Photo credit: Shiv Shakti Peeth
Swami Harish Chander Puri (center)

Following a brutal attack of a Hindu priest in Glen Oaks, lawmakers in Queens and faith advocacy groups are speaking out against the alleged hate crime.

On Thursday, July 18, around 11 a.m., 62-year-old Swami Harish Chander Puri told QNS he was taking his morning walk near the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple when a man attacked him from behind.

According to Pix11 News, Puri was wearing his religious garb when 52-year-old Sergio Gouveia began repeatedly punching him. Police said that EMS personnel took Puri to Long Island Jewish Medical Center to treat the bruises and abrasions on his face and body.

He has since been released and said he is doing better. He added that he prays for Gouveia and hopes that God helps him in the future.

“Slowly everything is doing well,” Puri told QNS.

Witnesses alleged that Gouveia screamed, “This is my neighborhood,” as he attacked Puri. Police charged him assault and harassment in the second degree but many label the attack as a hate crime.

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus blamed President Trump’s rhetoric for the attack.

“Bigotry and xenophobia does not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims, or black or brown skin. When the U.S. president targets immigrants and refugees and encourages chants of ‘send her back’ at rallies, this results in real harm inflicted on our communities,” said the organization in a statement.

The organization collected over 80 signatures from faith leaders, advocates and the community and called on the NYPD to investigate the attack as a hate crime.

Senator John Liu, who led the passage of the Religious Attire bill in the Senate, said that despite this attack, Queens welcomes people of all faiths.

“A Hindu priest was viciously attacked in Glen Oaks this week and the perpetrator reportedly screamed at the priest, ‘Get out of my neighborhood’ due to his religious attire. Let me be clear: In New York, we embrace people of all religious faiths. In our neighborhood, our Hindu brothers and sisters are always welcome,” said Liu.

The Religious Attire bill prohibits discrimination against individuals wearing religious clothing, adornments or facial hair. The Assembly passed a similar bill in February.

“This disturbing incident highlights the unfortunate reality that people of faith continue to be discriminated against due to their religious attire, and my legislation prohibiting discrimination on this basis awaits the governor’s signature. In these times, when hateful rhetoric against religious minorities is in the national headlines, we must send the message that New York welcomes and protects people of all faiths, creeds and colors.”

Other lawmakers took to Twitter denouncing the brutal attack.

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