New York – On Saturday, a man accused of pulling the beard of a Sikh professor before a group of young men who had called the professor “Osama” and a “terrorist” attacked him, has been taken into custody and charged with a hate crime.
20-year-old Christian Morales was charged with aggravated harassment in relation with the attack which took place in September on Columbia University professor Prabhjot Singh, who suffered a broken jaw.
31-year-old Singh was getting back home with a friend on foot in upper Manhattan when a group of 12 to 15 young men approached him. Days after his attack, he said that “I heard, ‘Get him. Osama. I heard ‘terrorist’. And I felt somebody grab my beard”.
According to the police, he was then kicked and punched in an attack that ended after other individuals present at the scene intervened.
Morales was in custody and his phone number was out of service. It is not confirmed if he had a lawyer.
The incident is under investigation by detectives from the hate crimes task force.
Sikhism is a peace-loving religion but the Sikhs have been targeted by attackers who in many incidents confuse the religion of Sikhism and Islam due to the reason that Sikh men and boys are required to wear turbans and beards. Singh co-authored a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times accusing the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti-Sikh violence in response to the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee in which 6 individuals and the white supremacist gunman were killed. In the op-ed, Singh and his co-author discussed that it is wrong “to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim.” According to them, Sikhs have historically been targeted.