For Sikhs in the United States, 9/11 is doubly poignant and sad. Not only do they mourn those who were killed at the World Trade Center, on a field in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. They are heavy laden by the deaths in their own community which was the prime target of haters wanting revenge against those who flew the planes into American landmarks.
“On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks we remember and mourn the lives of the people who were killed in the horrifying attack that made the nation stand still,” notes the advocacy organization Sikhs United in a press release on this fateful day in 2020.
“The day continues to haunt individuals who in the aftermath also became the targets of racism, victims of hate crime and bullying,” the organization notes.
The first person targeted after 9/11 was a Sikh man in Arizona.
However, hate acts against Sikhs by fellow Americans continue to rise even today, the organization notes.
According to the FBI’s annual hate-crimes report, there is a 200% increase in hate crimes against Sikhs in 2018 as compared to 2017 (Compare https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/topic-pages/incidents-and-offenses and https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/incidents-and-offenses).
Also according to the FBI data, Sikhs were the third group that suffered the most religious hate crimes in 2018 as compared to Jews and Muslims, calling it a “staggering increase” in violence, one that confirms that it is among the most frequently targeted communities in the U.S. The numbers could be higher if data collection has not kept up or if crimes go unreported, it surmises.
“These acts of hate haunt many Sikh Americans and it affects their sense of identity, their safety and their well-being,” says United Sikhs, which has brought out a report to be released in the near future on victims of hate crimes.
It quotes cases like that of Gurinder Singh Dhaliwal who stated that over 1,000 people have made racist comments to him since 9/11, to the way more serious ones like the 2012 attack on the Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara where six people were shot to death in cold blood by a white supremacist.
Sikhs will continue to face the backlash unless something is done, the organization says. The upcoming report from United Sikhs, shows victims believe that the perpetrators are not aware or educated enough about Sikhism.
“The attack on September 11, 2001 took the lives of 2,974 people and we do not forget them and we commemorate this day each year in their memory. However, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, we began to see more deaths and tragedies resulting from 9-11 because we had begun to turn on each other,” United Sikhs’ National Legal Director Wanda Sanchez Day, is quoted saying in the press release. “That trend has continued, especially since the last Presidential election. This year, in the midst of a pandemic that has taken the lives of thousands so far, we as a nation finally rose against state condoned and meaningless violence. It is time our leaders declare a national emergency to combat hate violence and implement measures to address this issue as they would any other national emergency,” Sanchez Day added.
United Sikhs said its goal is to ensure recognition that Sikhs and all minorities are an integral part of the American fabric. It seeks to protect the rights of these communities to be treated justly and it pushes for this ideal along the lines of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “The Declaration recognizes that equality can be achieved only if everyone is able to enjoy the same economic, social, cultural, civil and political freedoms and rights,” says Advocacy Director Jasmit Jesse Jaspal Singh.