Umair Ahmed, 18, was found guilty of menacing as a hate crime, coercion as a hate crime, criminal possession and harassment, the DA said. He faces up to four years in prison at his April 11 sentencing, Brown said.Sikhs regard their hair as sacred and consider cutting it an embarrassment."It feels like a death," said Jagir Singh Bains, a member of the Richmond Hill-based Sikh Cultural Society. "We are disobeying the orders of the founder of the religion if we do not keep the hair."Bains hailed the conviction, noting teenagers should be taught by their parents about tolerance."Justice is done," he said. "Nobody should be allowed to disrespect any religion."On May 24, 2007, Ahmed, a Pakistani-born Muslim, got into an argument with 15-year-old Harpal Vacher in the lunchroom of Newtown High School, authorities said. After some name-calling against each other's mothers, Ahmed told Vacher that the only way he would forgive Vacher would be if Vacher allowed him to cut Vacher's hair, authorities said."For what? It is against my religion," Vacher responded, according to authorities. Ahmed then displayed a ring with Islamic inscriptions and threatened to punch Vacher in the face, "leaving the mark of Allah on his face" if he didn't go with him, authorities said.Ahmed ordered Vacher into the bathroom, threatening to find him after school, cut his hair and send him home naked if Vacher refused, the DA said.The defendant then took a small pair of folding scissors from another student and took Vacher into the bathroom, where he removed the victim's dastar, or headdress, and cut Vacher's hair, authorities said.Brown called the incident a "serious attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim's religion," and said hate crimes would not be tolerated in Queens County.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2008 Community News Group
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