September 10, 2019
SAALT is deeply concerned by the actions of the Narendra Modi government of India and the impact of its Hindu nationalist agenda on not only communities living in the region but also South Asian Americans living in the U.S.
Religious minorities and vulnerable populations in the region have faced high levels of discrimination and exclusion in India, particularly after Modi’s recent re-election. In Kashmir, residents are living under a 37 day communications blockade and being stripped of both their political rights and human rights; in Assam, the government has implemented a citizenship documentation system that deliberately excludes nearly 1.9 million people, mostly Muslims; and across the country there has been a surge in the number of lynchings of minorities, mostly Muslims, Dalits and Christians, under Modi’s leadership.
The Modi government is implementing a Hindu nationalist agenda, known as Hindutva, a political ideology that is divergent from the pluralistic practices and beliefs of Hinduism itself. Hindutva, or right wing Hindu nationalism, is rooted in the alarming notion that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others. Similar to white supremacy, which South Asians (including Hindus) in the United States contend regularly with, Hindutva threatens the rights, bodies, freedoms, and livelihoods of non-Hindus in India.
The current situation in India, fueled by nationalism and Hindutva, has global implications. For example, over the past five years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Indian nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. People seeking asylum from persecution range from Sikh political activists to LGBT activists to those facing caste oppression. They flee to the U.S. seeking refuge from persecution in India, but often face brutal conditions upon arrival to the U.S. SAALT works to support asylum seekers who are caught in a cruel detention system.
South Asians in the United States have a responsibility to speak up and take action, especially now given the dire situation in Kashmir and the upcoming trip by Prime Minister Modi to the United States. We urge South Asians to raise awareness about the implications and impact of Hindutva, and to lend your voices to the chorus of people raising concerns. We urge South Asian Americans to understand the connections between white supremacy and Hindutva, to unite around human rights, to support policies that uphold dignity and inclusion for all, and to denounce hate violence in all its forms.
On this day exactly seven years ago, a known white supremacist opened fire with a 9 millimeter semiautomatic handgun in the Oak Creek, WI gurdwara, and killed six people. We are still mourning the devastating impact of this violence today. Just this weekend, white male shooters claimed 31 lives in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. The El Paso shooter published an online manifesto inspired by the mass murder of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand and echoing the Trump Administration’s daily onslaught of racist rhetoric and policy.
There were 2,009 hate crimes in 30 of the country’s largest cities in 2018 – the highest number in the past decade. Last year marked the 5th consecutive increase in hate crimes, the steepest rise since 2015, according to police data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Statements and repeated condemnations are not enough. White supremacist violence is killing people of color and immigrants. Any elected official refusing to acknowledge this problem and consider legislation that confronts this violence is complicit. We demand our elected officials and law enforcement agencies track the threat of organized white supremacy as a systemic issue and that they address the root causes of hate violence. We refuse to view these as isolated incidents and will continue working to dismantle all systems that perpetuate this violence, fueled by the illegitimate white supremacist claim to our nation’s stolen land.
We send love to our Sikh family and all survivors of hate on this extremely difficult day and fortify our commitment to “Chardi Kala” as we fight for justice.
Here’s what you can do today to support survivors of hate:
*Donate to help survivors and families of victims. The El Paso Community Foundation is accepting donations here.
*Offer support locally in El Paso here.
*Connect with organizations like Hope Border Institute (@HopeBorder) and NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (@OrganizeNM) who are offering resources and organizing vigils for survivors who cannot seek medical treatment due to fear of being targeted by immigration authorities.
* Write a letter to the editor or essay in your local newspaper about ongoing hate violence and how it affects us all
* Send a message of support to the Oak Creek Gurdwara
* Contact your public official and ask them to support the Khalid Jabara & Heather Heyer NO HATE ACT
May 8, 2019
Dear Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Rogers:
As civil liberties and community-based organizations, we submit this statement for the record in response to the hearing on domestic terrorism in order to share our concerns about the rise of white supremacist and nationalist violence in the country, and to remind the committee that communities of color continue to have their freedom of speech and right to assembly curtailed under the guise of fighting domestic terrorism. Before adopting any policies to fight white supremacist and nationalist violence, we urge you to consider how these policies will impact communities of color.
The term “domestic terrorism” itself has been heavily politicized and critiqued. The politicization of this term has meant that rather than applying a uniform definition, it has instead been applied differentially and used in particular to target and criminalize communities of color and their freedom of speech, movement, and assembly. More specifically, there has been and continues to be, a systematic bias in the way terrorism is framed such that it is more readily applied to cases where the alleged perpetrator or planner of a violent act is Muslim.
Furthermore, the term “domestic terrorism” has often been associated, particularly by law enforcement, with Black and/or, Muslim and/or, Indigenous communities and their allies despite documented incidents of violence perpetrated largely by white supremacists and right-wing extremists.We are therefore concerned that the remedies and interventions that come out of this hearing will be used to increase targeting of marginalized communities.
A recent report published by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) documents hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017. The report draws a direct line between the Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim agenda and increasing attacks, revealing that of the 213 incidents of hate violence documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration policies, or his campaign slogans during attacks.As the SAALT report made clear, state rhetoric, policy, and violence are key to understanding the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist violence. We urge the committee to use this hearing, and subsequent hearings, to examine how government policies and institutions and political rhetoric have fostered the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist terror.
We also urge committee members to reject Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs as a remedy to the rise in white supremacist violence. Though often neutral on their face, CVE programs have in practice and since their inception under the Obama administration profiled, surveilled, and divided Muslim communities. To simply include white supremacist groups within CVE would not alter the foundation of the program, but would strengthen and expand it – and this would likely result in Muslim youth and communities getting targeted even more than before.
Moreover, CVE programs are not only problematic because of their almost exclusive focus on Muslims, but because they are based on debunked, pseudo-scientific theories that certain “radical” ideas lead to violence.As civil rights and civil liberties advocates have long argued, expanding CVE to include white supremacy will be ineffective in fighting terrorism, and harmful to communities of color.CVE programs promote a narrative of collective responsibility of Muslim and other marginalized communities, putting them at risk in a way that will not be felt by the majority White population.
We caution that white supremacist and right wing violence are less likely to be prosecuted as terrorism,and urge the committee to take steps to ensure that any reported data by relevant government agencies is reliable. Required reporting would also track the number of FBI assessments and investigations, of each domestic terrorist movement defined by the FBI. This data could be revelatory, and should be made public.
Furthermore, if the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have the discretion to define and give their opinion about each terrorist movement and conduct a threat assessment – discretion that would almost certainly be biased if either of these agencies’ histories are any indication. Therefore, we are concerned that any efforts to “research” threats will lead to increased monitoring, surveillance, and destabilization of communities of color and non-violent activist groups.
Additionally, we are worried that action to address domestic terrorism could further embolden the FBI’s surveillance of the Muslim community. To date, the FBI maintains a nationwide network of over 15,000 informants, many of them highly paid to infiltrate Muslim communities. According to Human Rights Watch, from 2001 – 2014, “nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.”It is unclear how these injustices will be addressed moving forward and what the recommendation will be regarding the use of informants to uncover or manufacture domestic terrorism plots. Thus, we urge Members of Congress to be explicit about the role of informants and what safeguards will be put in place to make sure they are not violating the rights of already marginalized communities. Data on the number of FBI informants involved in domestic terror related assessments and investigations should be collected and made public.
We look forward to working with the committee to ensure that white supremacist terror is addressed without adversely impacting the very communities most often targeted by white supremacists. We do not believe that law enforcement or intelligence agencies need additional authorities to address domestic terrorism, but they must be held accountable for ignoring some threats and inflating others.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Justice for Muslims Collective
Defending Rights & Dissent
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Asian American Resource Workshop – Boston
Campaign to TAKE ON HATE
Center for Constitutional Rights
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
National Network for Arab American Communities
Property of the People
Revolutionary Love Project
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P).
Communities on Fire, South Asian Americans Advancing Together, January 2018
See Letter from Nicole Nguyen & Stacey Krueger, Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, to Members of Congress et al, Concerning the Questionable Use of Academic Research to Support CVE Initiatives (October 5, 2016)
and Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues (Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, Mar. 27, 2016)
See Letter from 53 Civil Rights and Liberties Organizations Against Expanding CVE Programs(September 7, 2017)
Are Muslims Collectively Responsible?, 416Labs, November 19, 2015
Trevor Aaronson, Terrorism’s Double Standard: Violent Far-Right Extremists Are Rarely Prosecuted as Terrorists, The Intercept, March 23, 2019
Trevor Aaronson, The Informants, Mother Jones, July, 2011
April 8, 2019
Dear Chairman Nadler and Ranking Member Collins,
We write to share our concerns with you and members of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the April 9 hearing on Hate Crimes and The Rise of White Nationalism. We believe these are urgent issues and that Congress should be paying close attention, especially in light of the rise of hate crimes in the United States and the role that domestic white nationalist groups have here at home, and on a global scale.
On Tuesday, April 9, Congress is holding a hearing on hate violence and white nationalism. According to the announcement, the House Judiciary Committee plans to “examine hate crimes, the impact white nationalist groups have on American communities and the spread of white identity ideology.” We believe these are urgent issues and that Congress should be paying close attention, especially in light of the rise of hate crimes in the United States and the role that domestic white nationalist groups have here at home, and on a global scale.
As organizations working with Muslim, South Asian, Sikh, and Arab communities, we are deeply aware of how hate violence has become a pervasive issue affecting our communities and other marginalized communities. We are heartened to know that the witness list for Tuesday’s hearing includes Dr. Abu Salha whose two Muslim daughters and son-in-law were murdered in a brutal hate crime in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015.
However, Tuesday’s hearing fails to comprehensively address the scope and magnitude of hate violence that disproportionately impacts Black, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab American communities. Nor does the hearing utilize an opportunity to unearth the complex motivations behind white nationalism or its effects, including hate violence. Apart from Dr. Abu Salha, it is not survivor-centered, and the GOP witness list includes several individuals whose actions and institutions have helped catalyze hate crimes, not abate them. For example, the witness list includes Candace Owens, Director of Communications at Turning Point USA, who tweeted “LOL” after the Christchurch massacre and who was listed as an inspiration in the manifesto released by the white supremacist who is responsible for the massacre of at least 50 Muslims in New Zealand. The list also includes Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America who used the slur “filthy Arabs” just last year. It is important that white nationalism and white supremacy are not treated as redeemable ideologies.
It is unfathomable as to why witnesses who espouse hateful positions and represent racist institutions would be included given their active discrimination against Muslims and Arabs. Additionally, the hearing does not thoroughly examine the various and dominant strands of white nationalism, including zionism; the connection between political rhetoric, state policies, and the rise in hate crimes; nor does it include survivors who experienced hate violence since the 2016 election; or government officials who should be held accountable for how federal agencies and law enforcement entities are actively addressing white nationalism and hate violence.
We demand that Congress hold substantive hearings that center survivors and that unequivocally reject white nationalism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, racism, and hate violence in all its forms. Similar Congressional hearings have fallen short of examining the depth of white supremacist hate violence and our communities continue to pay the price. The 2017 FBI hate crimes statistics revealed an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row, a 17% increase from the prior year. This is an alarming upward trend in hate crimes – now consistently surpassing the spike immediately after September 11, 2001. Survivors of hate violence and bigotry deserve honest inquiries and true justice from their elected officials. Congress must hold subsequent hearings that comprehensively confront and address the proliferation of white supremacist and white nationalist hate violence.
American – Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Arab American Association of New York (AAANY)
Arab American Bar Association
Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (API DVRP)
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving
HEART Women & Girls
Justice For Muslims Collective
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative
Muslim Social Justice Initiative
National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
South Asian Workers’ Center Boston
The Partnership For The Advancement of New Americans (PANA)
United We Dream
March 15, 2019
We all woke up today to the horrifying news out of New Zealand. We are shaken.
Our hearts are broken.
We are mourning and standing with the victims and families impacted by this act of mass violence, and all our Muslim brothers and sisters worldwide. We offer our love, support, and solidarity.
White supremacy, xenophobia, and Islamophobia fueled the shooter’s attack, which killed 49 people in two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch.
As many of our community members in the US go to Friday prayers in their local mosques today, we encourage everyone to seek the support they need. We’ve included a list of mental health resources and community actions below.
Islamophobia and white supremacy are a global phenomenon. We know that Islamophobia and its ripple effects in the US are real and continue to deeply affect our communities’ safety and sense of belonging in the US. More than one in four hate violence incidents we documented in our Communities on Fire report were fueled by anti-Muslim sentiment.
We also know the power of the political bully pulpit is real, and has a real impact. Of the hate violence incidents we documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration’s policies, or his campaign slogans as they violently attacked our community members. We remain ever committed to fighting Islamophobia and white supremacy.
Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, said, “Houses of worship should be places of refuge and peace, not scenes of a massacre. We are standing with Muslim communities everywhere as the world mourns and we seek to keep our communities safe. As hard as it is not to cave into fear at times like these, we have no choice but to keep fighting against Islamophobia in all its forms.”