A Columbia University professor who is Sikh was beaten and injured by a pack of men on bicycles near New York City’s Central Park over the weekend, raising concerns once again about Sikhs’ and Muslims’ vulnerability to hate crimes in the United States.
Dr. Prabhjot Singh, 31, told reporters Monday that he heard his attackers say, “Get him!” in addition to calling him “Osama” and “terrorist,” apparently mistaking him for a Muslim. Sikhism is a separate religion.
“I felt somebody grab my beard while on a bike, hit my chin,” said Singh, who is an assistant professor of international and public affairs as well as a practicing physician in East Harlem. “What ensued was punching until I hit the ground.”
Singh’s jaw was fractured in the attack. Bystanders came to his aid, he said.
Last year, Singh co-wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that criticized the FBI for not keeping separate tallies for hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs.
The op-ed came not long after white supremacist Wade Page attacked a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six Sikhs. The piece detailed other attacks and hate speech directed at Sikhs in the United States.
“Whatever the roots of Mr. Page’s hatred, it is wrong to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim,” Singh and Simran Jeet Singh wrote then. “That assumption overlooks the long history of discrimination and hatred directed at Sikhs in America.”
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that police were examining surveillance footage to identify “as many as 30" men on bicycles who attacked Singh on the north edge of Central Park, at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue, on Saturday evening.
The Associated Press reported that the NYPD’s hate-crimes task force was investigating.
Singh, who is married and has a 1-year-old son, tried to have a stiff upper lip about the attack.
“It’s not the Harlem I know,” he told reporters. “It’s certainly not going to change how I move around the neighborhood.”