Sikh attacked on way to Richmond Hill temple

By Daniel Massey

A 58-year-old Sikh man was brutally assaulted on the way to his temple early Saturday morning in Ozone Park by two youths who told him to “go back to his country.”

Karnail Singh, who came to the United States from the Punjab region of India five months ago to visit his two brothers and eight nephews and nieces, was held down by one of the young men as the other attacker stabbed him repeatedly. The incident occurred on the corner of 103rd Ave. and 106th St.

“I was walking to the temple,” said Singh, who speaks little English, through an interpreter. “One of them grabbed me in a headlock and asked ‘Hey, are you Arabic? I said, ‘No I’m from India,’ but before I could finish my sentence they said, ‘Go back to your country’ and started stabbing me.”

A retired private in the Bengal Engineering Corps of the Indian Army, Singh tried to resist his attackers. “I tried to protect myself,” he said. “They also tried to stab me in the neck.”

As Singh fended off the attackers’ attempts to slice into his neck, they repeatedly stabbed his left arm and both hands.

“I was thinking they are going to kill me,” Singh said. “They are going to finish my life right now.”

He said the youths spoke to each other in English as he was being held and stabbed, but he could not understand all that they were saying.

Singh said he begged the two youths, who he thought were about 20 years old, to leave him alone. “They finally pulled out my wallet, pushed me real hard against a fence, took some money, threw the wallet to the ground and ran away on foot,” he said.

Singh stumbled three blocks back to his brother’s home, where he called the police. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was treated for severe lacerations to his right thumb, left arm and hand and released.

Singh filed a police report, but officials from the 102nd Precinct did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the investigation.

The attack on Singh is one of at least 10 bias incidents involving Sikhs in Queens since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks according to reports collected by the TimesLedger and those lodged with a Sikh anti-defamation league.

In Richmond Hill Attar Singh, a 66-year-old Sikh man, was shot at with a BB gun and beaten by youths with a baseball bat as he was leaving the Sikh temple on 118th Street Sept. 11. He had gone to pray for victims of the terrorist attacks. Sukhvinder Singh was harassed on Sept. 12 by a white man who threatened to kill him and “all the Sikhs wearing turbans.” Pardeep Singh was hit over the head with a chair and knocked unconscious in a Dunkin’ Donuts shop on Liberty Avenue Sept. 22.

Nationally, more than 200 Sikhs have been attacked since Sept. 11 according to U.S. Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who have introduced a resolution condemning violence and bigotry against Sikh Americans into the House of Representatives.

Harpreet Toor Singh, a trustee of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, said Sikhs are being targeted solely because their long beards and turbans remind people of Osama bin Laden, the man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.

“It should not be happening to anyone, but we are being linked to Osama bin Laden because he looks a little bit like us,” said Toor Singh.

Despite accounting for only one-sixth of 1 percent of the entire U.S. population, Sikhs have been the target of violence and other hate crimes more than any other single group in the country.

Toor Singh said members of his temple were worried they will be the next victims. “They are anxious,” he said. “We are telling people not to walk at night, not to walk alone.”

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.