In a suspected case of hate crime, a Sikh cab driver was assaulted and his turban ripped from his head by passengers in the US.
Harkirat Singh, a 25-year-old practicing Sikh who immigrated to the US from India some three years ago, picked up three passengers, including a woman, in Manhattan shortly after 5am on Sunday.
The passengers typed in their destination in his GPS but when they got there they told him that he was at the wrong location. “I was scared. They were, you know, hitting the partition... They were shouting in my cab,” NBC New York quoted him as saying. “I say, ‘Stop this. Why are you doing this?’”
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According to him, the passengers sent him in a couple of different directions before he finally tried to kick them out and call the police. However, this led to a scuffle during which the passengers smashed his metre, punched his arm and pulled his turban off his head. “He picked up my turban from my head, and after he said, ‘Now you see Ali Baba,’” he said.
“I'm so afraid. I don't want to work,” Singh told the New York Daily News. “It's an insult on my religion, also. An insult of my faith. It's horrible.”
Singh did the right thing when he called the police, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Tuesday. Meanwhile, New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim civil rights organisation, condemned the attack.
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Harkirat Singh — You are welcome here. What happened to you was wrong. You did the right thing by calling the NYPD. https://t.co/Vah9tXRLHf— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 18, 2017
“As a human being, as a Sikh, I would prefer to die than somebody taking off my turban and walking away with it,” Harpeet Singh Toor, a representative of The Sikh Cultural Society, said. “Taking a turban is a violation worse than death.”
The incident 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.
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Police say they are only seeking one suspect, though they'd like to speak to the other three passengers. In the years since the 9/11 terror attacks, Sikhs remain more likely to be targeted in cases of profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American.
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