SAALT, Partners, Members of Congress Hold Vigil on Hate Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Today in Washington, D.C., South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, along with partner organizations and Members of Congress, held a vigil on the steps of the Capitol to honor the victims of hate violence in South Asian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Arab communities nationwide. The vigil was a collective moment to mourn the injuries and loss of life our communities have suffered and to also demand just laws, policies, and leadership in response to increasing violence against our communities.

“At a time when South Asian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Arab community members are facing hate violence and harassment on nearly a daily basis, we need real leadership from Washington to stem the tide of injustice,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Waiting nearly a week before commenting on a deadly shooting in Kansas won’t do it. Issuing a second toxic Muslim Ban won’t do it. We need direct action from this administration to forge inclusion, justice, and hope in this quintessential nation of immigrants. SAALT will continue fighting for laws and policies that light a path toward a just and inclusive future for us all.”

In recent weeks three Indian men and one Sikh man, either perceived as Muslim or as a result of anti-immigrant sentiment, were shot, with two of the victims ultimately dying of their injuries. In two of the cases the assailants screamed at their victims to leave the U.S. and go back to their countries before opening fire. The nation has also witnessed spikes in mosque burnings, vandalism, and an increasing wave of intimidation aimed at our communities nationwide.

This recent violence is part of a rising tide of hate targeting our communities. SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 elections, with an astounding 95% of incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Notably President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic political rhetoric we tracked.

The President’s response to the attacks against our communities has been woefully inadequate. His dangerous rhetoric and destructive policies have fanned the flames of violence that we’ve experienced in recent weeks and months. SAALT calls upon the President to reverse course and lead our nation down a path of justice, inclusion and equality for all Americans. This is the moment for our nation to come together, and SAALT will continue to fight until our country has reached that important goal.

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Members of Congress who joined the vigil included Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA).

Partner organizations include: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Institute (AAI), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Indiaspora, MPowerChange, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Network For Arab American Communities (NNAAC), Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF), and Sikh Coalition.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY)
“I feel very strongly that there needs to be more love, more acceptance, more tolerance now in the United States than ever before, and I believe also that the violence we’ve seen taken against people who don’t necessarily look like me is something we all need to be concerned about. Whether you’re a South Asian, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Christian, whether you’re Hindu, whether you’re Sikh, whether you’re Buddhist, it matters not. An attack against one is an attack against all of us. The attack in Kansas did send a shiver down my spine, because I know that this is something that unfortunately has developed because of hate rhetoric and hate speech that developed during the campaign and has continued afterwards. President Trump not only has to speak out against this, he has to take action against this as well and put resources out there to ensure the South Asian community in the United States is protected.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
“This is a very important moment. I have tremendous sympathy and condolences for the families across the country who are dealing with hate crimes and who are literally suffering at home, sometimes in silence, unsure of whether they can go out or not. When we’ve seen spikes in hate crimes, it is incredibly important for Members of Congress, but most importantly for the President, to speak out against this kind of hate violence. But it doesn’t actually mean anything unless the policies follow that rhetoric, and that has been one of things that has been very troubling. One of the messages I want to send to people who are out there listening is that America is your country, you belong here, and we will stand up to protect your rights.”

Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA)
“These disturbing acts of violence not only attack our communities, they are an assault on all Americans. Attacking someone based on where they come from or what they look like insults the very core of everything that we stand for as a nation of immigrants. As a nation, we must stand up to these hateful attacks, which means doubling down on our commitments to safety, equality, and the American values of liberty and justice for all.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA)
“I have a fundamental belief in the goodness and decency of the American people. This is not a partisan issue. I have had Republicans and Democrats approach me on the floor appalled by some of the recent acts of violence. The country must stand together against hateful words and actions, and we must prosecute any hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Rajdeep Singh Jolly, Interim Managing Director of Programs, Sikh Coalition
“As we remember Srinivas Kuchibhotla and all those who have lost their lives and loved ones to hate, we demand that the White House create a federal task force to prevent hate violence. Words are not enough. We need accountability and action.”

Yolanda Rondon, Esq., Staff Attorney, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
“The courage of the Arab American community is unparalleled. Hate attempted to create fear but we discovered our strength. We will not be divided.”

Amrita Bamrah, SALDEF
“Today as we offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of hate violence, SALDEF stands firm in its belief that the goodness of our communities will prevail over hate, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing up for the rights of all communities in Chardi Kala (everlasting optimism), without fear, and without hate.”

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
“Hate crimes are fundamentally different than other threats or acts of violence because they target entire communities, seeking to cause fear and intimidation. I know from personal experience when my office was fire-bombed, or when my life and that of my family and office colleagues was threatened because we were Arab Americans or because we advocated for Palestinian rights. The intent was to silence and intimidate us and to spread fear throughout our community. In this regard, hate crimes are a threat to our very democratic system. Those who incite and create a climate of intolerance towards groups or causes contribute to creating the environment from which haters spring. They are as much a threat as the perpetrators of hate crimes themselves.”

Robert S. McCaw, Director of Government Affairs Department, CAIR
“We are communities that are under attack, our houses of worship are being vandalized and burnt to the ground, our worshipers face death threats for attending their sacred spaces, and many are afraid to go out in the public. We cannot remain silent. We cannot as a country look the other way. This is real. This is happening. This cannot be ignored. We need assurance from our government that this will not continue to occur as it is without any foreseeable end. This is not the new normal. As a nation we cannot allow it to be.”

Contact: Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org