Sikh Columbia Professor Remains Positive In Wake of Attack
Dr. Prabhjot Singh is promoting a message of compassion despite suffering serious injuries at the hands of a mob of attackers. About a dozen youth on bicycles shouting “Osama!” and “Terrorist!” surrounded Singh on Sept. 21, grabbing his beard, punching and kicking him to the ground.
Singh’s case is a high profile example of a disturbing trend of anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence in the country, the other most salient incident in collective memory being the tragic 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI. A Sikh Coalition community survey reported that 10 percent of the Bay Area Sikh population had experience with hate crimes.
Dr. Singh, a professor at Columbia University, responded with a message of compassion instead of bitterness, preaching education as the solution to prevent further discord. He writes, “Even more important to me than my attackers being caught is that they are taught. My tradition teaches me to value justice and accountability, and it also teaches me love, compassion and understanding. It's a tough situation. I care about the people in my local community. I want the streets to be safe for my young son, but at the same time, I am not comfortable with the idea of putting more young teenagers from my neighborhood on the fast track to incarceration. This incident, while unfortunate, can help initiate a local conversation to create greater understanding within the community.”
His wife, Manmeet Kaur also weighed in on the situation: “We believe that part of the solution is education. I am troubled by the young age of the assailants and am reminded of how early hatred and racism can begin. As Prabhjot mentioned during his press conference, we must teach our children to appreciate diversity from an early age, in our homes, in our classrooms, and in our neighborhoods.”
Madison Forum Gears Up To Discuss Hate Prevention
The Wisconsin State Advisory Committee is holding a forum to gather information about last year’s hate crimes. Community leaders, educators, and members of law enforcement will share their perspectives on hate crime prevention, which will be presented in a report to the federal Commission on Civil Rights.
The forum is an important step in state-level conversation around hate crimes. The 2012 Oak Creek, WI shooting of a Sikh Temple, and the subsequent community movement for peace and healing that followed, set the precedent for this forum to happen. Since then, several other alarming hate incidents have occurred in Wisconsin, including an anonymous anti-Semitic sign campaign in Algoma, WI. Elana Kahn-Oren, who helped coordinate an interfaith message of solidarity in response to the threats in Algoma, will be present. Speaking to the press in advance of the forum, she gave a preview of her testimony.
"We're changed by people who are different than us. We see they matter," she said. "You're less likely to hate when you learn to see the humanity of someone different than you."
Public Conversation Around Cleveland Hate Crimes Pushes City To Grow
Brian Lyons, the owner of Cocktails Bar in Cleveland, OH, sat down with the local police commander to discuss the recent hate attacks outside Lyons’ establishment. "No media, no politicians, just he and I to discuss recent issues,” he wrote in an editorial on Cleveland.com. “It is time to move forward as a community and a city."
Controversy erupted after Lyons received a letter from the Cleveland Police claiming that the nine calls for service made this year were an undue burden on the force and the taxpayer, and that Lyons needed to take steps to reduce the need for service. After posting the letter on social media, many news sources took the opportunity to lambast Cleveland Police for their seeming disregard for the seriousness of the crimes. As it turns out, the letter pertained to other incidents unrelated to the hate crimes, and had simply been sent with poor timing.
But what initially started as a miscommunication has resulted in more intention and focus to make Cleveland a safer place for LGBT communities. With Cleveland due to host the 2014 Gay Games, many are apprehensive about the city being the right choice for such an event. Groups like Cleveland LGBT Community Center and the The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio have been meeting with businesses and law enforcement officials to help foster a culture of respect and inclusion in preparation for the Gay Games. Their vision is to create a LGBT-friendly legacy for Cleveland. Currently, Ohio has no statute in its hate crime laws that regard sexual identity as a targeted category.