Over the weekend, Prabhjot Singh, assistant professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, was assaulted and viciously beaten by assailants as yet unknown. His attackers made him the target of anti-Muslim slurs, calling him “Osama” and “terrorist.”
Singh is now in the hospital, recovering from this hate crime, nursing a broken jaw and sundry other injuries. It will take some time before he can return to his work, which is supplemented by serving as Director of Systems Management at the Earth Institute and working as a resident physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. His patients and his students will have to wait for a while before they can interact with him again, because the stupid. It hurts. It really does.
The moral retards who attacked Singh, like bigots of all stripes the world over, compound their misery, and ours, with their particularly frightening ignorance, one that blurs together “Sikh,” “Arab,” “Hindu,” “brown,” “not-American,” and “terrorist.”
The moral retards who attacked Singh, like bigots of all stripes the world over, compound their misery, and ours, with their particularly frightening ignorance, one that blurs together “Sikh,” “Arab,” “Hindu,” “brown,” “not-American,” and “terrorist.” (These apparently were the same folks who launched into Twitter tirades when an Indian-American woman won the Miss America title a week or so ago.) So in the dozen years since 9/11, Sikhs, a thriving, prosperous, and hard-working immigrant community of long and distinguished standing in the U.S., have been subjected to hundreds of hate crimes by those for whom the Terrorist Other is just a brown, bearded blur, clad in a turban, speaking in tongues and looking and sounding different.
The vengeful vigilantes who seek to avenge 9/11, rather than heading for the mountains of Afghanistan—where they quite rightfully might anticipate rather more severe opposition—have chosen instead to appoint themselves true defenders of the homeland and fight the enemy within. In the process, in a rampage against innocents, they have shot gas-station owners, cab and truck drivers, attacked women and children in drunken rages, defaced places of worship, stabbed convenience store owners, handed out beatings, and most visibly, conducted mass murder last year in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. With patriots like these manning the trenches at home, who needs troops abroad? Bring them home; we are safe in our beds and streets, thanks to those bravehearts who have unerringly located their targets and homed in on them.
The Sikh community has borne the brunt of these cowardly acts because its men wear turbans, because they are not white. It would not matter, of course, if the ethically, geographically and intellectually deficient who engage in the attacks on them could distinguish Sikhs from Muslims because their ire would then be directed at innocent Muslims. As it too often is in America today.
Perhaps they could rip off a few hijabs off the heads of teenage schoolgirls? Or attack and deface a mosque? Or kick up a hysterical fit about Sharia law? They would be assisted in their ghoulish efforts, as they have been in the years since 9/11, by a chorus of babbling—and sadly, powerfully placed—idiots like Rush Limbaugh, Pamela Geller, Sean Hannity and their ilk, who seemingly will not rest till pogroms are conducted on American streets, in American neighborhoods.
America is no stranger to bigotry, and perhaps we can console ourselves that the violence and xenophobia visible today is merely the latest form of emotions that, in the past, were directed at Jewish, Catholic, Eastern European, Chinese and Irish immigrants, and others. That would be small comfort though. The racist fool has many more tools of dissemination available to him, many more avenues of expression—especially the electronic—for his garbled message.
Thankfully, so do those who would like to speak up against them.