New York (PTI): Civil rights groups are strongly condemning a “racially motivated” attack on a Sikh taxi driver here, calling it an assault “on all New Yorkers”.
Harkirat Singh, 25, an immigrant from Punjab who moved to the US three years ago, was assaulted and his turban knocked off by unruly passengers in the early hours of Sunday.
The New York Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, condemned the “racially and religiously motivated attack” on Singh.
“As brothers and sisters facing increased racially and religiously motivated attacks, this reprehensible attack against Singh resonates strongly with our community,” CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement.
CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Cahn said no New Yorker should ever face violence because of his or her faith.
“We are a city united by our diversity. Any attack motivated by religious bigotry is an attack on all New Yorkers and the values we hold dear,” Cahn added.
According to police, Singh was attacked by his passengers during a trip from Madison Square Garden to the Bronx. The passengers reportedly called Singh “Ali Baba,” swore at him, refused to pay the cab fare, and attempted to break the cab meter and partition. The passengers then, while fleeing the police, ripped Singh’s turban from his head.
Sikh rights group The Sikh Coalition urged the NYPD to hold the perpetrators accountable and called on the city administration to make bias prevention a top priority.
“It is one thing for law enforcement to respond to hate crimes after the fact, but we collectively need to start thinking about ways to prevent hate crimes from occurring in the first place,” Sikh Coalition Interim Managing Director of Programs Rajdeep Singh Jolly said in a statement.
Recently, several anti-Sikh attacks have received national attention. Earlier this year in Kent, Washington, a Sikh man was accosted by another man in his driveway and told to “go back to his country”. The individual then shot the Sikh in the arm. Local authorities are looking into the attack as a possible hate crime.
CAIR-NY said there has been an unprecedented spike in hate rhetoric and bias-motivated incidents targeting Sikhs, American Muslims and other minorities since the election of President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, the NYPD noted that there has been a 100 percent increase in hate crimes. CAIR-NY said the figure is a gross underestimation due to under-reporting.
The attack on Singh occurred just hours after thousands of Sikhs had gathered at Times Square for the ‘Turban Day’ event organised by a Sikh group to spread awareness about the faith.