by Eszter Hargittai on September 22, 2013

This is rather depressing. More info here. And seriously, we really need more conversation and action – whatever that may be – to counter the level of anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim hate going around. (I guess perhaps it is not yet confirmed in this case that it was a hate crime, but it certainly sounds like it.) Know of any organizations with helpful initiatives in this domain? Please share.



godoggo 09.22.13 at 11:12 pm


Omega Centauri 09.23.13 at 12:42 am

Yes ugly. I wonder if the news from Nairobi may have set them off. Sikhs have the misfortune of looking like stereotype muslims, even though their religion is separate. They attract far more of this sort of thing than actual muslims, many of whom slip below the radar screen. I wish him the best.


James Wimberley 09.23.13 at 12:55 am

The reported shout by the attachers of ¨get Osama¨suggests they were confused on more than one level.


Witt 09.23.13 at 12:56 am

So horrible. Obviously it would be horrible in any case, regardless of the victim’s biography, but this part seemed especially poignant to me:

In addition to serving as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, he is also a resident physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital. His life’s work has been to help the underprivileged access quality and affordable healthcare, and he believes strongly that his countless hours of service are an investment in improving the health of impoverished communities.


MG 09.23.13 at 1:26 am

Just horrible.


js. 09.23.13 at 1:31 am

Sikhs have the misfortune of looking like stereotype muslims

Except, not really. Unless the stereotype is “brown person with beard” = Muslim. And even then, traditional Sikh beards are visibly distinct from traditional Muslim beards, and in the parts of the world where Muslims traditionally wear turbans, those turbans don’t look much at all like Sikh turbans.

In any case, this is just horribly sad.


Tabasco 09.23.13 at 1:51 am

The kind of people who make these attacks are not very discerning, to say the least.

Balbir Singh Sodhi , a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona was shot dead on 15 September 2011 in 9/11 revenge attack, by a man who, according to the testimony of co-workers at his trial, hated Arabs and immigrants.

The young woman who recently won the Miss America pageant is an Indian-American and a Hindu, yet was attacked as being an Arab and a Muslim.


Witt 09.23.13 at 2:34 am

Not directly related to Sikhism, but Harvard’s One Nation Indivisible project has an interesting new story of interfaith collaboration out of Omaha:

Immigration has transformed our nation’s religious landscape. In Omaha, Nebraska, three faiths – Jewish, Muslim and Episcopalian – respond to change by coming together to share space (land), build relationships and create an international model of religious pluralism.

Direct link to story (pdf).


Witt 09.23.13 at 2:34 am


Eszter Hargittai 09.23.13 at 2:58 am

Thanks for sharing that Omaha story, Witt, very interesting and encouraging.

Regarding the examples of people attacking others, because they don’t understand what faith/ethnicity they are, of course their ignorance is horrific, but let’s be clear that even if they got someone’s religion or race right, that certainly wouldn’t justify hateful acts either.


Omega Centauri 09.23.13 at 3:03 am

js, Maybe caricature of the stereotype would be a better way to put it. Obviously anyone who actually knew the different ethnic groups and what they look like wouldn’t make that mistake.


Dr. Hilarius 09.23.13 at 3:21 am

Racist goons are not known for being very worldly. When I was a kid living in Smyrna, Tennessee, we had neighbors who were Iranian Air Force officers (there for flight training at the air base). They encountered a lot of racism from the not very worldly civilian community. Dark skin is dark skin, no need to get into details. Depressing.


Tabasco 09.23.13 at 3:27 am

Eszter 12

well, of course, but there is something grimly ironic when an Indian Sikh or Hindu gets attacked for being a Muslim (not that I am suggesting that either Prabhjot Singh or Miss America have got anything against Muslims).


maidhc 09.23.13 at 10:07 am

I remember when people from India were advised to wear turbans, even if they didn’t do so normally, when visiting the American South, so they wouldn’t be treated like black people.

And Korla Pandit, who had a television career as an organ virtuoso, did much better as a turbanned phony Indian than he would have in his real African-American identity.

But the association of turbans with Arabs comes from movies of the Arabian Nights and cartoon genies, I think.


John Quiggin 09.23.13 at 10:40 am

@14 I remember reading that some enterprising Southern blacks, not owning turbans, wrapped towels around their heads and received better treatment from white strangers as a result.


bjk 09.23.13 at 1:11 pm

This is especially worrisome because the victim is a professor.


C. Van Carter 09.23.13 at 9:02 pm

@15 Where did you read that? Obviously wearing a turban doesn’t get you better treatment from black strangers.


C. Van Carter 09.23.13 at 9:16 pm

I suspect what happened was an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, non-newsworthy black mob attack and he made up the “get Osama” stuff to capitalize on it.


Jay C 09.24.13 at 1:30 am

C Van C @ #18:

Hardly “non-newsworthy”: local news here in NY has been covering this story pretty thoroughly. I’m not sure a Columbia professor – of whatever religion – would be a likely sort to get up in front of news cameras and lie to the public about getting his jaw fractured: but whatever….


between4walls 09.26.13 at 3:05 am

I think people who are complaining about the “mistake” is more about frustration with general ignorance than thinking it would be okay to attack him if he were Muslim. It obviously would be equally bad in that case.

When the gurdwara was shot up last year, most news reports didn’t even bother to find out the correct word and just called it a “Sikh temple,” and in general there’s a lot of ignorance about Sikhism (not surprising since while it’s a large religion, it’s quite geographically/ethnically concentrated). So it’s not surprising that frustration with that broader ignorance comes out after hate crimes, though it could potentially be perceived as saying it would be okay if they got the “right” religion.

Confusing Sikhs with Muslims is particularly wtf from an Indian perspective (because it’s more closely related to Hinduism, and its early followers were persecuted by the Mughals); I had to explain the confusion in America to my Sikh grandma.

All that aside, the amount of virulent Islamophobia lately is disgusting.

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