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Sikhs incensed at scene in upcoming Eddie Griffin film

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The Sikh community in Richmond Hill and throughout the country is outraged that a scene in an upcoming feature film implies a link between the religious group and Al Qaeda terrorist group leader Osama bin Laden.

Harpreet Singh Toor, president of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, said a scene in the movie “DisFunKtional Family” shows comedian Eddie Griffin discussing the U.S. search for Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda terrorist leader suspected of ordering the destruction of the Twin Towers. The comedian then points to a man who passes by with a beard and turban and says something to the effect of “there goes Osama bin Laden.”

After Sept. 11 Sikhs, whose dress is similar to that of bin Laden and fellow Al Qaeda terrorists, were violently targeted by some Queens residents. Several borough Sikhs were victims of hate crimes and suffered serious injuries because they were confused with followers of the terrorist group.

“That literally means that every Sikh is Osama bin Laden, and that’s what disturbs me,” Toor said. “It’s freedom of speech, but freedom of speech comes with some responsibilities, too.”

Toor, the leader of the largest Sikh gurdwara, or temple, on the East Coast, said he is planning to meet with other community leaders in the next few weeks to discuss possible action against Miramax, the production company financing the film.

“Right now, we are keeping all our options open,” he said. He would not say whether the group would seek legal action against the production company.

Prabhjot Singh, spokesman for The Sikh Coalition based in Manhattan, said the coalition has already launched a protest campaign against previews for the film that are already running in theaters. He said so far the coalition has gathered 10,000 signatures from Sikhs throughout the city and country demanding Miramax remove the scene and apologize to the Sikh community.

The Sikh Coalition is an advocacy group that promotes awareness of the Sikh culture and religion to the American public.

“Obviously, this is an outrage. This shows a lack of responsibility by Miramax,” Singh said of the scene. “When comedy puts the lives of Sikhs in danger, it is no longer funny — this is going to jeopardize a lot of Sikhs.”

The coalition’s efforts already have gotten the attention of producers, Singh said. The Sikh Coalition was forced to shut down its computers’ database access after Miramax complained because it could not handle the abundance of incoming protest e-mails, he said.

Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax in Manhattan, said the scene was not intended to target any one group.

“Eddie Griffin is an equal opportunity comic. He gets laughs at everyone’s expense, including his own, his mother’s and his family’s,” Hiltzik said. “People are coming to this film to laugh.”

But Singh said The Sikh Coalition and its more than 100 partners plan to continue their protest campaign to at least ensure Miramax is more sensitive to all ethnic communities in the future. He said the group has already asked the production company to delete the scene in question before the movie is released in Europe later this year.

Singh said the coalition is focusing most of its protest efforts against Miramax because the company is funding, producing and promoting the movie’s success.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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