A man was arrested for the January 3 attack on a Sikh taxi driver at JFK airport, the port authority of New York and New Jersey police department (PAPD) said on Friday night.
Mohamed Hassanain had shouted “go back to your country” and called the taxi driver (identified only as Mr Singh to preserve his anonymity) “turbaned people” in a derogatory manner while repeatedly punching and shoving him, leading the police to consider the incident a hate crime. Hassanain is being charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime, assault in the third degree, and aggravated harassment in the second degree, and will be arraigned on Saturday.
Singh, requesting privacy, said he was thankful to law enforcement, the Sikh Coalition — an organisation supporting him in his legal battle — and all those in the community “who have offered their strength in this difficult time”. “No one should experience what I did but if they do, I hope they receive the same overwhelming amount of support and quick, professional action by the authorities in response,” he said in a statement.
Amrith Kaur Aakre, legal director of Sikh Coalition said they are grateful to the port authority police department and Queens district attorney's office for their prompt action on this case, and for recognising that the attack on Mr Singh included clear anti-Sikh bias. “This case underscores the importance of sharing all the details of these kinds of attacks with law enforcement. Holding perpetrators accountable for both their actions and their hateful motivation is the clearest way to show that bigotry and the violence that it fuels have no place in our communities.”
The Sikh Coalition said it will continue to assist Singh in his correspondence with the law enforcement and ensure that all relevant details are conveyed between all parties. “Additionally, we are grateful for the support of the New York City police department’s hate crimes task force in this case,” the Sikh Coalition said in a statement.
Sikhs in the United States continue to experience bias and hate-driven attacks on account of their visibly identifiable articles of faith (including turbans and unshorn hair) as well as perceptions about their country of origin, the Sikh Coalition said in the statement.
According to the most recent FBI data, Sikhs remain in the top three most frequently targeted groups for religiously motivated hate crimes and bias incidents in the US. In the Sikh Coalition’s experience, taxi and rideshare drivers, in particular, are at a heightened risk of violent attacks. “In recent years, we have provided free legal aid to multiple Sikh drivers attacked across the country, and we continue to provide know-your-rights resources proactively to help the community stay safe,” the organisation said.