Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reflection on Hate Crime Hearing about Oak Creek Tragedy

"Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic."-Harpreet Singh Saini

I, Ramya Ram, an Americorp VISTA, attended this event on the behalf of everyone at Hindu American Seva Charities. 400 people attended this very moving hearing. Personally, this hearing, was not only enlightening for me but monumental, because the Sikh community, as a whole, through Harpreet Singh Saini, were able to address their views on hate crimes against their community. I myself, and many people, around me from all backgrounds, were very teary as we saw, this young man, give a historical testiment to his mother and the other victims of the Oak Creek Tragedy. Normally, people who present to members of Congress are being honored for their achievements but for Harpreet, he came because, he had lost his mother and many other victims. He came to defend himself and others of his community from future hate crime attacks.  

The haunting yet powerful words of Harpreet Singh,a son of the one of the Oak Creek victims, sent a humble, yet so needed request to members of Congress. His mother, was shot by the white creek gunmen as she was praying.  According to Senator Durbin, for about 2 years, Sikh Americans have asked, that violence against them be recorded so that both the government and the public knows about these incidence. Till today, their petition, to put has surprisingly gone unanswered. This hearing was essential because, it has acted as the tipping point. In other words, officials like Senotor Durbin are aware of violence against Muslims/Arabs/Sikhs and want to use their influence to make sure the government does something about hate crimes against these groups.

According to Roy Austin Jr.,Deputy Attorney General, of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, violence against Sikhs are not recorded on the hate crime list even though there has been ample evidence that there are hate crimes against Sikh Americans. Mr. Austin, has stated, that the Department of Justice is looking into these cases against Sikh Americans. Recently,
 the civil rights division and community relations service are going to be brought together to determine what kinds of statistics need to be recorded. Department of Justice has quite an intensive process along with the FBI in order to properly reflect the events. I, myself and many others, are looking forward to their decision after their October meeting with the FBI officials.

This hearing was an eye opener for me as well as the dharmic community on a variety of levels. Firstly, the public heard about how the various govermental departments are addressing hate crimes. Secondly, the community also got to heard potential solutions, for hate crimes against the Sikh community. Most importantly, we gained a lot of ground in our petition to list hate crimes against Sikhs in the goverment "Hate Crime List"'.

 As Daryl Johnson, CEO of DT Analytic, rightfully pointed out, many people tend to over look the act of non-Islamic right wing extremists because, they associate the violence with another movement. We, as a diverse community have to recognize that these right wing extremists, have their own beliefs that can stem from a variety of notorious extremist groups. I think that we should delve deeper into their actual biases as opposed to "knowing their intent" so that such crimes are not misclassified. I also agreed with Mr. Johnson's point of the goverment distributing yearly threat assessments to vulnerable populations and counter measures that various communities can take against these horrible events. This way, communities can recieve warnings and have time to take the proper precautions.

I can only hope that the Department of Justice hears these concerns and does the proper follow through procedures to address them. I also hope that this hate crime, is the last of its kind and there shouldn't be anymore, in order for the Department of Justice to provide the proper protection to all of America's minority.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Announcement: Seeking community leader/s to coordinate and lead security infrastructure effort

Dear Dharma Community

Recent tragedies underscore the need for our Dharmic community to be able to train itself and build capacity to better protect itself.

HASC is working with the Department of Homeland Security to assist the Dharmic and Hindu community increase security of faith infrastructures.

We are starting this effort in New Jersey. The effort requires a statewide leader/s to lead the initiative and coordinate it statewide with DHS and our places of worship, our temples.

It will require working with the temples and community organizations to develop an outreach program with DHS to provide training for our temples and for our congregations so that they can better protect themselves. This is a part time effort where most coordination can be done on weekends and after working hours.

We urge community members to come forward and take a role in collectively developing a security infrastructure for our community. DHS is most eager to work with our community to strengthen our Dharmic places of worship.

Please let us know of your interest.

Thank you

HASC team