A Sikh man who was detained by other passengers on a Greyhound bus and arrested at gunpoint for the “crime” of vaguely looking like what a Middle-Eastern Muslim might look like and speaking a foreign language, is demanding that Texas cops arrest the private citizens who falsely detained him, NBC News is reporting.
Daljeet Singh was recently granted asylum in the U.S., and on February 21, he was on a bus from Phoenix, Arizona, headed to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he hoped to get established and begin his new life. It was while the bus was passing through Amarillo, Texas, that he began having problems.
Like all devout Sikh men, Singh wears a turban and a beard. Singh also doesn’t speak English, but he was able to strike up a conversation with another passenger, Pakistani-American Mohammed Chotri. The two passed the time by conversing in Punjabi.
Other passengers began to get suspicious, and one passenger, a woman, called the cops and complained that the two were “acting weird” and discussing bombs.
As the bus pulled into Amarillo, other passengers detained Singh and Chotri until the bus stopped. Amarillo police then boarded the bus and arrested both men at gunpoint.
— Angry Asian Man (@angryasianman) April 27, 2016
Singh would spend the next 30 hours detained in Amarillo while police and the FBI, through a Punjabi interpreter, interrogated him at length. Singh says Amarillo cops posted pictures of him without his turban on social media. To a devout Sikh, being seen/photographed without a turban is equivalent to being photographed naked.
Sikhism, according to Sikhs.org, is a monotheistic religion that dates back 500 years and is focused on “truthful living, equality of mankind, [and] social justice.” Sikh men wear beards and turbans to demonstrate their devotion. The religion has no connection to Islam.
— SikhNet (@SikhNet) April 25, 2016
Eventually, he was cleared of all wrongdoing and released without any charges.
Now Mr. Singh is demanding justice. In particular, he wants the fellow Greyhound passengers who detained him charged with false arrest.
“The only crime I committed was wearing a turban, having a beard, and speaking in a different language to another brown man on a bus. I still cannot believe that this happened to me in America.”
Gurjot Kaur, the senior staff attorney at the Sikh Coalition, which is representing Mr. Singh, says that the amount of Islamaphobia in the U.S. and how it affects even non-Muslims is heartbreaking.
“Whether it’s a Sikh man on a Greyhound bus, or an Arabic speaker on a Southwest airplane, the xenophobic fear and bigotry in our country is out of control. By filing this complaint, we hope to bring attention to the crisis facing minority communities today. The list of things brown people can’t do on public transportation is growing — we can’t get a can of Diet Coke, we can’t switch seats on a bus or a plane, we can’t speak in a language other than English, really we can’t be human beings.”
However, holding accountable the people who called the cops on Mr. Singh and detained him is going to be easier said than done. Speaking to NBC affiliate KAMR (Amarillo), Potter County attorney Scott Brumley said that in order to charge any of Singh’s fellow passengers with a crime, there would have to be evidence that they knowingly filed a false police report.
Do you think Mr. Singh’s fellow passengers were right to regard him as suspicious and detain him while police were called? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/India Picture]