one of their own.
“Accurate reporting of hate crimes [is] an important step that will ultimately aid the Sikh community as we continue to address the roots of anti-Sikh bias,” says Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) in a statement released this week.
Calls for better tracking by the FBI gained new urgency in 2012 following white supremacist Wade Michael Page’s attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc. That Sunday morning, Page killed six worshipers–Bhai Seeta Singh, Bhai Parkash Singh, Bhai Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Subegh Singh, and Parmjit Kaur Toor–and wounded three others.
Underreporting bias crimes, in addition to misclassification, has also been a concern. In a 2013 Huffington Post article, Abed A. Ayoub, legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says, “After 9/11 in the Arab-American community, the fact that hate crimes increased is no secret. But we were running into underreporting by community members. They wouldn’t come forward because they felt nobody would listen or count them.”