Sikh Professor attacked in a hate crime

NEW YORK (TIP): State and federal law enforcement authorities in New York City are investigating an alleged hate crime this weekend that left a Columbia University assistant professor hospitalized. Dr. Prabhjot Singh says he was walking Saturday (September 21) evening in Harlem when a large group of teenagers shouted “get Osama” and “terrorist” as they surrounded him on bicycles and then attacked him. Singh wears a turban and beard in adherence to his Sikh faith. Sikhism is an independent religion which originated in and around India. “There were about twenty of them,” said Dr. Singh, who is an assistant professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “A few surrounded me and started punching me.” The attack occurred near 110th St. and Lennox Ave. Shortly after the incident a Muslim woman was attacked a few blocks away. There were several witnesses to both incidents. An ambulance took Singh to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he also works as a resident physician. Singh was hospitalized with displaced teeth, severe bruising and swelling, a small puncture in his elbow, and a possible fracture in his lower jaw.

By Sunday evening he was resting after surgery. “This is a tremendous blow not just to Prabhjot and Sikh Americans but to the ideals of all New Yorkers,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition. “What happened did not happen in a vacuum. Here in New York City we regularly receive reports that Sikh school children are called “Bin Laden” or “terrorist” by classmates and sometimes endure physical violence.” The incident comes less than two weeks after the first-ever nationwide public perception assessment of Sikh Americans, titled “Turban Myths,” showed 70 per cent of Americans misidentify turban-wearers in the U.S. as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto. Nearly all turban-wearers in the U.S. adhere to Sikhism. The study also showed that nearly half of Americans believe “Sikh” is a sect of Islam, and more associate the turban with Osama bin Laden than with named Muslim and Sikh alternatives. The study was conducted by Stanford University researchers and sponsored by SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund). “Unfortunately our research confirms that Prabhjot’s experience is not the resulted of isolated misperception and intolerance,” said Jasjit Singh, SALDEF’s executive director. “Here you have a practicing doctor, a teacher and a community servant falling victim to hate in the largest and proudest melting pot in America. This violence is an affront to all Americans’ core values.” The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the assault.

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