Washington: Hindu, Sikh and Muslim groups have joined a White House-initiated inter-faith coalition to celebrate and protect religious pluralism in the US, in the wake of a fresh backlash against religious minorities after the California terror attack that left 14 people dead. “Hate-motivated violence and discrimination deserve no place in a civilised society. They also violate our federal civil rights laws,” head of the civil rights division at the US Department of Justice Vanita Gupta said in her address to the gathering of top faith-based leaders.
“Similar to what we saw after 9/11, in recent weeks following the terrible and tragic attacks in San Bernardino and Paris – and amidst a ratcheting up of divisive rhetoric around religious intolerance – community members and advocates have reported an uptick in hate-related incidents targeting Muslim-Americans, as well as those perceived – rightly or wrongly – as being Muslim.
“We have heard from Muslim parents concerned for the safety of their children being bullied in school. And we have heard about reports of criminal threats and violence against mosques, children and adults. We continue to investigate many of these incidents,” Gupta said.
“This discriminatory backlash not only threatens the millions of Muslims in the US who peacefully practice their religion. It threatens all of us, because Muslims, like all Americans, work in our local businesses, teach in our schools, compete on our sports teams and risk their lives in defence of our country. America derives its prosperity, strength and security from the diversity of its people,” she said.
Gupta said in the aftermath of 9/11, and in response to community member concerns, the Civil Rights Division launched a new initiative to combat discriminatory backlash against Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South-Asian Americans as well as those individuals perceived to be members of these groups.
“And since the unspeakable events of 9/11, the Justice Department has investigated more than 1,000 incidents involving acts of violence, threats, assaults, vandalism and arson targeting against Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South-Asian Americans, as well as individuals perceived to be members of these groups, prosecuting dozens of these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
Hindu American Seva Communities is the only Hindu group invited by the White House while the Sikh American groups include National Sikh Campaign and the Sikh Coalition. Other groups are Interfaith Alliance, Interfaith Youth Core, Islamic Networks Group, Muslim Advocates, National Council of Churches, Religious Action Center, Religions for Peace USA and Shoulder to Shoulder.