A distressing incident involving insensitive and intolerant behaviour towards a Sikh individual wearing a turban has recently come to light on a city bus. The 19-year-old man was subjected to verbal abuse and later physically assaulted due to his appearance. The attack understandably left him deeply shaken and angered.
According to reports, this incident occurred on October 15. Only after the news spread in the media that the man speak out, emphasising that no one should be targeted based on their appearance. It was reported that a fellow passenger attempted to remove his mask during the assault forcibly.
In a statement issued by the advocacy and rights group, The Sikh Coalition, the young man expressed his feelings, saying, “I am profoundly shaken and angered by this attack. I firmly believe that no one should endure assault or harassment because of their appearance, and everyone should have the right to go about their business in public without fear.”
The young man, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed his gratitude to individuals from diverse communities who stood in support of him, along with the authorities who are taking his hate crime seriously. The statement revealed that he endured multiple assaults while boarding an MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) bus in New York City.
The press release emphasised that the assailant specifically targeted his turban and used xenophobic language throughout the incident. The Sikh Coalition has since communicated with him, offering legal aid and various forms of support. The organisation continues to engage in discussions regarding the ongoing investigation with both him and the New York Police Department (NYPD).
UPDATE: Our latest reflection on the case of the Sikh teen who was assaulted on an NYC bus this weekend, including a statement from both him and one of our attorneys.
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) October 18, 2023
Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney Amreen Partap Singh Bhasin remarked, “Given that this young Singh’s turban was targeted during the attack, we are heartened that this incident is being investigated as a hate crime.”
Bhasin emphasised that there is no doubt that current domestic and global events are causing anxiety within the Sikh and other communities. She also brought attention to the tragic case of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian American boy, who was stabbed 26 times at home by Joseph Czuba in Illinois amid ongoing tensions between Israel and Palestine.
According to the police, the attacker, clad in a bright yellow jacket, approached the man and said, “We don’t wear that in this country and take that mask off!” before punching him in the head, face and back multiple times.
Police are now seeking the man responsible, releasing surveillance images. They said that the attack is being treated as a suspected hate crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released its annual report on hate crime statistics, which included data from 2022. According to the report, incidents of hate crimes motivated by religion in the USA were at their highest point since 2001, showing a 17 per cent increase since 2021. The report also highlighted that the intelligence and security service recorded 198 anti-Sikh hate crime occurrences, the highest number ever documented. The Sikh community remains the second most targeted group in the country for hate crimes motivated by religion.