A belligerent passenger punched a Sikh taxi driver in the arm and pulled his turban off in an assault being investigated as a possible hate crime, according to the NYPD. Harkirat Singh, 25, told reporters that four passengers berated him over directions early Sunday morning and hurled racial insults leading up to the attack.
"They're using bad words, also," Singh told the Daily News. "They said, 'Ali Baba, f--k you.'"
Mayor de Blasio condemned the alleged attack in a tweet Monday night. "You are welcome here," he said, addressing Singh. "What happened to you was wrong."
Singh picked up the passengers around 5:00 a.m. on Sunday at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan, according to the Daily News. Singh told the tabloid that the group directed him to East 165th Street and Jerome Avenue in Highbridge, but complained when he arrived at the spot, saying he'd taken them to the wrong place. The driver reportedly became alarmed and called 911 when the riders started insulting him and banging on the taxi partition. Rather than continue the trip, Singh reportedly pulled over and asked for $41.76, which one passenger paid.
An NYPD spokesman told Gothamist that the incident was categorized as a robbery, as one of the passengers allegedly stole Singh's turban. According to the spokesman, one of the men in the cab was intoxicated and "became aggressive," punching Singh in the arm and grabbing the turban off of his head.
The man is believed to be in his 20s, and was last seen wearing a tan jacket, jeans, and red sneakers. No arrests have been made as of Tuesday morning.
"I am so afraid. I don't want to work," Singh told the Daily News.
Rajdeep Singh, a spokesman for the New York City-based Sikh Coalition, cautioned that bias attacks against Sikhs are not unique to this administration.
"Anti-Sikh violence is not exclusively a post-9/11 or post-election phenomenon," he told Gothamist. "As far back as 1907, when Sikhs first came to this country, they were subject to physical violence. There's a deeper problem here, which is that as minorities, we have always been subject to othering."
"I don't know what these assailants were thinking," Singh added. "I don't know what their upbringing was like, but clearly something is missing. I hope they learn about the Sikh community and participate in some of our community service projects. They could visit one of our houses of worship."