NYC: another Sikh attacked in Queens

Intolerance and stupidity, it seems, are equal-opportunity employers. Since 9-11, Sikhs in the US have faced violent attacks from Ugly American types who are too dumb to know that they aren’t Muslims. Now a Sikh student has been attacked by real Muslims for not being Muslim. From amNew York, June 5:

An alleged bias attack against a Sikh student at a Queens high school has civil-rights groups and city councilmen pointing fingers directly at Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

On May 25, 17-year-old Umair Ahmed dragged 15-year-old Vacher Harpal, a practicing Sikh, into a bathroom at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, where Ahmed used scissors to cut Harpal’s hair to the neckline while a younger boy stood watch at the door, according to police.

A key religious tenet of Sikhism is that males keep their hair unshorn. Ahmed and the other boy are Muslim.

Queens prosecutors used hate-crime statutes to charge Ahmed with unlawful imprisonment, aggravated harassment and menacing, as well as harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. Ahmed could face up to seven years in prison. No one else was charged.

But politicians and activists said prosecution wasn’t enough and said the Department of Education needs a systematic overhaul of the way it handles bias.

“The Department of Education is as guilty as these boys in that bathroom for what happened,” Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said at a news conference Monday at the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan.

Several civil-rights groups, representing Sikhs, South Asians and Muslims among others, said bias attacks against minorities have only gotten worse since 9/11.

“Almost half — half! — of our Sikh children face harassment,” Sikh Coalition executive director Amardeep Singh said. “That is unacceptable.”

Singh, Liu and councilmen David Weprin (D-Queens Village), Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) and Hiram Montserrat (D-Corona) blamed Klein for failing to follow through on the Dignity for All Students Act, which the council passed in 2004 and calls for cultural-sensitivity training for school staff and for data to be collected on bias-based harassment.

In an e-mailed statement, a spokeswoman for Klein said that the criticism was unfounded, and that the department takes discrimination and harassment very seriously.

“School leaders have worked to create a safe and nurturing environment for all students,” Dina Paul Parks wrote. “They have supported the student and his family and met with representatives from the Sikh Coalition the day after the incident. Their leadership has brought the school community together and will ensure that it continues to move forward in a spirit of unity.”

According to a report released Monday by the Sikh Coalition, 58.4 percent of Sikh students in New York City public schools have been physically harassed because of their religion, and 30.2 percent of complaints to school staff are ignored.

According to Singh, Harpal had complained of harassment by other students five times before the May 25 incident but administrators did nothing or little about it.

The general atmosphere in New York City has been pretty damn ugly of late.

See our last post on anti-Sikh prejudice. Recent events in India demonstrate that Sikhs themselves are not above intolerance of perceived blasphemers.