It was an ugly weekend. On Saturday night, not long after a woman in a hijab was attacked in Times Square and called a terrorist, a Columbia University professor was beaten in Harlem in an unrelated incident. Dr. Prabhjot Singh was attacked just after 8 p.m. near 110th Street and and Lennox by a large gang of young men, some of them on bicycles, who yelled, among other things, “Osama” and “terrorist.” Dr. Singh is Sikh.
Singh, a director of systems design at the Earth Institute, a professor of international affairs at Columbia, and a physician with a practice in East Harlem, told Buzzfeed that the attack occurred just after he’d dropped his wife and one-year-old son off at their home. He was walking with a friend when they passed a group of what he estimates were 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. (The police estimate Singh’s crowd of attackers at 15 to 20 people.)
A friend, Simran Jeet Singh, told the website that some of Prabhjot’s teeth were also knocked loose, and that he sustained “multiple fractures” and a puncture to his elbow. (The two men are not related; all Sikh men use the last name “Singh,” while women use the name “Kaur.”) Singh was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital and treated for his injuries, including undergoing surgery on his jaw. There have been no arrests in the attack, which police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) issued a statement condemning the attack, and asking city leaders to do the same. “New York’s religious and political leaders must speak out forcefully against the type of bigotry that leads to hate attacks on people of all faiths and backgrounds,” said Sadyia Khalique, CAIR’s operations coordinator. The incident has already become national and even worldwide news, with the New Delhi-based Hindustan Times also reporting on the story.
Prabhjot Singh and Simran Jeet Singh penned an op-ed for the New York Times last year, calling on the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs, something the agency announced this June that it would begin doing.
Given the shouts of “Osama” and “terrorist,” it appears likely that Singh was mistaken for a Muslim by his attackers because of his beard and turban. However, in their op-ed, he and Simran Jeet cautioned against assuming that all attacks against Sikhs are the results of mistakenly directed anti-Muslim bias. “That assumption overlooks the long history of discrimination and hatred directed at Sikhs in America,” they wrote.
Singh also told Buzzfeed that the incident doesn’t reflect the Harlem he knows. “This is my community,” he said. “I live in Harlem, I see patients here. It’s not the side of Harlem I’ve come to know and not how I’ve been embraced.” To the Daily News, he added that the attack is “incredibly sad” and “just not American.”
See Also: Times Square Man Hits Hijab-Wearing Woman With Sign, Calls Her A “Fucking Terrorist.” Video Below:
“I think that it is critical young men who scream and act out like they did to me, engage and learn in some other way,” Singh said. “This makes me ever more committed to our community and doubling our efforts. What happened is not the Harlem I know.” If given the opportunity to speak to his attackers, he added, ” I would ask them if they had any questions about me, the Sikh faith.”
Singh also said that tomorrow he would return to treating patients. Earlier today, he appeared on HuffPost live.