9/15/15 Update: The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office has decided to file a hate crime charge in the Inderjit Singh Mukker assault. A Sikh Hate Crime Press Conference was held in support of the decision to prosecute as a hate crime, with video and photos of the press conference shared by the Sikh Coalition, in addition to the text of Mukker’s statement. Drawing a connection to his own attack, he noted that the date was the 14th anniversary of the first post-9/11 hate crime fatality, the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi.
I was attacked because of my brown skin, turban and beard. I was assaulted in my car because I am a Sikh. My attacker saw me driving on this road and instead of seeing my turban and beard for what they are – articles of my faith that stand for values like equality, selfless service, and faith in God, he twisted them into symbols of hate. He called me “Bin Laden.” He told me to go back to my country.
…Today, in memory of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American, who on this day 14 years ago was killed in a brutal hate crime, I ask that you join me in my urgent request to eradicate hate in America once and for all. Thank you. — Inderjit Singh Mukker
9/11/15 Update: According to an update from the Sikh Coalition, DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office is not bringing hate crime charges against the offender. The office’s website announcement states that it is bringing Aggravated Battery charges against the teen. Mukker’s children have started a change.org petition to persuade the Department of Justice to bring federal hate crime charges against their father’s assailant.
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“No American should be afraid to practice their faith in our country.” Those are words from Inderjit Singh Mukker in the aftermath of his vicious attack on September 8. Few if any Americans would disagree, and yet, here we are, on the eve of 9/11, reading the details of another deplorable hate crime attack against a Sikh American. The Sikh Coalition‘s legal director Harsimran Kaur states, “We believe Mr. Mukker was targeted and assaulted because of his Sikh religious appearance, race or national origin.”
Inderjit Singh Mukker, a resident of Chicago suburb Darien and a father of two, had been driving to a grocery store when he was verbally taunted and repeatedly cut off by another driver. After he pulled over to let him pass, the other driver pulled up to Mukker’s car yelling racial slurs, including, “Terrorist, go back to your country, Bin Laden!” Then his assailant reached inside the car to begin beating and punching Mukker, who lost consciousness. Kaur told NBC Chicago “His cheek was fractured, he had a laceration that required six stitches, he had black eyes, and bruising and swelling all over his face.” Mukker was rushed to the hospital for treatment, a suspect is in custody, and law enforcement is investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Sadly, being called “Osama bin Laden” or “terrorist” is not a rare experience for Sikhs in the U.S. Neither is being physically assaulted for their religious identity. A 2009 Sikh Coalition report showed that 41 percent of Sikhs surveyed in NYC had been called derogatory names, such as “Osama bin Laden” or “terrorist.” According to the same report, 9 percent of Sikh adults have been physically assaulted since 9/11 because of their religious identity. A 2010 survey by the coalition showed 69 percent of turban-wearing Sikh students in the San Francisco Bay Area had suffered bullying and harassment because of their religion and that 30 percent of them had been hit or involuntarily touched because of their turbans.
Assistant Professor Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, spoke with the Washington Post about some of the reasons Sikh Americans continue to be attacked fourteen years after 9/11.
“For Sikh Americans, the unique markers of religious identity — the turban, the beard — these markers are associated with the markers of terrorism,” he said.
In other words, “People see a Sikh and construe them as the enemy.”
The Sikh Coalition, which is legally representing Mukker, is a community-based organization working toward civil and human rights and a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith.
Beating of Sikh man in Darien investigated as hate crime (Chicago Tribune)