Reveal News – Sikh Americans continue being targeted in hate crimes

Will Carless

USA, 31 August 2018. In the space of three days earlier this month, two Sikh American men were attacked and beaten in California’s Central Valley in seemingly random hate-fueled attacks.

Surjit Singh Malhi said two men grabbed him from behind as he was putting up political signs in his neighborhood. They threw sand in his eyes, he told The New York Times. And, Malhi said, they hit him with a stick and a belt in the head and back.

“You don’t belong here,” the men screamed at him, he said.

The very thing that drew the attackers attention — his turban — ended up protecting him from the beating, Malhi said.

Malhi later found that his truck had been vandalized with what’s become a regular anthem of hate: “Go back to your country.”

Thirty miles or so northeast, and a couple of days later, 71-year-old Sahib Singh said he was enjoying his daily walk around his neighborhood in Manteca when two teenage boys approached him and allegedly asked him for money.

During the attack, which was caught on video, the boys shouted at Singh, knocked him to the ground and kicked him. In the video, one then appears to spit on him while he’s lying on the floor. One of the assailants was the 18-year-old son of the local police chief.

The two unprovoked attacks are the latest in a long history of hate against Sikhs in America. (A trend detailed by ProPublica last year.)

Since then, the attacks and threats have kept coming. In February, an Uber passenger in Illinois allegedly pointed a gun at his Sikh driver and said “I hate turban people.”

Soon after, Hoboken City Hall had to beef up security after New Jersey’s first Sikh mayor, Ravi Bhalla, received death threats. Documenting Hate, a database hate incidents run by ProPublica, has received 11 reports of anti-Sikh incidents since launching in January 2017.

“Sikhs remain hundreds of times more likely to experience bias, bigotry, backlash, hate crimes and everything in between than the average American,” said Mark Reading-Smith, a spokesman for the Sikh Coalition, a national organization that advocates for the American Sikh community.

Sikhism, a religion that originated in India, is observed by an estimated 500,000 people in the United States. Many Sikhs grow their hair long naturally out of respect for God, a practice known as Kesh. Some Americans see their long beards and turbans and incorrectly believe they are Islamist terrorists.

Part of the reason Sikh men, especially, are targeted is that some Americans associate turbans and long beards with Islamist terrorism, he said. But Reading-Smith stressed this isn’t always the case.

“Sikhs are targeted in many cases simply for being categorized as ‘other,’” he said.

The most heinous example of hate against Sikhs happened in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012, when neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page burst into a temple and fatally shot six people. Wade, a musician in the white power music scene, had long professed a hatred for all non-white people.

In the hometowns of the two California men attacked this month, residents already gathered to show their opposition to hate attacks against their neighbors. In Turlock, Malhi said a group from his crossfit gym showed up soon after the attack to plant flowers and tidy up his yard.

On the Sunday after Singh was beaten in Manteca, hundreds of people showed up to join him in his daily walk around a neighborhood park.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: