Skip to main content

We must fight rise of homegrown hate

By Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, Special to CNN
September 19, 2012 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
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
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT