Sikh prof breaks jaw in hate attack

A Columbia University professor, who is Sikh, said he was overwhelmed by the support he received since being attacked by a group of young men who called him "Osama" and a "terrorist".

Dr Prabjhot Singh, 31, said on Monday that he is glad his injuries, including a fractured lower jaw, are not worse.

The attack occurred at around 8pm last Saturday in upper Manhattan. He was walking with a friend after dropping off his toddler and his wife at the family's apartment when he was approached by a group of 12 or 15 young men, AP reported.

Dr Singh said that just before the attack, he heard someone yell: "Terrorist, Osama, get him," reported The New York Times. One of the men, believed to be between the ages 15 and 20, yanked his beard as the assault began.

"I started running," Dr Singh said. But the assailants were on bicycles, the police said, and easily caught him and his companion, a fellow Sikh.

The group punched both men but "they mostly focused around me", Dr Singh said.

He fell to the ground and felt kicks and punches to his body and face. The assault ended when pedestrians intervened.

A man shouted at the young men to leave him alone, Dr Singh said, and a nurse who lived across the street came to his aid.

He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and released on Sunday.

The New York Police Department's hate crime task force is investigating the crime as a possible bias attack. Surveillance video released by police shows about a dozen men on bicycles circling around the area where the attack occurred.

Police said Dr Singh, an associate professor of International and Public Affairs, was punched and kicked six times.

"It's incredibly sad," he told the New York Daily News. "It's not the neighbour hood I know. I work in this community. It's just not American.

"It's important that they are caught and be held responsible for what they did."

But he added it was more crucial for people to understand that Sikhs are peaceful and should not be confused with radical Islamics.

Said Dr Singh: "I've written about this in the past. But it's one thing to go from writing about something to receiving an assault. It's scary."

New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio denounced the attack as a "hateful act of violence".

"Our Sikh community has faced bigotry before - but its resilience and compassion have always prevailed," he said.

Twenty years from now, Dr Singh hopes that the stereotype of a man with a beard and a turban will change.

Sikh practitioners have been targeted by attackers who, in some cases, confuse Sikhism and Islam because Sikh males are required to wear turbans and beards.

Last year, Dr Singh was the co-author of an op-ed piece in The New York Times that accused the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti- Sikh violence.

The article was a response to last year's Aug 5 shooting at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee in which a white supremacist killed six people before fatally shooting himself.

In it, he and his co-author argued that it is wrong "to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim".

Dr Singh said that after the latest incident he feels "a deep amount of empathy for all the other people who have experienced things like this, whether or not it makes the news".

Get The New Paper for more stories.