The fight between boys at a Queens public school that led to a Sikh classmate's hair being cut off was classified as a hate crime by the authorities. The Queens DA's office and the NYPD gave a few more details. The NY Times reports that 17-year-old Umair Ahmed, a Pakistani student, and Vacher Harpal, a 15-year-old Sikh, "had had an argument and that Vacher had made derogatory comments about Mr. Ahmed’s mother." And though Vacher apologized, it was not enough for Ahmed. From the Queens DA's office, which offers a lot more information about the alleged attack:
District Attorney Brown said that, according to the charges, just after 12:00 noon on May 24, 2007, the defendant, armed with a pair of scissors, approached 15-year-old Vacher Harpal in the
hallway of Newtown High School, located at 48-01 90th Street, and stated, “I have to cut your hair.” When Harpal asked, “For what, it is against my religion,” the defendant allegedly displayed a ring with Arabic inscriptions and stated, “This ring is Allah. If you don’t let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring.” It is alleged that Harpal initially refused to go into the bathroom with the defendant because he feared that the defendant would hurt him with the scissors.
Once inside the bathroom, it is alleged that Harpal removed his dastar while crying and begging the defendant not to cut his hair, which had never been cut and fell past his waist. The defendant is then alleged to have used the scissors to cut Harpal’s hair to the neckline and thrown the hair into the toilet and onto the floor.
According to a prosecutor in the DA's office, Ahmed also acknowledged that he knew Vacher's hair was part of his religion. Ahmed was charged with second-degree menacing as a hate crime, second-degree aggravated harassment, second-degree harassment and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and could face up to 7 years in prison if convicted. DA Brown said, “The defendant is not accused of some schoolhouse prank but an attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim’s religion and his freedom to worship freely. His alleged actions have no place in a civilized society – especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation. Crimes of hate can never be tolerated here.”
Sikh community leaders protested outside the school; Sikh Coalition director Amardeep Singh told the Daily News, "When you lose your hair, like any Sikh, it's like dying. It's clearly a tragedy." However, Ahmed's sister claims that Vacher asked for his turban and hair to be cut.
Yesterday, there were less details of the crime. Given the DA's account:
Image from U.S. Department of Justice poster about Sikh American Head Coverings, via Wikipedia