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Wrongly targeted: Americans attacking Sikhs thinking they’re Muslims

world Updated: Dec 29, 2015 13:06 IST

This undated photo provided by Kanwar Singh, shows his father, Inderjit Mukker, after he was beaten in a September 2015 road rage incident with a Chicago-area teenager in which the teen called the 53-year-old Sikh taxi driver “Bin Laden” and repeatedly hit him in the face.(AP)

Violence and intimidation against American Sikhs have increased in recent years as they are often mistaken for Muslims, a US media report has said.

Sikh men, with their long beards and turbans, are frequently conflated with Muslims and often end up absorbing the backlash against Islamist extremists, the Washington Post reported.

The report comes as police in California are investigating the recent attack on a 68-year old Sikh man as a hate crime.

Amrik Singh Bal, a resident in the Fresno area of California, was attacked by two white males in their 20s before dawn on Saturday morning while he was waiting for a ride to work.( Read more here)

This is the latest in a string of incidents targeting US Sikhs, and comes less than a month after the terror attack in San Bernardino where a married couple opened fire at a holiday party killing 14 people.

The Sikh Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group, said the level of hate has gone up than it was after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2011.

“Over the last few weeks, the level of intimidation is worse than it was after September 11th,” Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s legal director, told the Post. “Then, people were angry at the terrorists and now they’re angry at Muslims, anyone who is seen as Muslim, or anyone who is perceived as being ‘other’.”

She said the backlash against people who are perceived as being non-American has been exacerbated by anti-Islamic statements made by Republican presidential candidates such as Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

“It’s not just a case of mistaken identity. It’s beyond that,” Kaur said.

Others said that though the intimidation intensified after the 2011 attacks, “when a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment washed over the country”, racial hatred against Sikhs was nothing new.

“Sikhs have been at the receiving end of xenophobic intolerance since they began arriving in the Pacific northwest to fill logging jobs in the early 20th century,” said Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition. “Hate violence has ebbed and flowed throughout our history in America.”

Although estimates vary because of a lack of census data, the coalition believes 500,000 to 750,000 Sikhs live in the US, with about half of that population residing in California.