Although the number of reported incidents of hate crimes went down slightly in the United States from 2017 to 2018, according to an FBI announcement on Tuesday, the total of those against Sikhs went up by 200%, which, say community leaders, reflected only a small percentage of the actual crimes.
The number of hate crime incidents against Sikhs went up to 60 in 2018 from 20 in 2017, according to the FBI’s annual hate-crimes report. Hate crimes against Sikh were the third highest, at 4.3%, after those against Jews and Muslims, who were first and second largest with 56.9% and 14.6%.
Over the same period, the total number of reported hate crimes went down slightly — from 7.175 to 7,120.
Hate crimes against Sikhs have been rising, partly because they are mistaken for West Asians on account of their turban. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American, became the first victim of the backlash that followed after the September 11 terrorists attacks in 2001. He was shot by a man on September 11 who wanted to kill “towel-heads” in retaliation. In 2013, a white supremacist killed six people at a Wisconsin gurdwara.
American Sikhs have reported widespread discrimination and targeting of members of the community, which is estimated to be around 500,000. And they believe the actual number of hate crimes against Sikhs is far higher.
“At the end of the day, this data simply isn’t giving us the accurate information we need to effectively counteract hate against targeted communities,” said Sim J. Singh of Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group.
The group cited an incident from 2017 that was not included in the data as proof of the under-reporting. “In 2017, a man shot more than a dozen rounds into a van of five Sikh men in Carson City, Nevada, wounding Harmandeep Singh Shergill. The attacker was convicted on four counts with a hate crime enhancement and sentenced to 34 years in prison; nonetheless, the assault does not appear in the FBI’s 2017 data as a hate crime,” it said in a statement.