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19 Sep, 2012

Sikhs, Arab-Americans Unite in Call to Confront U.S. “Domestic Extremism”

Washington DC, 19 Sept 2012 – Two minority rights groups in the United States have made statements this morning to a Senate hate-crime hearing calling for an end to racial profiling, inciteful rhetoric and a watch on white supremacists and other domestic extremists to the same level as “attackers from abroad.”

In what could prove to be game-changing hearings, the impact of which will be felt right across the travel, tourism and transportation industry, representatives of the Sikh Coalition and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) have proposed that the federal government create an interagency taskforce on hate crimes and domestic extremism. They have called on political leaders to pledge to refrain from rhetoric that incites bigotry towards individuals or communities on the basis of race, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and the like.

A personal statement is to be made by 18-year Harpreet Singh Saini whose mother was one of the six Sikh worshippers massacred by an alleged neo-Nazi at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last month. In one very powerful comment, he says, “So many have asked Sikhs to simply blame Muslims for attacks against our community or just say “We are not Muslim.” But we won’t blame anyone else. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Saini adds, “Senators, I know what happened at Oak Creek was not an isolated incident. I fear it may happen again if we don’t stand up and do something. I don’t want anyone to suffer what we have suffered. I want to build a world where all people can live, work, and worship in America in peace.”

The formal Sikh Coalition statement says: “It appears that our government is failing to pursue domestic extremists with as much vigor as it pursues extremists from abroad. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009, predicting an upsurge in domestic extremist activity, was withdrawn under political pressure.”

In turn, the ADC statement says, “It is in the opinion of ADC that the coinciding of hateful language by politicians with deadly hate crimes this summer was no coincidence.” It provides specific examples of political candidates’ negative statements regarding Arab and Muslim Americans by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and Joe Walsh.

Other statements are to be made at the hearing by Daryl Johnson, Founder & Owner, DT Analytics, LLC, Scott McAllister, Deputy Under Secretary, State & Local Program Office, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Michael A. Clancy, Deputy Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, FBI; and James B. Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts, New York University School of Law, New York, NY.

The hearings will put pressure on global & specifically U.S. travel, tourism and transportation industry leaders to demand accountability from global governments over racial profiling and discriminatory treatment at visa sections, border control checkpoints and numerous other points of the travel chain. Travel Impact Newswire has covered this issue industry intensively over the years, even as the global travel industry has chosen to ignore it.

Those chickens are now set to come home to roost.

The website of the Senate committee hearings is here.

Download the Full Text of Harpreet Singh Saini’s testimony here.

Download the full statement from the Sikh Coalition here

Download the full text of the ADC statement here

Full Text of the Sikh Coalition Media Release

American Young Sikh Who Lost Mother Will Ask That She Has “Dignity of Being a Statistic”

(New York, New York) September 19, 2012 – At a Senate hate crime hearing today, Sikhs will demand that the federal government turn its attention to domestic extremism in the United States. The hearing, to be held this afternoon before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, comes after last month’s tragic massacre of six Sikh worshipers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin by a man with known ties to neo-Nazi groups.

Harpreet Singh Saini, an 18-year-old who lost his mother in the massacre, will testify at today’s hearing. His testimony will call on the Department of Justice to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs.

“I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs,” reads a portion of Mr. Saini’s written testimony. “My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize.”

The request that the Justice Department and the FBI track hate crimes against Sikhs is a longstanding request of the Sikh American community. In April, working with the Sikh Coalition, Congressman Joseph Crowley led over 90 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who called on the Justice Department to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs. On August 23, nineteen U.S. Senators, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, issued a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the same.

Sikhs will also urge the federal government turn its attention to domestic extremism in the wake of the Oak Creek massacre.

“The threat of hate violence committed by domestic extremists is real, ever-present, and growing,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition. “What happened in Oak Creek was not an isolated incident. It is a trend. Our government needs to address it.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the United States has grown by almost 70% since 2000. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009, but later repudiated in the face of political opposition, predicted that the prevailing socio-economic climate in the United States is conducive to an upsurge in domestic extremist activity. The report’s author, Daryl Johnson, will testify at today’s hearing. Think Progress suggests that 88% of terrorist incidents in United States from 1995 through 2011 have been committed by non-Muslim extremists.

Advocates today will propose that the federal government create an interagency taskforce on hate crimes and domestic extremism, similar to the successful taskforce established by President Clinton following the church arsons of the 1990s. Similarly, advocates will ask political leaders to pledge to refrain from rhetoric that incites bigotry towards individuals or communities on the basis of race, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and the like.

“Sitting on our hands while we watch hate violence tied to domestic extremists grow is not acceptable,” said Amardeep Singh. “It is just wrong that civil society organizations were doing a better job tracking the killer in Oak Creek than our government. We all must commit to ensuring we never live through another Oak Creek.”

Full Text of the ADC Media Release

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | September 19, 2012 – This morning the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) submitted a Statement for the Record to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. Later this afternoon the committee is scheduled to hold a groundbreaking hearing entitled “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism.” The hearing was called for after a surge in hate crime targeting minority communities, including a shooting at a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin that killed six worshippers and injured dozens more.

The increase of violent extremism and hate crimes in the US directly and routinely affects Arab and Muslim Americans. In particular Arab and Muslim Americans have been targets of right-wing extremists and Islamophobes, notorious for the spreading of hate rhetoric aimed at demonizing the Arab and Muslim American communities.

The statement submitted by the nation’s largest Arab American civil rights organization stressed that, “ADC stands firmly against acts of hate. The increase in violent acts against marginalized communities showcases the abundance of work left to combat discrimination in the US. Whether the crime is committed because of a person’s religious belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, it is our community’s responsibility to stand against the violence.”

Among those speaking will be representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), as well as a survivor of the Oak Creek shooting and two experts on hate crimes in the United States.

Community members in the local Washington, DC area are strongly encouraged to attend the hearing. It is of the utmost importance to show the community’s unity and strength. ADC also urges members outside the Washington, DC area to watch the hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website. Click to view the hearing live.

Sikh Coalition Facebook event page

ADC Facebook event page

For those using Twitter, use #antihate while live tweeting or referencing the hearing.