NEW YORK – Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a 31-year old assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, was brutally beaten by teenagers on Saturday night.
Singh was taking a walk in Harlem around 7 PM EST when he was attacked by a group of teens on bikes. They managed to corner him on the sidewalk and taunted him with anti-Muslim slurs. On Monday, New York City police said that they were looking for 15 to 20 teenagers who beat Singh and broke his jaw.
The NYPD are calling the attack a “possible” hate crime.
During a press conference, Prabhjot Singh detailed the attack. “I heard ‘get him’, ‘Osama’, ‘terrorist.’ And I felt someone grab my beard and a bike hit my chin,” the professor said. “A few surrounded me and started punching me.”
“I’m very grateful it wasn’t any worst,” Singh said. Three bystanders rushed over in an attempt to stop the assault. Sometime following the attack a Muslim woman was attacked a few blocks from the incident.
Simran Jeet Singh, a friend of Dr. Singh and a doctoral candidate at Columbia, visited him at Mt. Sinai Hospital and said he was doing well and that “His spirits are high.” The two co-wrote an article for The New York Times about hate crimes and violence against Sikhs.
While Simran Jeet Singh said that it was important to establish understanding and educate others, he feels that the assault is being presented as a simple case of mistaken identity with an attitude of “somehow if he was Muslim that would have made it O.K.”
In the first national assessment of Sikh Americans, it was shown that roughly 70% of Americans mistake Sikhs for Muslims and view Sikhism is a sect of Islam.
The case is under investigation by the NYPD’s hate crimes task force. There have been no arrests at the moment. In statement released Monday, New York City Comptroller John Liu described the attack as a “rude reminder that bigotry still exists and is often directed at Sikhs.”
The statement went on to state that Sikhs have been a large target of hate crimes since the 9/11 attacks and asked for anyone with information about the assault to contact the NYPD.