Sikh Columbia professor assaulted in possible hate crime (+video)

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

Prabhjot Singh was assaulted on Saturday night in what the New York Police Department says was a possible hate crime.

HuffPost Live screenshot

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Prabhjot Singh, a Columbia University professor, was assaulted Saturday night in what the New York Police Department says was a possible hate crime.

Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban and beard, was attacked while walking on 110th Street near Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, The Huffington Post reported. A suspect or suspects allegedly “shouted anti-Muslim statements, knocked the professor down and punched him numerous times in the face,” The Huffington Post reported.

On Monday morning, Singh joined HuffPost Live and discussed the incident and said that he’s OK despite the attack. He also said he saw an oral surgeon “to have his jaw wired.”

“I saw young men on bikes,” Singh told hosts Marc Lamont Hill and Alyona Minkovski. “I heard, 'Get him!' and 'Osama' and 'terrorist,' not all at the same time," he said. “I felt somebody grab my beard and hit my chin while on a bike. I started running in the direction away from where all the bikes were mobilizing, and then was punched while running. Eventually they surrounded me, and [I] was hit to the ground with punches to the face and torso.”


The Columbia professor’s wife, Manmeet Kaur, wrote an article on Wednesday for The Daily Beast. Not only did she retell Singh’s story, but she also asked for support in stopping hate crimes.

“It breaks my heart each time I read about an incident against someone based upon race, gender, religion or ethnicity, but I hope to take this as an opportunity to provoke reflection about ways to work together as a community to prevent hate crimes against individuals of any background,” Kaur wrote.

Kaur said a part of the solution is in education. She suggested teaching children to appreciate and understand diversity from a young age.

“I am troubled by the young age of the assailants and am reminded of how early hatred and racism can begin,” she wrote.

Singh said he would like to invite his attackers to the Gurudwara, which is a place of worship for Sikhs, to understand his beliefs and help prevent any more possible hate crimes.

And in an article for the New York Daily News, Singh wrote he feels gratitude toward his attackers for bringing the issue of hate crimes to light.

“This gratitude enables my wife and I to remain optimistic that our son will never have to go through what I just experienced,” wrote Singh.

Religious News Service published an article Tuesday about a similar attack on a Muslim woman a few blocks away on the same day as Singh’s assault.

According to the article, these assaults are a piece of ongoing attacks on Sikhs, Muslims and people thought to be foreigners. Stanford University, according to the article, released a study that showed even though “almost all turban-wearers in America are Sikh,” roughly 70 percent of Americans believe turban-wearers to be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto.

About 50 percent of Americans, according to the RNS piece, believe Sikhism is a sect of Islam. As the article explains, “Sikhism is a monotheistic religion revealed to Guru Nanak in the 16th century in the Punjab region of modern-day India and Pakistan.”

With more than 25 million followers, most of whom live in India, with 500,000 in the United States, Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world.

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

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