Sep 20, 2013
Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Professor of International and public affairs at Columbia University, was attacked and injured by few Americans on the night of September 21. They yelled, among other things, “Osama” and “terrorist”, before attacking Dr. Singh. Dr. Singh who is a Sikh by Religion was walking around 8PM in the Harlem neighbourhood area along with a friend when they passed a group of 25 to 30 young men, most of them African-American, who began yelling “Get him,” “Osama” and “terrorist.” He was grabbed by the beard and punched in the face repeatedly, falling to the ground. Before bystanders came to his aid, he sustained injuries to his lip and jaw, according to the NYPD. Dr. Singh is a professor at School of International and Public Affairs professor in the Columbia University. His friend Simran Jeet Singh, who is a doctoral candidate in religion at Columbia, said that Dr. Prabhjot Singh was “brutally attacked” on the street and rushed to the hospital “bloody and bruised, his face swollen from a fractured jaw.” The young professor could not speak because many of his teeth had been displaced, Jeet Singh said in the post “Hate Hits Home: When My Friend Became A Target” published on the HuffPost website. “Last night, I received the kind of phone call that everyone dreads: a close friend was hurt and on his way to the hospital. But the news got worse, as I learned that my friend, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a young Sikh American professor at Columbia University, had been brutally attacked on a public street, the victim of a violent hate crime,” the post said. While in hospital, Singh told police that his assailants taunted him and beat him, calling him “Osama” and “terrorist” as they pulled at his long beard. He was repeatedly punched in the face and head as he lay on the sidewalk. Singh had returned from dinner, dropping his wife and one-year-old son at home before going for a walk. While being attacked, he saw one of the assailants put his arm inside his coat as if reaching for a gun. Singh was unable to provide any descriptions about his assailants. SimranJeet Singh described the young professor as someone who has “dedicated his life to serving the underserved.” He is currently the Director of Systems Management at the Earth Institute, and “draws upon his experiences abroad to help improve the health of local communities like Harlem.” Singh is also a resident physician at a leading New York hospital. “Unfortunately his assailants did not see Prabhjot Singh, the professor, the community health expert or the local doctor. They saw a man wearing a beard and a turban – his articles of faith – and saw a target. Sadly, for many other Sikh Americans like Prabhjot, this is a story they have heard and experienced before,” Jeet Singh said in his online post. Singh has been discharged from hospital and had met with officials from the New York Police Department Hate Crime Task Force, who are probing the incident as a hate crime. Dr Singh is also a regular columnist in New York times and an activist for Anti-Sikh Hate Crimes. In a op-ed column he warned that it was wrong to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim. That assumption overlooks the long history of discrimination and hatred directed at Sikhs in America. “The legacy of anti-Sikh violence and its contemporary prevalence make it painfully obvious that anti-Sikh violence is often purposeful and targeted. The government must begin tracking and counting anti-Sikh hate crimes, just as it must continue to vigorously combat bias and discrimination against all Americans, including Muslims. We must do away with a flawed and incomplete assumption of “mistaken identity” regarding Sikhs; until we do, we will all be the ones who are mistaken”, wrote Dr. Prabhjot Singh in a column published on August 24, 2012.