Columbia University professor and physician Dr. Prabjot Singh was attacked by a mob of 20 young men Saturday in the middle of a New York City street in what the NYPD believes was a hate crime.
The mob harrassed and beat Dr. Singh, who wears a beard and a turban, because they though the Sikh professor was Muslim. Singh, 31, was just blocks from his home, when the attack occurred.
“It’s incredibly sad,” Singh told the New York Daily News. “It’s not the neighborhood I know. I work in this community. It’s just not American.”
At 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, he was walking down 110th Street on the north side of Central Park, when he was verbally harassed by a group of men on bikes.
“There was a group of 25 to 30 young men. One of them said, ‘Get him, Osama,’” Dr. Singh told the New York Daily News. “I got punched directly in the face about three times.”
Singh was saved when a passerby came to his aid.
“I’m grateful to them,” he said of the passerby, “It could have been a lot worse.”
He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where surgeons operated on his fractured jaw.
While he said he it is important that the perpetrators “are caught and be held responsible for what they did,” he said it’s more important for people to understand that Sikhs are peaceful and are not to be confused with radical Islamists.
“I’ve written about this in the past,” Singh said. “But it’s one thing to go from writing about something to receiving an assault. It’s scary.”
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Singh is a practicing physician in East Harlem. He is also Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute, and Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He gave a TEDx talk in 2010 on community-based health systems.