According to a March 26th piece by the International Business Times, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will for the first time begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs.
The move follows the release this past week of new FBI guidelines on bias-motivated criminal offenses, the International Business Times, NBC News and the Times of India report.
Sikh-American groups, who have pushing for a new tracking category since a 2012 attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple that left 12 people dead, praised the move in a press conference on Wednesday.
Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), said in a statement that the move "marks a step toward the accurate reporting of hate crimes against Sikhs, an important step that will ultimately aid the Sikh community as we continue to address the roots of anti-Sikh bias."
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York, also spoke at the press conference. "Time and time again, we have seen vicious attacks on members of the Sikh community," said Crowley. "Collecting data on hate crimes is more than just putting a number in a column-it means giving law enforcement agencies the resources and information they need to help prevent this kind of violence in the first place."
The Justice Department had announced plans to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs in 2013 after activists complained that law enforcement agencies weren't doing enough to monitor bias-motivated offenses against such minorities. Part of the problem, activists pointed out, was that most cases of violence against Sikhs were classified as anti-Muslim hate crimes. Many Americans mistake Sikh men for Muslims due to the traditional turbans they wear.
The FBI's updated Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual (PDF) includes new definitions and training scenarios to help law enforcement agencies appropriately identify and report bias-motivated crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs.