Crimes committed against Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Arabs and three other minority religions would now be tracked as hate crime by law enforcement agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Attorney General Eric Holder said.
In a blog posting, Holder said that the FBI Director has accepted the recommendation in this regard by the advisory policy board which advises the FBI on various issues, including statistical reporting under the Uniform Crime Reporting program.
"As we look toward the future -- I'm confident that this change will help us better understand the law enforcement challenges we face." said Holder. The three other groups added to the list of hate crime tracking include Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Orthodox Christian individuals.
"It will empower us to better enforce relevant laws to protect everyone in this country. And it is emblematic of our unwavering resolve to prevent and seek justice for acts of hate and terror," Holder said in a blog posting written on the eve of the first anniversary of the tragic Oak Creek Gurdwara shootout that killed six Sikh worshippers on last year.
The decision was welcomed by lawmakers, human rights organisations and advocacy groups who have been making such a demand for the past several years now.
Top American lawmakers including Congressmen Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Michael Honda, Adam Schiff, Gary Peters, Ami Bera, Tulsi Gabbard and Eric Swalwell immediately welcomed the FBI decision in this regard.
"One year after the Oak Creek killings, we are thrilled the FBI has agreed to begin tracking and documenting hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans," a lawmaker said in a statement.
"This groundbreaking decision to collect valuable hate crime data will go a long way towards protecting communities living in fear of being victims of a hate crime," the lawmakers said in a statement," he said.
"We especially want to thank Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller for this critical move. The decision will serve to strengthen relationships between these communities, local and state law enforcement, the FBI and the department of justice," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, applauds the decision in this regard. "We applaud the DOJ's decision; it is a great step in the right direction, there is much work to be done to address the issue of hate crimes, but this is a positive start," said Jasjit Singh, executive director of SALDEF.
After such a decision, Holder said the victims of Oak Creek must never be reduced to mere crime statistics but in order to honor their untimely losses by ensuring that justice can be done -- they do need to be counted.
"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," he said.