Elderly Sikh-American called ‘Bin Laden’, brutally assaulted

New York: An elderly Sikh-American man was brutally assaulted and left with severe facial injuries by an assailant who yelled racial slurs like “terrorist” and “Bin Laden”, in an apparent hate crime just before the US commemorates the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Inderjit Singh Mukker of Chicago was assaulted on September 8 when the assailant pulled up to his car yelling racial slurs, including, “Terrorist, go back to your country, Bin Laden!”

Mukker, a US citizen and father of two, was on his way to a grocery store and was repeatedly cut off by the assailant driving a car. Mukker pulled over to the side of the road to let him pass, but the driver instead pulled in front of his car and aggressively approached Mukker’s vehicle, according to information by advocacy group The Sikh Coalition.

The assailant then reached into the car and repeatedly punched Mukker in the face, causing him to lose consciousness, bleed profusely and suffer a fractured cheekbone and a laceration to his cheek. He was rushed to the hospital, where he received six stitches, treatment for lacerations, bruising and swelling.

The suspect was taken into custody.

“No American should be afraid to practice their faith in our country,” Mukker said.

“I’m thankful for the swift response of authorities to apprehend the individual, but without this being fully investigated as a hate crime, we risk ignoring the horrific pattern of intolerance, abuse and violence that Sikhs and other minority communities in this country continue to face.”

The Sikh Coalition’s Legal Director Harsimran Kaur said the group believes that Mukker was “targeted and assaulted” because of his Sikh religious appearance, race or national origin.

“We request an immediate investigation and call on local and federal agencies to investigate this attack as a hate crime,” Kaur said.

Sikh Coalition said the attack, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, is just the latest in a line of violent attacks on Sikhs in America.

Last August, Sandeep Singh, a Sikh father in New York City, was run over after being called a “terrorist”.

In 2012, a gunman walked into a Gurudwara and shot and killed six innocent Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

The Sikh Coalition said Sikhs continue to experience a high volume of hate crimes and in the last 12 months alone, a Sikh professor was assaulted in Harlem, a Sikh pedestrian had his turban forcibly removed near Wall Street, a Sikh business owner was run over and dragged under a truck in Queens and a Sikh doctor was assaulted on Roosevelt Island.

The Sikh Coalition is working closely with Mukker, his family, and law enforcement authorities to ensure that this attack is properly investigated and prosecuted as a hate crime.

“We wish Mukker a speedy recovery and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” the advocacy group said.

According to a 2009 Sikh Coalition report, 41 per cent of Sikhs surveyed in New York City had been called derogatory names, such as “Osama bin Laden” or “terrorist”.

According to the same report, 9 per cent of Sikh adults have been physically assaulted since 9/11 because of their religious identity.

A 2009 Sikh Coalition report also found that 60 per cent of turbaned Sikh youth had experienced verbal and physical assaults in their schools.

The group also noted that the New York Police Department bans turbaned Sikhs from serving as police officers.

On the other hand, turbaned Sikhs are allowed to serve as police officers in major cities throughout the world, including Washington, DC, London, and Toronto.

Turbaned Sikhs also serve with distinction in the US Army.

According to a 2012 joint report coordinated by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), 73 per cent of New Yorkers of South Asian origin have been questioned by law enforcement officers about their national origin; 66 per cent have been questioned about their religious affiliation; and 85 per cent have been questioned about their immigration status, the Sikh Coalition said. (PTI)