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House Members Introduce Resolution Recognizing Contributions of Sikh-American Community, Urging Action on Hate Crimes

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-7), Bill Pascrell (NJ-8), Howard Berman (CA-28), Judy Chu (CA-32), Nita Lowey (NY-18), Keith Ellison (MN-5), and Pete Stark (CA-13) along with 81 members of the House of Representatives, introduced a resolution in support of the Sikh-American community in the wake of the tragic shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis. on August 5.

The resolution, H.Res. 785, honors the contributions of the Sikh-American community to the United States, condemns the string of attacks against Sikhs and their religious institutions over the past year, and gives new support to a public call for the Department of Justice to begin collecting comprehensive data on hate crimes committed against Sikhs. In April, 93 members of Congress signed a letter urging the FBI to document and quantify the commission of hate crimes against Sikh-Americans.

"This resolution recognizes that America is proud of the Sikh-American community, their hundred year history in this country and their countless achievements and contributions to the nation. Tragically, the brutal attack in Oak Creek and attacks over the previous year shed light on the ongoing threats faced by Sikh-Americans in the United States. Unfortunately, this was not a one-time event and what's clear is that there is a disturbing and violent trend that must be confronted and brought to an end," said Rep. Joe Crowley. "While there is much more that must be done, this measure sends a strong signal that Congress stands behind the Sikh-American community and that we must take greater strides in working to prevent crimes against Sikhs. That includes documenting hate crimes against Sikhs, something which has not happened in the past."

"Our nation was founded on the principle of human dignity and the belief that all men are created equal, regardless of their race, creed or religion," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. "Our brothers and sisters in the Sikh-American community have made tremendous contributions to the advancement of this nation which remind us to celebrate the diversity of our culture. In recent years, the Sikh-American community has often been a target for attacks by those ignorant of these important contributions and this peaceful religion's history. This resolution is a reminder that all Americans have the right to live in peace and free from discrimination."

"We owe it to the victims of the Oak Creek tragedy and the over 500,000 members of the Sikh community living in the United States to ensure that such acts do not occur in the future, and to monitor and maintain comprehensive statistics on hate crimes committed against Sikh-Americans," said Congressman Howard L. Berman.

"Sikh Americans have contributed to the strength and diversity of the United States for over 130 years, starting businesses, serving in our military, and becoming active leaders in our local communities," said Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. "But in the aftermath of September 11th, Sikh Americans have also experienced a sharp rise in incidents of hate crimes, profiling, and bullying. From the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi to the recent tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, we must combat the growing wave of violence and intolerance that threatens the safety and civil liberties of the Sikh American community. Today, by introducing this resolution, we reaffirm the principles of religious freedom and acceptance that make our nation great."

"Sikh-Americans are peaceful, patriotic, and hard-working citizens who contribute greatly to our communities," said Congresswoman Nita Lowey. "It is unacceptable and un-American to target any religious minority for persecution and violence, and hate crimes against Sikhs and their places of worship must be punished to the full extent of the law. Congress should join together to reject these hateful actions against our friends and neighbors."

"I am proud to represent many Sikh families in the East Bay, and I was deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin. It is my hope that this resolution will help end the persistent discrimination against the Sikh community. Religious intolerance and discrimination have no place in our society. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this resolution," said Rep. Pete Stark.

Sikh-Americans are often the target of crimes because of their distinct identity and common misperceptions with respect to their attire and appearance. Attackers often appear to erroneously believe that Sikh-Americans are affiliated with extremists and were somehow responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. Over the past year, Sikh-Americans and their religious institutions have been threatened or attacked in highly-publicized incidents in New York, Michigan, Virginia and California.

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world with over 25 million followers and 500,000 followers in the United States alone.

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