Hate crime charge in NYC attack on Sikh professor

April 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of pulling the beard of a Sikh professor in an attack where young men called the professor "Osama" and a "terrorist" has been arrested and charged with a hate crime, police in New York City said Saturday.

Christian Morales, 20, was charged with aggravated harassment in connection with September's attack on Columbia University professor Prabhjot Singh, who suffered a broken jaw.

Singh, 31, was walking home with a friend when he was approached by a group of 12 to 15 young men, he said days after his attack.

"I heard, 'Get him. Osama.' I heard 'terrorist.' And I felt somebody grab my beard," Singh said.

He was kicked and punched in an attack that ended after other people intervened, police said.

Singh didn't return a message seeking comment Saturday.

Morales was in custody and unavailable for comment. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

Detectives from the hate crimes task force are investigating the case.

Sikhism is a religion that originated in India and preaches equality and a commitment to justice. Its practitioners have been targeted by attackers who in some cases confuse it with Islam because Sikh males are required to wear turbans and beards.

Singh co-authored a 2012 op-ed in The New York Times accusing the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti-Sikh violence in response to the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee that left six people and the white supremacist gunman dead.

In the op-ed, Singh and his co-author argued that it is wrong "to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim." They said Sikhs have historically been targeted.