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Sikh Coalition Files FOIA Request for NSA and FBI ‘Raghead’ Documents

For Immediate Release
Amardeep Singh, | (212) 655-3095 
Rajdeep Singh, | (202) 747-4944

Sikh Coalition Files FOIA Request for NSA and FBI ‘Raghead’ Documents

July 17, 2014 (New York, NY) – Responding to reports that NSA and FBI officials may have used the ethnic slur “raghead” in surveillance programs targeting American Muslims, the Sikh Coalition today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with both agencies demanding production of all employee emails since September 11, 2001 that contain the anti-Sikh epithets “raghead” and “towelhead.”

According to the FOIA request, “[d]isclosure of the requested information to us is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the extent to which [agency] employees have used epithets indicating prejudice in official correspondence.”

Since the 9/11 attacks, Sikh Americans have repeatedly endured violence and bigotry because of their religiously-mandated turbans. Many have been called “ragheads” or “towelheads.” In August 2012, a gunman with known ties to neo-Nazi groups attacked a Gurdwara (Sikh House of Worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six worshippers and injuring several others, including a local law enforcement officer. In the months after the massacre, a Sikh business owner was shot and injured in Port Orange, Florida; a Sikh octogenarian was beaten with a steel rod in Fresno, California; and a Sikh professor was assaulted in New York City.

Given the persistence of hate violence against Sikh Americans, and after a lengthy campaign by the Sikh Coalition, civil rights groups, and numerous members of Congress, the FBI finally agreed in 2013 to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs.

“As Americans, we expect law enforcement officials to behave like adults,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition. “The Sikh Coalition will not tolerate the use of racial or religious slurs by people who are supposed to protect us. We therefore demand a full accounting of NSA and FBI emails to determine the extent to which agency employees are combating bigotry, not promoting it.”

View the FOIA Request to the FBI here. 
View the FOIA Request to the NSA here. 


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Amardeep Singh, Programs Director (212) 655-3095, ext. 83


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About the Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

We pursue our mission by:

  • Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
  • Advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
  • Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
  • Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment

With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.


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