New FBI Hate Crimes Report Reveals Massive Increase in Anti-Muslim Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2016
Contact: Vivek Trivedi, vivek@saalt.org

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) – a leading national South Asian civil rights organization representing the diversity of our growing communities in the United States – is profoundly concerned by the findings of the 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crime Statistics report released this week. The FBI’s analysis revealed 5,850 hate crimes were reported in 2015, a 7% increase from 2014. Two deeply disturbing revelations in the report are the 23% increase in religious-based hate crimes and the 67% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country in 2015.

“The 257 anti-Muslim crimes reported in 2015 are the second highest on record in the United States, trailing only the backlash after the attacks of September 11, 2001,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Hundreds of hate violence incidents have already been reported in only a week after these deeply divisive elections. This leads many in our community to believe that the FBI’s statistics are only the tip of the iceberg, with much worse yet to come.”

The FBI’s sobering statistics may pale in comparison to reality, however, as underreporting remains a consistent issue across the country. The number of law enforcement agencies that participated in the 2015 FBI data collection effort decreased from 15,494 in 2014 to 14,997 in 2015, and less than 12% of these agencies even reported one or more hate crimes to the FBI. This means that 88% of participating police agencies reported zero hate crimes to the FBI. Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have indicated that the data reported to the FBI may be as low as 35% of actual levels of hate crime in the country.

“The issue of underreporting is of critical concern when attempting to diagnose the severity of violence against our communities,” stated Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT. “South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the United States, with a population of over 4.3 million. Law enforcement agencies must participate actively and accurately in the reporting of hate crimes in order to shed light on the full scope of violence facing our growing communities.”

This is one of the many reasons SAALT developed an online database tracking incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities. Even before the post-election surge in violence, we tracked over 200 incidents from November 2015, and we encourage people to continue to utilize this resource to report incidents against our communities.

A welcomed aspect of the FBI’s report was the new addition of categories for crimes targeting Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus, who have historically been targets of violence due to real or perceived religions and appearance. SAALT supported the tremendous advocacy work of the Sikh community following the 2012 Oak Creek, WI gurdwara massacre where a known white supremacist killed six Sikh worshippers. This eventually led to the FBI adding these new categories to help disaggregate hate crimes data more accurately.

The alarming data in the FBI’s report and the post-election surge in violence underscore the climate of hate surrounding our communities nationwide. It is high time our communities are prioritized, not as targets, but as Americans, who deserve all the rights and protections available under the law.