FBI announces it will now track hate crimes against Sikhs

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OAK CREEK (WITI) -- The FBI has announced sweeping changes to the way it tracks hate crimes, as a response to the Sikh Temple shooting last August. The FBI had never tracked hate crimes against Sikhs, and therefore, never had a complete understanding of the dangers the Sikh community faces.

"August 5th, my father was murdered. August 5th was definitely motivated by hate. You can look back 50 years and say this is probably one of the worst race-based attacks in America," Pardeep Kaleka said.

Kaleka's father was the president of the temple, and one of six worshippers killed when white supremacist Wade Page opened fire during a Sunday service.

Kaleka says there is no question in his mind that the shooting was a hate crime -- but getting the FBI to classify it as such was another matter.

According to the FBI, there were more than 7,700 victims of hate crimes in 2011. The FBI keeps statistics on single bias hate crimes. 47% were motivated by race, 20% sexual orientation and 19% religious belief. That year, there were a total of 1,480 "religious belief hate crimes," with the majority coming against Jews and Muslims.

Several other categories were tracked, but not crimes against Sikhs.

"September 12, 2001, I was a victim of hate crime, too.  My car was badly, all the tires were slashed.  They tried to burn it, but were unsuccessful," Herpreet Singh said.

Singh says post-9/11 attacks on Sikhs increased.

Members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek went to Congress, pleading that each person killed should be given "the dignity of a statistic."

"There is a power in numbers, you know?" Singh said.

Singh says without knowing the numbers, knowing the scope and scale of the problem -- it can be ignored. Now, the FBI's Advisory Policy Board of the FBI has voted to revise its hate crime statistics and track hate crimes against Sikhs.

"It's bittersweet for me personally.  It's long overdue.  I wish it was law back in August, as far as -- all justice takes time," Kaleka said.

The Sikh Coalition says 10% of Sikh adults have been victims -- either of physical violence or property damage because of their religion, making them hundreds of times more likely to be targeted than the average American.

Arabs and Hindus will also be included in the new statistical tracking.