Skip to main content

We must fight rise of homegrown hate

By Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, Special to CNN
updated 11:00 AM EDT, Wed September 19, 2012
Akandeep Delam, 4, holds a candle in honor of six people killed in an attack at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Akandeep Delam, 4, holds a candle in honor of six people killed in an attack at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kanwardeep Kaleka: Sikh community optimistic about hearing on domestic terrorism
  • Kaleka's uncle was killed in the Sikh temple massacre carried out by American
  • Kaleka: Homegrown terror groups are growing fast and present a real threat
  • The government must make it a priority to fight terrorism at home, he writes

Editor's note: Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka is the nephew of Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who was shot and killed on August 5. He is a student at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and was born in the United States.

(CNN) -- On the morning of August 5, my uncle, Satwant Singh Kaleka, and five other innocent people were gunned down in our place of worship, the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The tragedy left us wondering what it will take to stem the growing tide of hate crimes and violence plaguing our nation.

The Senate is holding a hearing on domestic terrorism on Wednesday, and I hope it will do more than simply offer my community a chance to vent frustrations and appeal for sympathy. My hope is that the hearing provides an opportunity for Americans to come together and identify solutions.

We need to be aware that the killings in Oak Creek, as well as recent attacks on the mosque in Joplin, Missouri, and more than a dozen others across the country, will continue if we turn a blind eye to domestic terrorism. It is a significant, growing threat to our safety and freedom as Americans.

We must ensure our safety within our own borders before we can hope to address violence elsewhere. According to the FBI, between 1980 and 2001, two-thirds of terrorist attacks in America were carried out by non-Islamic American extremists. That rose to 95% between 2002 and 2005.

Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka
Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka

A recent study by the New America Foundation found that non-Islamic U.S. citizens were behind 10 attacks from 9/11 through 2011, while jihadists carried out four. During the same time, 11 white supremacist, anarchist or right-wing extremists were caught with biological or chemical weapons -- anthrax, cyanide, ricin or sarin -- and four attempted to acquire them. The study found not a single jihadist terrorist possessed or tried to acquire chemical or biological weapons.

Eleven years after 9/11, who are the terrorists?

Even more worrying is that radical right groups are growing explosively, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet appallingly, our government has not only failed to increase its efforts to monitor this threat, but in 2009, it decreased efforts, leaving only one staffer in the Department of Homeland Security's domestic terrorism unit, according to Daryl Johnson, a senior domestic terrorism analyst from 2004 to 2010.

FLOTUS heads to Sikh shooting site
Volunteers help temple mourners cope
Holder: Sikh temple shooting a hate crime

We know there are at least 1,018 domestic hate groups in the United States today, many of which promote and explicitly call for violence against those of a different skin color, religion or ideology. How long can we keep our heads in the sand, and how long must we sit by as more innocent people die because a person decides that he won't tolerate the cultural or religious diversity of our nation -- our melting pot?

A coward killed my uncle. A coward, not because he went into a place of worship and took the lives of six unarmed people, and not because he took his own life rather than facing the consequences of his actions. He was a coward because he didn't have the courage to see the humanity of the people around him.

He -- like all terrorists -- killed people because they were not like him, because they were different. The reality is we are all different from one another, and that means we are all potential targets for such violence. This problem affects each and every one of us, so it's imperative that we act decisively, and act now.

This is not a problem that is simply going to go away. The government agencies charged with defending our freedom and safety must make it a priority to fight terrorism not just abroad, but right here at home. And we as the citizens must rid ourselves of the hate speech and the xenophobia -- including Islamophobia -- that divides us. This is particularly true of our leaders.

Opinion: What if U.S. stops policing the world?

We cannot give into the cowardice of prejudice. As the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions -- bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and equality." Together we can -- together we must -- address this challenge by calling on our elected officials to do their duty: defend the safety and freedom we as all Americans cherish.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT