A mere three days before the 14th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, the Sikh Coalition reports that 53-year-old Inderjit Singh Mukker — a Sikh American taxi driver and father of two — was brutally beaten while called “terrorist”, “bin Laden“, and told to “go back to your country”. Mukker is a US citizen who lives in Darien, a predominantly White suburb of Chicago.
Mukker was driving to the grocery store in the evening of September 8th when the driver of another vehicle allegedly began shouting the slurs to Mukker. When Mukker pulled over to allow the other car to pass him, the other motorist then allegedly stopped his vehicle in front of Mukker, got out and approached Mukker’s car window. He then allegedly reached into the car and repeatedly punched Mukker in the face until the elderly man lost consciousness.
After his attacker fled the scene, Mukker was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for a cheekbone fracture, multiple lacerations and contusions. He ultimately received six stitches. He has now been released from the hospital and is recuperating at home.
Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and have reportedly identified a 17-year-old suspect based on Mukker’s description of his assailant and his recollection of the attacker’s license plate. Police have questioned that suspect — who was hospitalized shortly after the crime for an undisclosed reason — and police intend to file charges when he is discharged.
“On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the violent attack on Mr. Mukker is another painful reminder for all Americans that hate remains alive and well in the United States,” said the Sikh Coalition’s Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “While we relentlessly work to protect Mr. Mukker’s rights and work hard to ensure that hate crime charges are pursued in this case, we urge all Americans to reach out to their neighbors to build bridges of understanding. It is through recognizing our collective humanity that we can work together to end hate.”
The attack on Mukker is yet another grim reminder that while September 11th remains a deep tragedy for the American public, in some parts of this country that shared grief has metastasized into horrendous and inexcusable racial and anti-Muslim hate. Documented hate crimes targeting Muslim Americans has risen an alarming 1600% since 2001, with an additional increase in hate crimes perpetrated against Sikh Americans (whom their attackers mistake for being Muslim based on Sikh practices of wearing turbans and long beards). Just four days after September 11th, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi — a 52-year-old Sikh American gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona — was murdered by a man who stated later that he was seeking to “kill a Muslim” in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.
More disturbingly, those Islamophobic hate crimes are not declining with time; instead, they are growing at a faster rate in recent years than ever before — a trend that also appears to be occurring abroad. Many of the details of these attacks are eerily similar to one another, and reveal in stark detail the epidemic of racial hate that has infected this country. In 2003, a Sikh American family was beaten by several individuals who also yelled “go back to your country, bin Laden” during the attack. In 2011, a Sikh American cab driver was beaten by in California and another Sikh American man was assaulted in New York City; both were called “bin Laden” in their assaults. Also in 2011, a Sikh-owned grocery store was burned with graffiti left behind that read “911 Go Home”, while a Muslim imam received a burned Koran and anti-Muslim cartoons and another Muslim man who ordered to-go food at a Texas-area restaurant received a hand-drawn cartoon referencing September 11th. Last year, a Sikh American man was run over by a motorist driving a pick-up truck in Queens who called him a “terrorist” moments before hitting him.
In 2012, a White supremacist gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin — killing six and wounding four — in the largest racially motivated mass shooting targeting a place of worship until the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this year. Last February, three Muslim American students were shot and killed “execution-style” by their neighbour.
The problem has been compounded by the fact that until only recently, the FBI — the federal department responsible for monitoring racially-motivated hate crimes on a national level — failed to collect racially disaggregated data that could distinguish the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes from those targeting other Asian Americans. Without such disaggregated data, it is possible that the rate of Islamophobic assaults and murders have been severely underestimated for decades. Only this year did the FBI update their database — in response to unrelenting community pressure — such that hate crimes targeting victims who were Arab Americans, Hindu Americans, and Sikh Americans can now be specifically tracked.
The Southern Poverty Law Center believes that in this country, the recent rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes is fueled at least in part by an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric adopted by national politicians and some mainstream opinion journalism outlets. Last year for example, Fox News anchors advocated on-air that the country should adopt a policy of anti-Muslim racial profiling and mass internment, akin to the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
We need to stop ignoring this growing epidemic of Islamophobic hate crimes — which victimizes anyone perceived as being Muslim (whether they actually are or not) — fueled by our growing intolerance for Muslims. Recently, the country has been embroiled in a discussion over religious intolerance.
Let’s be clear: religious intolerance does not look like a government employee being jailed for defying a court order demanding that she stop denying the civil rights of others. The cancer of religious intolerance that has infected America looks like Muslim American and Sikh American citizens being brutally beaten — and even killed — for nothing more than adhering to the tenets of their faith.
Act Now! The Sikh Coalition urges all of us to engage in the following actions in response to the latest shameful on Mr. Mukker:
- Send Mr. Mukker Thoughts and Prayers: As Mr. Mukker recovers, the Sikh Coalition invites supporters around the world to express solidarity by clicking here to send a message. Alternatively, you can mail a card to the Sikh Coalition’s office at Inderjit Singh Mukker c/o The Sikh Coalition, 50 Broad Street, Suite 1537, New York, NY 10004.
- Contact Your Congressional Representative: Send an email to your congressional representative to request that they co-sponsor H-Res. 413, a resolution honoring the victims of post-9/11 hate crimes, including Sikh Americans.
- Sikh Awareness: This is a critical time for everyone (Sikhs and non-Sikhs) to raise awareness and appreciation about the Sikh American community. Host and/or conduct a Sikh awareness presentation in your school, place of employment, library, police station, town hall, etc. For community and Sikh awareness resources, please click here.
- Learn More About Hate Crimes Law: Click here to read our FAQs on Hate Crimes and Hate Speech. Please contact the Sikh Coalition at [email protected] if you would like more information on how to raise awareness on hate crimes and hate crimes law with your sangat.
As Mr. Mukker is quoted as saying after the attack: “No American should be afraid to practice their faith in this country.”
Read More: Chicago-Area Assault on Sikh American Treated as Possible Hate Crime (NBC News Asian America)
Update: The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office announced last night that the suspect in the attack against Mukker will not be charged with a hate crime. The press release issued by the prosecutors’ office announcing that the suspect will be tried in juvenile court on assault charges characterized the crime as “road rage” and made no mention of the racial slurs uttered in the attack.
The Sikh Coalition said in reaction to this announcement:
“This was not a simple case of road rage,” said Harsimran Kaur. “In fact, in my many years of representing hate crime victims, the hate crimes charge is as clear and as obvious as it gets. To ignore the racial element of the crime sends a clear message that State’s Attorney Robert Berlin is not interested in protecting vulnerable communities.”
Please take a moment to sign this petition demanding that Mukker’s assailant be prosecuted for a hate crime under Illunois’ existing hate crime legislation.