Washington: A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) panel will look into demands to track hate crimes against Sikhs motivated by religious bias in the wake of the Aug 5 shooting at a Wisconsin gurdwara.
The official made the announcement as Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother was one of six killed by a white supremacist in the attack on the Oak Creek temple in August, and several other witnesses asked the panel to urge the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs.
More than 400 people packed Wednesday's nearly two-hour hearing on "Hate Crimes and The Threat of Domestic Extremism" before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
The hearing was convened by the subcommittee's Democratic chairman, Senator Dick Durbin in response to the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting at the request of more than 150 organizations, led by the Sikh Coalition.
"I just had my first day of college, and my mother wasn't there to send me off," Saini said. "She won't be there at my graduation or my wedding day. I want to tell the gunman . you may be full of hate, but my mother was full of love."
Saini pointed out that the FBI does not count the number of hate crimes against Sikhs specifically, instead lumping those attacks in the anti-Muslim hate-crime category.
"I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic," he said. "We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize."
As many as 81 members of Congress have also introduced a resolution asking the FBI to track anti-Sikh hate crimes.
Michael A. Clancy, a counterterrorism official at the FBI, testified that while the agency was aware that the Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page was a white supremacist, the FBI "never had any information that he posed a threat to any group, particularly the Sikhs."
Herb Kohl, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, who is not a member of the committee, told the panel: "August 5th was a tragic day not only for Sikh Americans, but for all Americans, as is any day extremist hate groups target people of faith with harassment and violence."