NEW YORK: Acknowledging the contributions of the Sikh community in the US and pledging to protect them in future, New York City Mayor said he takes full responsibility for the recent hate-motivated attacks against its members, and that their “turban does not mean terrorism”.
Adams addressed members of the Sikh community at Baba Makhan Shah Lubana Sikh Center in South Richmond Hill on Sunday after two back-to-back incidents in New York, which left an elderly Sikh dead and saw another punched and beaten for wearing a turban.
“Your turban does not mean terrorism. It means protecting, it means community, it means family, it means faith, it means city, it means us coming together. We will change the dialogue and narrative with you. We can do it together,” Adams said.
“It is so ironic that my knowledge of what your turban represents. It represents your history of being a protector that is now being used as a target and a tool to seek out and harm your community.”
Adam’s remarks came in reference to the 19-year-old Mani Sandhu who was punched and an attempt was made to remove his turban onboard a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus in New York City this month.
Sandhu was on his way to a Sikh temple in Queens and was about to get off near Liberty Avenue and 118th Street when Christopher Philippeaux, who has been arrested, walked up and assaulted him.
Sandhu, who moved to the US 10 months ago said that the attack had left him “shaken and angry”.
Adams said that Sikhs have served as an “anchor” and their presence have uplifted the Richmond Hill community.
“You are not about terror, you are about protecting. That is what needs to be taught throughout this entire city. Our young people need to know that, our adults need to know that,” the Mayor said, speaking of the rich history of the community.
The Mayor also called the killing of 66-year-old Jasmer Singh, who died after being beaten during a road rage incident October 19, as a “violent senseless act”, and vowed to protect the community and educate people about Sikhism.
“Jasmer should still be with us. He should still be with his son. He should still be living out the American dream, watching his son, who’s now an immigration attorney. He should still be looking and part of this community. That dream turned into a nightmare the other day when his life was taken from us prematurely,” Adams said.
“I will commit myself to educate, to protect and to continuously be a part of this community. This community means so much to me,” he said.
Joining Adams was New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar who said that as the first Punjabi ever elected to state office, she will “not stop working until we end this hate”.
“When a crime occurs against any of us, it is a crime against all of us, and we come together in solidarity. Sikhs are our protectors… Every practitioner of this beautiful faith deserves our unyielding respect. As the first Punjabi-American ever elected to New York State Office, I will always fight for the freedom and dignity of Sikh Americans,” Rajkumar had said in a statement posted on X.
Local activists told CBS News that they are in the process of fundraising to start a patrol group as recent police data has shown that crimes have gone down where civilian patrols are conducted.
Releasing its annual report of hate crimes statistics in 2022 this month, the FBI recorded 198 cases of hate crimes against the Sikhs, stating that the community still remains the second-most targeted group in the nation.