November 12, 2019 (Washington, DC) -- This morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual report of hate crime statistics for 2018. While hate crimes remained relatively steady nationally, reported anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by 200 percent since 2017, making Sikhs the third most commonly targeted religious group in the dataset.
Equally disheartening is the fact that hate crimes remain systematically underreported across the United States. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Americans experience an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year; this latest FBI data, by contrast, only managed to document 7,120 incidents, with less than 13 percent of law enforcement affirmatively providing reports of hate crimes.
“At the end of the day, this data simply isn’t giving us the accurate information we need to effectively counteract hate against targeted communities,” said Sim J. Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy. “It’s past time for action. Congress must pass the next generation of common-sense legislation that equips law enforcement to better identify and track hate incidents with the bipartisan Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act.”
The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act was named for two victims of high-profile murders (Khalid Jabara, killed in 2016, and Heather Heyer, killed in 2017) who were excluded from previous hate crime statistics due to poor data collection and reporting practices. This legislation would require the federal government to address underreporting and related issues by vastly improving hate crime reporting with funding for resources at the state level, including critical training for law enforcement and the establishment of hate crime reporting hotlines.
“A year after the most deadly assault on the American Jewish community in history and with xenophobia and racism remaining front and center in our national dialogue, this bipartisan measure is necessary legislation,” continued Singh. “If we cannot accurately track the problem of bias-motivated incidents, we will remain inherently limited in our efforts to combat them.”
Indeed, just as Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara’s hate crimes went uncatalogued by the FBI, the Sikh American community experienced a similar oversight of a serious crime.
In 2017, a man shot more than a dozen rounds into a van of five Sikh men in Carson City, Nevada, wounding Harmandeep Singh Shergill. The attacker was convicted on four counts with a hate crime enhancement and sentenced to 34 years in prison; nonetheless, the assault does not appear in the FBI’s 2017 data as a hate crime.
Even so, the FBI’s limited data confirms that Sikhs, with their distinct article of faith, remain hundreds of times more likely to be targeted for bias-related harassment or violence than their fellow Americans. The Sikh American community will continue to combat hate in solidarity with other communities, working for a future where all Americans can practice their faith fearlessly.