Today, we remember the six worshippers who were murdered four years ago by a lone gunman who opened fire in a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and the numerous individuals and communities affected by this tragedy.
As we mark the four-year anniversary of the tragedy at the Oak Creek Gurdwara, the Obama Administration continues its commitment to protecting all places of worship and religious communities. Since the Oak Creek tragedy, the Administration has taken additional steps to prevent and combat religion-based hate crimes. For example, the FBI now tracks hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American communities and has updated its hate crimes data collection guidelines and training manual accordingly. Additionally, the White House created the Hate Crimes Interagency Initiative on the fifth anniversary of the Shepard-Byrd Act to address prevention of and effective responses to hate crimes. Recently, in response to troubling incidents targeting certain religious communities, including Sikhs, the White House and the Department of Justice launched a new initiative to identify and address religion-based discrimination and violence. Our work includes collaboration with civil society partners to confront ignorance and hate and build greater understanding across religious differences.
As President Obama has said,
[A]n attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.
We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld. . . . We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone.
So none of us can be silent. We can’t be bystanders to bigotry. And together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.
Today, as we remember the victims of the Oak Creek attack, we also re-commit ourselves to protecting the right of all people to practice their faith in peace and in freedom.