Amid a series of hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities, including Indian-Americans, there is need for these communities to be united and speak up against such an increasing rhetoric, several Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups said on Thursday. “We have to step up against any incident of discrimination against the community or any others community or religion. This is just the starting point,” Congressman Dr Ami Bera, the senior most Indian-American lawmaker from California, said during a Congressional hearing.
Bera, the past co-Chair of Indian Caucus in the US House of Representatives, said that it is time that the community rise up to this challenge. “It would be incumbent upon all of us, if we see rise of Islamophobia or attack against the Sikh community, we have to stand up, we have to speak up,” Bera said.
Addressing the Congressional hearing organised by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in association with several other rights bodies and advocacy groups, Congresswoman Judy Chu said the communities should collectively “push back” against the rising tide of hate crimes.
In recent weeks, three Indian men and one Sikh were victim of hate crimes across the US, she said, alleging that the US President Donald Trump continued with his pre-election rhetoric that has worsened the atmosphere in the country.
Congressman Raul Grijalva from Arizona said to single up and to victimize and demonize people because of their religion, country of origin and skin colour is Un-American. “We have to be honest about the situation that we are dealing with today. We cannot allow racial identity and religion a dividing issue in this country. We need to stand firm. We need to defend the nation that we are part of,” he said.
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi called for a joint effort to fight a common threat. “We need to get to the root cause of what is going on. We may have come on different ships in the history of our country but we are on the same the boat now,” he said.
“The most important values are treating each other with dignity with respect regardless of race and religion and empathetic to increased visibility,” said Congressman Ro Khanna from California.
As per a SAALT report ‘Power, Pain, Potential,’ which documents 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities, there is a 34 per cent increase in less than a third of the time covered in its 2014 report.
“This breaks down further into 140 incidents of hate violence and 67 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric of which 196 or an astounding 95 per cent were motivated by anti Muslim sentiment. Additionally, one in five instances of xenophobic political rhetoric we documented came from presidential nominee and now President-elect Trump,” the report said.
“SAALT stands ready to work with Congressional leaders to fight hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric impacting our communities nationwide,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT.
“Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies explicitly targeting our communities continue to destroy the ideals of our quintessential nation of immigrants. We are committed to policies at all levels that reinforce the place our communities have in our nation now and as we continue to grow,” she said.