Sikhs in America are still coming under attack because people think they’re Muslims

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Source: The Washington Post

The bearded man in the blue turban was attacked before dawn on Saturday morning, while waiting for a ride to work.

Two white males in their 20s pulled up and began to curse at Amrik Singh Bal, according to police in Fresno, Calif.

Fearing for his safety, police said, the 68-year-old Sikh man attempted to cross the street — but “the subjects in the vehicle backed up and struck the victim with their rear bumper.” The car stopped, and the two men “got out and assaulted the victim, striking him in the face and upper body.”

During the assault, police said, one of the suspects yelled: “Why are you here?”

Bal fell to the ground, striking his head.

He also suffered a broken collar bone in the attack — the latest in a string of incidents targeting U.S. Sikhs, who are frequently conflated with Muslims and often wind up absorbing the backlash against Islam.

Earlier this month, just days after a married Muslim couple opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., a Sikh house of worship in nearby Orange County was vandalized with hateful graffiti, according to the Sikh Coalition. A truck parked outside the Gurdwara Singh Sabha was also vandalized, with graffiti that included the phrase “F– ISIS,” the coalition said. ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

In September, Inderjit Singh Mukker, a father of two on his way to the grocery store, was savagely assaulted in a Chicago suburb after being called “bin Laden.”

“Sikhs have been mistaken for terrorists and radicals and continue to suffer after 9/11,” Iqbal S. Grewal, a member of the Sikh Council of Central California, told the Fresno Bee after the Saturday morning assault. “This is the latest episode of what Sikhs have been enduring when they are very peace-loving and hard-working citizens of this great country and not members of al-Qaida or ISIS or any other radical group.”

The Fresno Police Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

There’s nothing new about Sikhs being the targets of violence and intimidation in the United States: Followers of the monotheistic faith, which originated in South Asia in the 15th century, have been on the receiving end of xenophobic intolerance since they began arriving in the Pacific Northwest to fill logging jobs in the early 20th century, according to Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“Pretty immediately after our arrival in this country, we became targets of xenophobia,” Singh said in a recent interview. “Hate violence has ebbed and flowed throughout our history in America, but being targets of racism is nothing new. It’s part of our history here.”

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