March 5, 2017

Sikh Community Calls For Hate Crime Investigation in WA Shooting


hoto by Flickr user jasleen_kaur
American Sikhs on American Sikh Day at the California state capitol on April 13, 2011. Photo by Flickr user jasleen_kaur

American Sikhs

Kent, Washington – The Sikh Coalition and local community leaders this weekend asked local, state and federal officials to investigate the shooting of a 39-year-old Sikh man as an anti-Sikh hate crime. They called upon officials to improve bias prevention laws, organize “Know Your Rights” forums to build community resilience and reduce the likelihood of future hate crimes.

On the evening of March 3, a 39-year-old Sikh man was shot in his driveway after the gunman allegedly told him to “go back to your own country.”

The Sikh man, who wished to remain unidentified, is recovering from non-life-threatening injuries as law enforcement agencies continue their search for the gunman.

“While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority,” said Rajdeep Singh, Interim Program Manager at the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States.

“Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate,” Rajdeep added.

The Sikh American community, which has been an integral part of the American fabric for over 125 years, is estimated to be hundreds of times more likely to suffer hate crimes than the average American. This is in part due to the Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard, which represent the Sikh religious commitment to justice, tolerance and equality.

“Investigating this as a anti-Sikh hate crime is critical, because without our government agencies recognizing hatred for what it is, we can’t combat the problem,” said Seattle-area Sikh community leader, Jasmit Singh.

Condemning the shooting, Democrat Congressman Ami Bera from California said in a statement, “This disturbing crime is an outrage that goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants,” adding, “Xenophobia and racism have no place in America, and we as a nation need to stand up to these hate crimes — starting with the President. Thankfully, the victim is recovering, and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Echoing sentiments of the community, Sanjay Puri, Chairman, the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) said in a statement, “USINPAC urges the Trump administration to strongly condemn the hate fueled attacks on Indian Americans and to take firm steps to mitigate the negative atmosphere of fear and uncertainty prevailing among racial and ethnic minorities in the country. We are urging concrete steps by the Department of Justice and to address the community.”

Commenting on the rising hate crimes, Ravi Batra said, “This land is my land, this land is your land from California to New York island” is the true test of citizenship and lawful residency.”

Calling the “get out of my country” as “an ignoramus divisive battle cry of those that the establishment failed to care for and let them stew in unbecoming misery,” Batra added, “If President Trump and Congress don’t repeal and replace misery with a better present and hopeful future, the 50 year old “ugly” American will have a new poverty-based definition – unworthy of Great America or Great Americans – past, present and future.”

“”Those who monger in hate and anger may find that they embedded cancerous hatred in America the Beautiful. And to all those who trade in hatred, I say: shame on you, and get out of my country – America the Beautiful,” concluded Batra.

Hari Eppanapally, Chairman, Lead India Foundation expressed shock and feelings of sadness “to see the increase in racial attacks against immigrant communities especially on Indian Americans across US.”

Appreciating President Donald Trump for his statement condemning the attacks during his presidential address to a joint session of the US Congress, Eppanapally felt, “It needs more from the Trump administration and at the local level to take necessary steps to stop these hate crimes immediately.”

Stating that “people cannot be judged based on their color or country of origin,” Eppanapally requested the community leaders “to conduct awareness campaigns in every city with Mayors, Councilmen and Police to make sure such events are prevented from happening.”

The shooting in Kent, Washington shares similarities with the deadly February 22 shooting in Olathe, Kansas, and follows the larger national pattern of hate violence directed at minority communities across the United States in the wake of the presidential election.