Assemblyman David Weprin joined Sikh taxi driver Harkirat Singh April 21 at the Sikh Cultural Society in response to an aggressive bias crime that took place while Singh was on duty in the Bronx. After taking four passengers to a location he was directed to, Singh was physically assaulted and subjected to a barrage of discriminatory slurs in an assault which culminated in the theft of his turban.
Wearing a turban is critical to the Sikh identity and by removing Singh’s turban, the assailant targeted his religion and the community at large. The assault is the latest in a sting of crimes directed toward Sikh communities in the United States.
In a show of support, Weprin was joined by other Queens officials including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Council member Rory Lancman, Council member Barry Grodenchik, Franck D. Joseph II of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and Kudip Singh Dhillon of the Sikh Cultural Society. The group assembled to speak out against continued misplaced violence targeted at people who practice Sikkism and to raise awareness of the Sikh religion.
“With hate crimes rising in 2017, it is more important than ever that we stand together with our fellow Americans of faith.” Assemblyman Weprin said. “In Queens, we join together and unite each time we hear of a bias attack against any group; and we work with each other to help others be tolerant of each other’s cultures and creeds,” he added.
“What happened to Mr. Singh is not OK. The cruel irony of the attack and robbery of Mr. Singh is that the turban (pagg) symbolizes a commitment to kindness, justice, compassion and equality. Acts of such hate have been occurring with more frequency throughout NYC and the country. Every time this happens, we must be vigilant in reporting it and denouncing it fully, because every time we don’t, we become complicit in normalizing such bias and hate,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, assuring Singh that “Queens has his back.”
“New York City does not tolerate discrimination or hate,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis. “The Commission is using every tool at its disposal to make sure every New Yorker – Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Atheist alike – can live and worship free from hate and discrimination and to hold violators accountable.”
At the meeting, Singh offered his support for the legislation that would bar public and private employers from targeting workers based on religious garb such as tunics or the hijab – or for their facial hair. “We are all equals so we have to respect each other,” said the 25-year-old taxi driver from Queens. “There’s no difference between what color we have.”