A 92-member contingent of Democratic Congressmen on Thursday wrote a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, urging law enforcement agencies to collect data on hate crimes against the Sikh community in this country.

On the grounds that Sikh-Americans were often targeted for hate crimes because of their “distinct identity and common misperceptions with respect to their attire and appearance,” the Congressional group noted that attackers often appeared to erroneously believe that Sikh-Americans were affiliated with extremists and were somehow responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Over the past year, the Congressmen noted, Sikh-Americans and their religious institutions have been threatened or attacked in highly-publicized incidents in New York, Michigan, Virginia and California, and advocacy groups believe it is likely that many other incidents have occurred but went unreported.

This week Representative Joe Crowley, Democrat of New York, led the House members in writing the letter to the Department of Justice. “The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice,” Mr. Crowley said, adding that DOJ and FBI outreach efforts to the Sikh community must also be “paired with data collection to ensure we are doing everything possible to crack down on hate crimes against the Sikh community.”

The lawmakers’ sought to focus attention in particular on the FBI’s Hate Crime Incident Report Form, or 1-699, to include crimes committed against Sikh-Americans. In their letter they said, “Our understanding is that the FBI may be relying on older forms which count hate crimes against Sikhs as anti-Islamic (Muslim) hate crimes. We believe that not including Sikhs within hate-crime data collection may diminish the safety of the 500,000-strong Sikh-American community and weaken the quality of essential hate crimes data overall.”

The letter comes in the context of numerous killings of members of the Sikh community in recent years. In 2011 alone, two Sikh-American men in Sacramento were murdered, a Sikh Gurdwara in Michigan was defaced and a Sikh-American man was beaten in New York, officials noted. With numerous reports documenting the targeting of Sikhs for wearing religiously-mandated turbans officials said that victimisation began at a young age and Sikh youth “are among the most bullied in the nation, with approximately 3 out of 4 Sikh boys severely bullied in school.”

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