Inderjit Singh Mukker is an American citizen who drives a taxi in Chicago. Days before the 9/11 anniversary, he has been assaulted, beaten, and called a terrorist like Osama bin Laden. Mukker says he believes he has been attacked due to his Sikh religion, which requires its practicing believers to wear a turban to cover their hair, and because it is believed that some people associate those who wear a turban and beard with bin Laden and other Arab terrorists.
Reports say 53-year-old Inderjit Singh Mukker was driving to a grocery store when a driver of another vehicle started following him. The other driver began hurling insults, including, “Go back to your country Bin Laden!” Mukker tried to let the other man pass, but instead the other driver stopped, got out of his car, and began to beat Mukker through his open car window.
Sikh Coalition Legal Director Harsimran Kaur said Inderjit Singh Mukker lost consciousness and needed to be taken to a hospital for a fracture cheekbone, bruising, and blood loss. Mukker suffered a cut that required six stitches, and he received black eyes as a result of the attack.
Ever since the 9/11 attacks, violence against those who practice the Sikh religion in America has been on the rise. According to the Washington Post, the Sikh Coalition recorded at least 300 cases of attacks against U.S. Sikhs just in the month following September 11, 2001.
Simran Jeet Singh, a senior Sikh Coalition fellow, says some Sikhs believe their turban has caused some to associate them with Muslim terrorists even though Sikh religion is distinctly separate from Islam.
“For Sikh Americans, the unique markers of religious identity — the turban, the beard — these markers are associated with the markers of terrorism,” he said. “People see a Sikh and construe them as the enemy.”
According to the Sikh Coalition, believers of the Sikh faith are required to wear the turban.
“The dastaar, as the Sikh turban is known, is an article of faith that has been made mandatory by the founders of Sikhism. It is not to be regarded as mere cultural paraphernalia. When a Sikh man or woman dons a turban, the turban ceases to be just a piece of cloth and becomes one and the same with the Sikh’s head.”
A press release by the organization calls for police to recognize the attack as a hate crime.
“We believe Mr. Mukker was targeted and assaulted because of his Sikh religious appearance, race or national origin,” said Kaur. “We request an immediate investigation and call on local and federal agencies to investigate this attack as a hate crime.”
As the 9/11 anniversary approaches, Inderjit Singh Mukker also called for a swift response by police.
“No American should be afraid to practice their faith in our country,” said the victim, Mr. Mukker. “I’m thankful for the swift response of authorities to apprehend the individual, but without this being fully investigated as a hate crime, we risk ignoring the horrific pattern of intolerance, abuse and violence that Sikhs and other minority communities in this country continue to face.”
[Image courtesy of the Sikh Coalition]