A City Council candidate hoping to become the first Sikh elected in the city is claiming that prejudice prompted vandals to remove his campaign signs and rip another in Bellerose.
“Why are people ripping up my signs? Out of ignorance,” said Community Board 13 member Swaranjit Singh, a candidate for the seat currently held by City Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis), who is running for comptroller.
Weprin’s brother, state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck), and Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich are also campaigning for the Council seat.
Singh declined to blame either campaign for the vandalism.
“I would not like to point fingers at anybody and I just wish people had more wisdom to tolerate and understand other communities,” he said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Sikhs in Queens have had problems with some who mistakenly confuse them with the Taliban because of their turbans and long beards.
On the day of the attacks, a Sikh was shot at with a BB gun as he left his gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Richmond Hill. A month later, another Sikh was assaulted in Ozone Park on his way to a gurdwara. Another was beaten and left unconscious in Richmond Hill in 2004.
An 8−foot by 3−foot sign on a side wall of Singh’s real estate business was taken along with a small lawn sign on the property. A sign was also removed from a home on 82nd Avenue and 247th Street.
At 81st Avenue and 244th Street, one sign was taken and another was slashed through the middle.
Karnail Singh, a Singh supporter who had a sign taken from his property in the middle of the night May 6, said he will put up another one.
“It’s a very bad thing,” he said. “It’s no good.”
“There’s a lot of ignorance,” Swaranjit Singh said, believing the signs were removed or damaged because of his faith. He said he did not put his image on the signs because he feared discrimination.
Harinder Kaur Bains, who owns the 244th Street home that had a sign taken and another slashed, also blamed prejudice.
“Maybe this thing happened because of that,” she said.
Singh said he filed a complaint with the 105th Precinct and said he is not deterred from running his campaign.
“People do realize that it’s time for a change and I’m getting support from the community,” he said. The incident “gives me more drive to run and educate people.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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