On January 3, 2022, a Sikh taxi driver–identified only as “Mr. Singh,” to maintain his anonymity–was attacked and berated by another driver at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, NY.
On that morning, Mr. Singh had parked his cab at the Terminal 4 taxi stand when another driver blocked his vehicle in. When Mr. Singh picked up a customer, he stepped partway out of his car to ask the other driver to move. The other driver attempted to hit Mr. Singh with his own car door; he then began repeatedly hitting Mr. Singh in the head, chest, and arms, causing his dastaar to become unraveled and fall off, and called him “turbaned people” and shouted at him to “go back to your country.” The attacker fled the scene before police could arrive.
Mr. Singh filed a police report immediately, and then retained the Sikh Coalition to provide free legal advice and guidance as he continued to communicate with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). We worked to ensure that all details about the incident were accurately communicated to the PAPD, given concerns about a language barrier, as well as the fact that bias was being considered in the case (given the attacker’s words during the assault).
On Thursday, January 13, the PAPD arrested Mohamed Hassanain for the attack on Mr. Singh and charged him with Assault in the Third Degree as a Hate Crime, Assault in the Third Degree, and Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree. We are grateful to the PAPD and Queens District Attorney’s Office for their prompt action on this case, as well as to the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Division and members of the Queens sangat for their support. Hassanain’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 8.
WHY IT MATTERS
Hate crimes damage the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live. Thus, when Sikhs are targeted because of hate, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities document these attacks as hate crimes and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges. Sikhs who work as taxi and rideshare drivers are often at particular risk given their distinct articles of faith and exposure to the general public; accordingly, the Sikh Coalition continues to take on cases like Mr. Singh’s from coast to coast, as well as provide proactive resources to drivers in the community to help prevent hate or respond quickly when incidents happen.
The Sikh Coalition will continue to provide free legal support to our client in this case and other Sikh Americans who are discriminated against or subject to bias because of their faith. In these types of cases, quality legal support can be the determining factor in the outcome of a case–but cost can be prohibitive, which is why we will always strive to provide the best legal support available to those who need it.