DAVIS, California - Amid rising sentiments against the Muslim community in the United States, US Congressmen are throwing their weight behind a proposal to track hate crimes against Muslims and other religious minorities in the country.
Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and Arab American communities live with the knowledge that it only takes one unhinged hatemonger to cut their lives short, California Congressman John Garamendi said in a statement posted on his website.The FBI needs to keep track of these hate crimes so that we can have an accurate picture of the danger.
A bi-partisan group of more than 100 lawmakers have asked the FBI to keep track of hate crimes against religious minorities as Muslims, Arab Americans, Sikhs and Hindus.
At present, the FBI's Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699), which law enforcement officials use to collect data, does not include categories for hate crimes.
We understand that, at present, the FBI does not collect specific information about these categories of hate violence, which may at times be recorded as anti-Muslim bias motivation, the congressmen said in a letter to the Advisory Policy Board.
However, evidence suggests that all too many crimes are committed against these groups because of their religious or national identity, and not because they are confused with Muslims.
US Muslims, estimated at between seven to eight million, have been sensing hostility since 9/11 attacks.
A recent report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Mistaken for Muslims, American Sikhs, estimated by about 500,000, have faced repeated attacks over the past years.
Last October, a Sikh taxi driver was viciously attacked by an anti-Muslim racist who was shouting anti-Muslim slurs.
Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because of their turban headdress and beards.
At least seven people were killed when a gunman attacked people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last August.
Lawmakers lamented that religious minorities have become the victim of violence in the post-9/11 era.
We Americans will never forget the 2,977 victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks, said Garamendi.
If I have any say in the matter, we also won't forget the 2,978th victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a loving Sikh father shot and killed in Mesa, Arizona on September 15 because his hateful ignorant killer was out for revenge and thought he was a Muslim.
The California Democrat congressman said that attacks on religious minorities have divided the American nation.
I have prayed with Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. I've dined with imams, rabbis, bishops, and granthis, Garamendi said.
I've attended services at churches, temples, gurdwaras, and mosques. I learned long ago that the diverse tapestry of America thrives when all of us can peacefully choose how and if we worship.
He warned that hate crimes divide the society and undermine the pluralistic democracy needs in the US.
Hate crimes aren't just vicious crimes against our neighbors; they attack the core of what makes us American.The FBI Advisory Board is expected to meet soon to review the issue of whether these categories should be added to hate crimes forms used by the FBI and Department of Justice.