Sikh professor attacked in possible hate crime in US, assailants called him Osama

US Sikh attackSchool of International and Public Affairs professor Prabhjot Singh was assaulted on Saturday night. (Reuters)

A Sikh professor at Columbia University was attacked and injured by a mob of up to 30 people who called him "Osama" and "terrorist" during a brutal assault which the police is investigating as a hate crime. School of International and Public Affairs professor Prabhjot Singh was assaulted on Saturday night while walking in the Harlem neighbourhood near here.

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"There was a group of 25 to 30 young men. One of them said, 'Get him, Osama'," 31-year-old Singh, who suffered a fractured jaw, was quoted as saying by the New York Daily News. "I got punched directly in the face about three times."

Singh said he was on the ground being kicked when passers-by intervened, saving him. "I'm grateful to them," said Singh, who is married and has a young son. "It could have been a lot worse." Singh had returned from dinner, dropping his wife and one-year-old son at home before going for a walk.

While being attacked, he saw one of the assailants put his arm inside his coat as if reaching for a gun. Singh was unable to provide any descriptions about his assailants to police. Singh told police that his assailants taunted him and beat him, calling him "Osama" and "terrorist" as they pulled at his long beard.

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"It's incredibly sad," Singh said. "It's not the neighbourhood I know. I work in this community. It's just not American. It's important that they are caught and be held responsible for what they did," he said.

Singh reiterated that it was more crucial for people to understand that Sikhs are peaceful and should not be confused with radical Islamics. "I've written about this in the past. But it's one thing to go from writing about something to receiving an assault. It's scary," he said.

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