It is the same material, originally developed by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund to train law enforcement personnel at the federal, state and local levels, but it has been streamlined to follow the structure of other training programs, said Manjit Singh, chairman of the Washington-based group.
The Department of Justice decided to review all training materials after Muslim advocacy groups complained that the content of materials on Muslim cultural sensitivity were inappropriate and offensive, he said. The content for the Sikh materials was left largely unaltered, but reorganized into a format that is consistent with the Muslim training materials.
Most of the Sikh training, at least 97 percent, comes from SALDEF’s ‘On Common Ground’ video, which was untouched, Manjit Singh said. The changes only involved the Power Point slides and other written content, which are supplemental materials used in case the video is not available. The group also incorporated input from other Sikh organizations to polish the language.
“…We can use forums like the cultural competency training being previewed today to help law enforcement, local officials, and non-Sikh communities to promote understanding and to truly do justice,” said Tony West, acting associate attorney general, at the ‘Sikh Cultural Competency Training Preview’ held by the department’s Community Relations Service, on Sept. 19.
“This training could not be more timely,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole also said. “The tragic events in Oak Creek, Wisconsin just last month are a chilling reminder of the need to do all we can to foster tolerance, understanding, and respect among the diverse faiths, communities and peoples that make up America.
“Sikh Americans must never be made to feel that their religious practices subject them to unfair scrutiny from their government,” he said. “Sikh children should not have to wonder whether their faith in God will subject them to attack. No one should have to worry that they will be targeted with violence because of their religion. That is unacceptable and un-American, and we will do everything we can to prevent it.”
The department also will increase data collection about the nature and cause of religious hate crimes, including those directed at Sikh Americans, by asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Policy Advisory Board, to examine whether the current hate-crime reporting categories should be expanded to include additional religious categories – particularly those motivated by anti-Sikh bias, he said. This plan was presented later the same day at the Senate subcommittee on hate crimes’ hearing, where Harpreet Singh Saini, son of an Oak Creek gurdwara victim, asked for the same.
The board is an independent federal advisory committee that is authorized to propose changes to the Uniform Crime Reports. It includes representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The FBI will make an independent assessment and inform the justice department of its decision in October, said Roy Austin, a deputy assistant attorney general, at Wednesday’s hearing.
“The duty of law enforcement is to aid and protect every community equally – leaving no one out,” Cole added. “Perhaps one of the best examples of that was the selflessness of the officers who responded to the terrible crimes in Oak Creek, risking their own lives to protect those who had gathered in peaceful worship.”
The justice the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created department’s Community Relations Service. Its role is to help state and local governments, private and public organizations, and community groups prevent and resolve racial, religious, and ethnic tensions, conflicts, and civil disorders. Harpreet Singh Mokha, the regional director of the service’s Philadelphia office, conducted the presentation.