Condemning Violence Against Sikh Community

Floor Speech

By:  Judy Chu
Date: Sept. 20, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. CHU. I rise today as a proud cosponsor of House Resolution 785, condemning the hate crimes, bullying, and brutal violence perpetrated against Sikh Americans and all acts of violence against Sikh Gurdwaras in the United States. In the face of unrelenting and unprovoked violence, it is clear that action must be taken.

The Sikh community has a long history of contributing to this Nation. Sikh farmers shaped California's agriculture industry, farming a third of the land and providing nature's bounty for others to enjoy. The very first Asian American to be elected to the U.S. Congress was a Sikh American, Dalip Singh Saund, elected in California in 1957. And Sikh temples all across the country have shown their beautiful spirit by giving free food, called langar, to everybody in the neighborhood who is hungry. And yet time and time again we see the good deeds of Sikh Americans met with undue violence from others. And in the wake of 9/11, this behavior spiked sharply. Just days after the attacks took place--as the soot still lingered over Manhattan and smoke still smoldered from a field in Pennsylvania--Balbir Singh Sodhi became the first victim of misplaced retaliation. He was in the gas station he had worked his entire life to own when a gunman shot at him and took his life.

Through the years the violence has not abated. Last year, in northern California, Surinder Singh and Gurmej Atwal, two elderly Sikh Americans, were doing what they always did every afternoon, taking a walk in the neighborhood, when suddenly they were shot. They were murdered in cold blood, but not for money or jealousy or revenge. They were murdered because of their turbans. And then there were the overwhelmingly shocking events of August 5 of this year in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The Sikh community was peacefully preparing meals for Sunday prayer inside their gurdwara. But that peace was shattered without warning at the hands of a gunman filled with hate and rage. He fired indiscriminately and without cause, and when the smoke cleared, six innocent people lay dead. Although it has been more than a decade since 9/11, hysteria and stereotyping are still far too common. We must combat the growing wave of violence and intolerance that threatens the safety and civil liberties of the Sikh American community.

Today, while the FBI tracks the overall number of hate crimes taking place, it doesn't even record attacks specifically on Sikhs, despite the fact that we've seen over and over again that Sikhs are singled out over and over again because of their appearance and faith. That's why this resolution not only denounces the violence befalling this community; we're calling on the Department of Justice to finally begin documenting and quantifying hate crimes committed against Sikh Americans. As many as three out of four Sikh boys endure torment and bullying from their peers. And so we're urging educators across the Nation to help end the epidemic of bullying against Sikh youths. We're urging law enforcement officers in every locality to do all they can to prevent violence against this and all communities.

America was founded on the principles of religious freedom, acceptance, and tolerance. Let's make sure that every American can live safely and in peace. Let's make sure that every American is protected.