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‘Ignorant’ teens beat Sikh in Richmond Hill

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By Daniel Massey

Attar Singh, a 66-year-old Sikh from New Delhi, came to Richmond Hill Aug. 11 to visit his two sons and five grandchildren.

One month later, he was lying on the pavement at 118th Street and 95th Avenue, his face bloodied and tendons in his left arm damaged, a victim of a bias attack in the aftermath of the terrorist strikes against America.

Saddened by the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a plane in southwestern Pennsylvania, Singh had gone to the Sikh temple, which is known as a gurdwara, on 118th Street in Richmond Hill Sept. 11 to pray. “I felt very upset,” he said. “I went to pray for the victims.”

Following an evening service, Singh was walking home from the temple alone around 9:30 p.m. when three cars pulled up near him. “Two guys came out from one car,” he said. “They were shouting at me. Then two guys came from another car and they shot me with a BB gun.” Singh was struck twice in the face.

He tried to escape but was overpowered by the attackers who he said were about 18 years old.

“I ran away from them and they pushed me from my back,” he said. “I fell down. My turban fell down. My spectacles fell down. Then from the other car two guys rushed to me. They beat me with a baseball bat. I tried to stand up, but I could not. Three times I stood up, but each time I fell down.”

Singh saw his life flash before his eyes. “I thought they were going to kill me,” he said.

Sikhs throughout Queens and across the United States have been the target of violence and harassment since the Sept. 11 terror campaign. Their long beards and turbans somewhat resemble those of the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalists who control Afghanistan, which is harboring the man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even though Sikhism has no connection whatsoever with Islam, the Sikhs’ physical likeness to the Taliban make them easy targets for troublemakers wanting to express their anger over the attacks.

With blood dripping from his face, Singh stumbled home and his son called the police. He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital in an ambulance, where he underwent a series of X-rays and was treated for abrasions to his face before being released.

Police officials did not return repeated calls for comment on the investigation, but Singh said two of the youths were apprehended shortly after he was beaten. Police had increased security at the temple following the attacks in Lower Manhattan and were one block away when Singh was jumped.

The 66-year old said he does not have any animosity toward his attackers.

“The police brought two guys into the hospital, but I said ‘let them go,’” Singh said. “They are 18 years old. They don’t understand what they are doing. They are ignorant. They don’t even know that we are Sikhs, that we pray for peace.”

Singh said his beating has shattered his family’s notion of security. “We are in fear,” he said. “We don’t walk alone. We don’t walk in the night.”

Despite the worries, Singh does not plan to cut his visit to New York short. He will remain with his family in Richmond Hill for three more months.

On Sunday, he returned to the temple to again pray for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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