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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Floral Park man charged in hate attack against Sikh

A Floral Park man is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly punched a Sikh man in the face and broke his jaw before shouting racial slurs outside the man's temple, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

David C. Wood, 36..., allegedly told Chadha Jabeet "Arab, go back to your country" when Shabeet was about to enter a Sikh Temple ... in New Hyde Park Jan. 14, Brown said.

Wood then allegedly told Jabeet, 63, "you don't listen" and punched him in the face, the DA said. Jabeet's nose and jaw were broken in the attack.

On Sunday night the congregation of the temple, members of Queens' Sikh community and civic leaders held a candlelight vigil to protest the ignorance that fed into the attack on Jabeet, which attendees said was sparked by the Sikh man's choice of a parking spot.

One of the speakers, Rajinder Singh Khalsa, was a victim of a bias attack in Richmond Hill in 2004, when he was beaten and left unconscious at the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and 101st Avenue.

"My 10th guru said we all have the right to life, liberty and to seek happiness, the same as in the American Constitution," he said. "Hate has no place in humanity, no place in American culture."

Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world, with a following of about 20 million people, but ignorance persists about this monotheistic faith whose roots can be traced back to the northern Indian state of Punjab. The men wear beards and must wear a turban, according to the tenets of the faith. Especially after Sept. 11, 2001, Sikhs throughout the country were often attacked because of their turbans, which some people mistook for a Taliban headdress.

"Sikhs are targeted because of our appearance. There's a lot of ignorance, anger and hate," said Jaspreet Singh, a staff attorney for United Sikhs.

Hardayal Singh, director for North America of United Sikhs, said the way to help Jabeet now is to support him, attend the court proceedings, make Sikhs a visible presence so that they gain acceptance.

"[He] could've been my father, my brother, my uncle. This was a 63-year-old man bludgeoned outside this temple by a young man. We need to show who we are, bring [people] into our temples," Singh said.

Wood faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He was arraigned Jan. 16 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gene Lopez on charges of assault as a hate crime, assault and aggravated harassment, Brown said.

"Crimes motivated by bias Ð particularly those involving violence Ð will never be tolerated in this county," the DA said in a statement. "When they do regrettably occur, they will be vigorously prosecuted and those involved will be severely punished."

Brown said Jabeet, who is on a liquid diet due to his injuries, will need surgery on his nose and will have a medical consultation on what to do about his jaw after the swelling goes down. [Link]

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