One year after Oak Creek tragedy, fight to end discrimination continues

On August 5, the one year anniversary of the shooting of Sikh worshipers in a Gurdwara, CAIR-Chicago wishes to extend our continued condolences to the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This atrocity brought to national attention that incidences of discrimination and hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus has risen by more than 60% since 2000.

Throughout the year since, activists and community members organized efforts to demand necessary changes in order to better track, and thus combat, hate crimes and domestic terrorism. On September 19, 2012 the US Senate held a special hearing to address such issues, and after a month of lobbying from the Sikh Coalition, Senator Dick Durbin and over 100 members of Congress decided to support a bipartisan policy reformation.

In June 2013, the Advisory Policy Board, which advises the FBI on statistical issues like Uniform Crime Reporting, “recommended that the FBI Director add a number of categories in its tracking of hate crimes – including offenses committed against Sikh, Hindu, Arab, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Orthodox Christian individuals.  Director Mueller approved this recommendation.” said Attorney General Eric Holder. These amendments will be officially implemented in 2015.

To at-risk communities that were previously unacknowledged in hate crime statistics, such as Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs, these changes statistically recognize any heinous act against them, putting the Federal government in a position where they must treat these hate crimes as what they are, and do something to reduce the growing frequency with which these incidences occur.

Attorney General Erik Holder wrote on his Justice Blog that, “Having accurate information allows law enforcement leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities—decisions that impact real people, and affect public safety in every neighborhood and community. Today, I am proud to report that we have taken steps to collect this information.”

Over the past year, CAIR Chicago, the Sikh community, and the South Asian-American community also joined together to locally secure the passage of Illinois House Resolution 1193, which was adopted on November 27, 2012. The resolution addresses violent attacks on Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh Americans, as well as other minorities, and denounces hate crimes and hateful political rhetoric.

On December 16, 2012 CAIR Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab and Staff Attorney Rabya Khan participated in a press conference for the resolution and a community commemoration of the August massacre. The event was organized by South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) and the Sikh Religious Society (SRS), and hosted by the Gurdwara Sahib in Palatine Illinois.

Travesties like the shooting on August 5, 2012 remind us that in order to secure the rights and protect the civil liberties of one marginalized group, we must do so for all Americans. When dealing with these hate crimes the Federal government altered their methodology used to track hate crimes against Sikhs, but this also included statistical inclusion for six other minorities.

The Illinois resolution adopted prohibits hateful speech and actions against, not just Sikhs, but other minorities. As a result of this particular tragedy, different factions and agencies united to better deal with and prevent subsequent crimes against any group.

One year since this tragedy, American Muslims are proud to be standing with their Sikh brothers and sisters in the ongoing fight to end discrimination.