The U.S. Justice Department will begin keeping numbers on hate crimes committed against Sikhs and six other groups, in connection with Monday’s one-year anniversary of the killing of six Sikh worshippers.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement on Friday in a blog post, which The Associated Press obtained ahead of its official release.
The country’s top lawyer said FBI Director Robert Mueller had approved a recommendation from the agency’s advisory policy board to track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox Christians.
“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,” Mr. Holder wrote.
The addition had long been sought by members of the Sikh community.
A year ago Monday, Wade Michael Page, who had ties to white supremacist groups, walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and opened fire. He killed six priests and worshippers and wounded five others, then fatally shot himself after he was wounded by a police sniper.
Pardeep Kaleka, son of former temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who died in the massacre, said he appreciated anything that can draw attention to people being victimized for things like their race, religion or gender.
“Progress is sort of a climb, and it takes a step at a time. This is one of those steps toward progress,” he said.
Amardeep Singh, program director of the Sikh Coalition, said that while he welcomed the announcement as a “critical first step,” the underlying conditions that caused the killings remain.
“The last year has once again seen violent shootings and beatings of Sikhs throughout the country,” he said. “It will take more than tracking hate crime statistics to stem the tide.”
Federal officials in Wisconsin held a remembrance on Friday for the local Sikh community that drew several hundred people, including the six victims’ families, temple members and the state’s two senators.
Dr. Kulwant Dhaliwal, the temple president, said his community was grateful for the chance to raise awareness of Sikh values and honor those who lost their lives.
Senator Tammy Baldwin said she was inspired by way the Sikhs reacted in the shooting’s aftermath with gentleness and peace, not with calls for vengeance.
“You’ve reminded us of the American values that hold us together as one community,” she said. “You’ve reminded us of the values that define us as one people.”