Rape of the Lock: Brown on Brown Hate Crime?

Our tip lines have been exploding about a New York incident involving a Sikh high school student who was assaulted; his turban was ripped off and then his hair, which had never been shorn, was cut against his will. Unfortunately for those of you who kept submitting the story, there were crickets chirping in the bunker this weekend. Our delay in blogging it was not a reflection of whether we feel the issue was important or not.

Here are the facts I have gleaned from the various links sent in:

  • The Sikh boy was trading “Yo Mama”-like insults with two others
  • Things got out of hand
  • He tried to apologize
  • He was informed that the only way to do so would be a haircut (WTF?)
  • That’s when he was dragged in to a bathroom and cut
  • Two other boys served as “lookouts”
  • All the boys may or may not have been friends
  • The teenaged defendant is a Muslim of Pakistani descent
  • Other desi students said this was anomalous for their school.

From the Queens D.A.’s press release:

District Attorney Brown said that, according to the charges, just after 12:00 noon on May 24, 2007, the defendant, armed with a pair of scissors, approached 15-year-old Vacher Harpal in the hallway of Newtown High School, located at 48-01 90th Street, and stated, “I have to cut your hair.” When Harpal asked, “For what, it is against my religion,” the defendant allegedly displayed a ring with Arabic inscriptions and stated, “This ring is Allah. If you don’t let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring.” It is alleged that Harpal initially refused to go into the bathroom with the defendant because he feared that the defendant would hurt him with the scissors.
Once inside the bathroom, it is alleged that Harpal removed his dastar while crying and begging the defendant not to cut his hair, which had never been cut and fell past his waist. The defendant is then alleged to have used the scissors to cut Harpal’s hair to the neckline and thrown the hair into the toilet and onto the floor. [link]

Is this a hate crime? Or just juvenile stupidity and roughhousing gone too far?

209 thoughts on “Rape of the Lock: Brown on Brown Hate Crime?

  1. No LK1, wearing saris or shalwaar kameez wherever and just being abused for it.

    Now, do you think that Hindu women and men who are racially abused and ‘dot bashed’ are responsible and culpable for being attacked? All you’re telling us is that you hate Sikhs and Muslims with a violence, and believe they deserve to have violence inflicted on them by racist thugs. In short, racist thugs area proxy for the expression of your own hatred and bigotry. Let’s shift the parameters and address Hindu victims of racist bullying and violence. Where does their culpability arise from?

  2. <

    blockquote> France’s ruling isn’t secularism from where I stand. It is ethnocentric and xenophobic — the way most French Christians practice their religion doesn’t require any prominent displays of their religious affiliation. Their law reflects that and is completely inconsiderate to the other French people who come from religions that practice their religion in other ways. The law fits mainstream, white French culture. They are worried about oppression of women? The hijab isn’t the cause of oppression, as many friends I have who where the hijab know. I know there are some Muslim feminists who disagree with my above stance, but I know too many open-minded women who where the hijab.

    It may not be fair to this religious group or that, I agree on that. However, France had, and still has, a major problem with Muslim immigrants. And that is that these immigrants just weren’t assimilating into mainstream French society, reflected in the high poverty levels and poor educational performance by the same said group. The hijab, of course, is not the root cause. But it is indeed part of a larger issue, and that is this overwhelming apathy towards integration, an apathy which comes from misguided belief in upholding certain religious tenets. Look at the Muslim response, for example. Setting up a Muslim school? Why would you set up a Muslim school in the host country, just so girls can wear headscarves, when the French schools are themselves excellent? This shows you wear the priority of certain elements of the Muslim community lie – they would rather their children stuck to Islam, than recieved a first-rate albeit “secular” education. Again, going just by the response to the ban on headscarves, you can see the real motivations of certain elements. Thankfully the French were able to see the light, and in doing so, offer a brighter future to these children.

    And if the French are saying that the families are forcing these girls to wear the hijab…that’s slippery slope when the law dictates what a parent can force their children to do, when it doesn’t cause bodily harm to the children and or the rest of society.

    I’m sure in the US that law would be unconstitutional.

  3. You’re right Amitabh, although he’s the one squirming. I stand by what I say — it’s actually quite important to see a mind like this anatomise and dissect itself in all its rancid glory.

  4. <

    blockquote> France’s ruling isn’t secularism from where I stand. It is ethnocentric and xenophobic — the way most French Christians practice their religion doesn’t require any prominent displays of their religious affiliation. Their law reflects that and is completely inconsiderate to the other French people who come from religions that practice their religion in other ways. The law fits mainstream, white French culture. They are worried about oppression of women? The hijab isn’t the cause of oppression, as many friends I have who where the hijab know. I know there are some Muslim feminists who disagree with my above stance, but I know too many open-minded women who where the hijab.

    It may not be fair to this religious group or that, I agree on that. However, France had, and still has, a major problem with Muslim immigrants. And that is that these immigrants just weren’t assimilating into mainstream French society, reflected in the high poverty levels and poor educational performance by the same said group. The hijab, of course, is not the root cause. But it is indeed part of a larger issue, and that is this overwhelming apathy towards integration, an apathy which comes from misguided belief in upholding certain religious tenets. Look at the Muslim response, for example. Setting up a Muslim school? Why would you set up a Muslim school in the host country, just so girls can wear headscarves, when the French schools are themselves excellent? This shows you where the priority of certain elements of the Muslim community lie – they would rather their children stuck to Islam, than recieved a first-rate albeit “secular” education. Again, going just by the response to the ban on headscarves, you can see the real motivations of certain elements. Thankfully the French were able to see the light, and in doing so, offer a brighter future to these children. Its the children who suffer, not the Islamic chauvinist elders. God only knows the motivations of the latter.

  5. PG on June 4, 2007 01:26 PM · Direct link France’s ruling isn’t secularism from where I stand. It is ethnocentric and xenophobic — the way most French Christians practice their religion doesn’t require any prominent displays of their religious affiliation. Which religion really requires a prominent display?

    Sikhs, Jews, Muslims for example, often express their religion thru hijabs, turbans, etc. Most white Christians just go to church and maybe where a small cross necklace – that’s not banned.

  6. Now, do you think that Hindu women and men who are racially abused and ‘dot bashed’ are responsible and culpable for being attacked? All you’re telling us is that you hate Sikhs and Muslims with a violence, and believe they deserve to have violence inflicted on them by racist thugs. In short, racist thugs area proxy for the expression of your own hatred and bigotry. Let’s shift the parameters and address Hindu victims of racist bullying and violence. Where does their culpability arise from?

    Now you’re taking the situation out of context. Like I said, Hindu’s do not put their religion on display 24/7. This is because Hinduism is itself versatile, and can easily adopt to outside influences, while maintaining a strong sense of internal cohesion. This is why there is a Hinduism to begin with; else, it would have been swept away a long time ago by Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity, e.g. foreign conquerors desperate to impose their religion on the peaceful Hindu masses. To be perfectly honest, I do not see nearly as much a versatility in Islam. I do not think Islam has properly adapated to the needs of the 21st century; I think there is some conflict it has with secularism, which is of paramount importance to a modern democracy. Turkey is the only Muslim nation out there to have realized this. If Bush had succeeded in Iraq, my point would be made much more clearer. Anyway, Sikhism does not have a similar issue, even though, it is by nature halfway Islam. No one attacked gurdwaras after 9-11, to the best of my knowledge. Unfortunately, the beard and turban do not lend themselves well to post 9-11 sensibilities; well, what do you say to that? I don’t know.

  7. Now you’re taking the situation out of context.

    No I’m not. Your context is so knotted in with your apologia for racist violent attacks, the enactment of your own lunatic bigotries, that anyone who trips it up (which is easy to do), causes confusion and recitations of ‘changing the context’. Your prejudice is not the baseline from which all other truths arise. Your prejudice and cowardly apologia for violence, thuggery, and racism are actually the baseline of moral idiocy that I and most other people reject. You don’t have an answer because you’re a bigot exposed. You blame the victims because you hate the victims in your febrile and deranged moral universe. You identify with the violent, the racist, the bigot.

  8. No I’m not. Rubbish…………… is so knotted in with your apologia for racist violent attacks, the enactment rubbish…………………………………. that anyone who trips it up (which is easy to do), rubbish…………………. rubbish……………………recitations of ‘changing the context’. Your prejudice is not the baseline from which all other truths arise. Your… rubbish… rubbish………………………………………………………………………………….. rubbish

    For those who need a breath of fresh air:

    Is this a hate crime? Or just juvenile stupidity and roughhousing gone too far?

    Its good that whoever blogged this had the consideration (maybe good sense is a better description, at this point) to note the second possibility.

  9. LK1: Unfortunately, your South Asian features do not lend themselves well to post 9-11 sensibilities either.

    The difference is that I don’t jump on the lawyer bandwagon when someone (usually an American) mistakes my features for that of an Arab. Personally, I don’t care for someones lack of geographical understanding (& Americans tend to be amazingly geographically obtuse, when it comes to that. Nor do I care what religion someone is. Just leave your external (visible) religious symbols at home when you go out in public. How much simpler could the solution be? We live in a secular democracy, not a theocracy.

  10. LK1: >>Just leave your external (visible) religious symbols at home when you go out in public. We live in a secular democracy, not a theocracy.

    Not sure how the first sentence is related to the second. A secular democracy only means that the Government does not discriminate based on religion. It does not mean that we all have to give up our individual preferences related to dress, language, food etc. If you extend your logic to other situations, you will end up with statements like: “Just leave your Tamil, Hindi at home when you travel on NJ Transit” or “Just leave your halal/kosher restrictions at home when you go out to eat“.

    A person’s preference to retain religious traditions in public (at his/her own expense) should not be seen as an invitation to attack or ridicule.

    M. Nam

    PS: The grey area in this is regulations regarding heargear/facial cover etc for passport photos/driver’s license etc. In this, the law of the land must trump.

  11. Just leave your external (visible) religious symbols at home when you go out in public. How much simpler could the solution be? We live in a secular democracy, not a theocracy.

    You don’t care about Jews wearing yarmulkes or Christians wearing crosses. They don’t threaten secular democratic principles. Sikhs wearing a turban really bothers you for some reason, and for wearing it, they deserve to be physically attacked. Your prejudice is vile. Your logic is of the same type that says, ‘Well what do you expect? She was wearing a tight t-shirt, of course she deserved to get raped’. Even though everyone has pointed this out to you many times, you keep yelping the same apologia for racist bigotry and bullying. All the cut and pastes that you are just about clever enough to cut and paste about the French revolution and la la la don’t cover up the thuggish logic that reigns in you.

  12. Not sure how the first sentence is related to the second. A secular democracy only means that the Government does not discriminate based on religion. It does not mean that we all have to give up our individual preferences related to dress, language, food etc.

    Your qualification is essential:

    A person’s preference to retain religious traditions in public (at his/her own expense) should not be seen as an invitation to attack or ridicule.

    Yes… if you wear a full length all black burkha in the middle of broad daylight, which is your Constitutional right, just understand that people will stare (they have a Constitutional right to stare). And humans being human, some people will make fun of you (they have a Constitutional right to make fun of you). If you are in school, well, read the above article to see what may happen. If you can handle all this, then go for it. But by all means, don’t sue or try to have a 16 year old boy sent to prison for seven years; thats just downright inconsiderate. Unless less of course you suffer grievous physical injury – in that case, by all means, resort to whatever legal means are at your disposal.

    If you extend your logic to other situations, you will end up with statements like: “Just leave your Tamil, Hindi at home when you travel on NJ Transit” or “Just leave your halal/kosher restrictions at home when you go out to eat”.

    Except that I haven’t extended my logic to other situations. I’ve focused exclusively on religion.

  13. lk1:

    People may have a right to stare, and even make fun of you – but only behind your back. They certainly don’t have the right to physically or verbally assault you, as it happened in this case.

    In any case, Secularism has no bearing on individual preferences.

    M. Nam

  14. No one attacked gurdwaras after 9-11, to the best of my knowledge. Unfortunately, the beard and turban do not lend themselves well to post 9-11 sensibilities; well, what do you say to that? I don’t know.

    Your knowledge is mistaken. Not only were Sikhs killed in post-9/11 backlash in the U.S., gurdwaras were attacked as well throughout the country.

    The beard and turban have not lent themselves to racist understandings of a xenophobic, majority-dominant ideal of what constitutes “acceptable appearance.” Neither does being brown/black in America, among other things.

    I’m with Amitabh. THe discussion is done, and LK1 has just been digging himself deeper trying to rationalize his racist views, policy prescriptions, and understandings.

  15. Sikhs, Jews, Muslims for example, often express their religion thru hijabs, turbans, etc. Most white Christians just go to church and maybe where a small cross necklace – that’s not banned.

    Is it required in the laws of the religion to do so at all times?

    My religion calls for the wearing of tilak. Sometimes I wear it in public, sometimes I don’t. My inner spiritual development is not dependent on even having a material body, what to speak of dressing that body in a certain external way.

  16. Is it required in the laws of the religion to do so at all times?

    I’m not Sikh,Jew, or Muslim – but like all religions, I think what practices you uphold depend on your interpretation of the religion.

    What I am saying is that most European Christians do not practice their religion in a way that requires them to wear prominent signs of their religion. If they did, I do not think the law in France would have been passed.

  17. Is it required in the laws of the religion to do so at all times?

    PS, in Sikhi it is required, of men, to wear a dastar/pagh/patka in public. This does not necessarily apply to the home (but does apply when you have guests). It is required of ALL Sikhs to keep their hair. As I said before, there’s a previous post on this topic in the archives, if you search SM for it.

  18. Is it required in the laws of the religion to do so at all times?
    I’m not Sikh,Jew, or Muslim – but like all religions, I think what practices you uphold depend on your interpretation of the religion. What I am saying is that most European Christians do not practice their religion in a way that requires them to wear prominent signs of their religion. If they did, I do not think the law in France would have been passed.

    Maybe it’s time the individual member of those religions do some inner reflection on what is neccessary and what is not neccessary for their inner development.

    The cup is either empty or half full, and if you apply the LAW OF ATTRACTION, nothing happens to us that we did not invite into our energy-field in some way or another. Also, nothing happens to us that we cannot learn and grow from.

    People often think I’ve got mustard on my nose when I wear tilak in public. I use it as an oppurtunity to share some philosophical wisdon with them. But my inner spiritual development has nothing to do with wearing tilak on my nose or even clothes on my body. I could go naked everywhere and still progress spiritually. However, going naked is illegal.

    Perhaps sikhs, muslims and anyone else claiming that they have to wear certain things in order to follow their religions properly are wrong? Rather they might need to differentiate on what is just an external cultural aspect of their religion and what is actual inner spiritual growth and whether or not the types of clothing you wear have anything to do with that at all.

  19. PG, no offense, but that argument is easily made by someone who does not feel required to wear something as an element of their faith. I can’t speak for Islam or other faith traditions, but I feel really strongly about the requirements in Sikhi. We are not asked to do much by way of “external representations,” and the number of “rituals” or whatnot in Sikhi are nearly nonexistent, which is reflected in the teachings of the faith itself. That said, when someone from a religion tells me that I need to reevaluate what is important so that I fit in better with what THEY feel is acceptable/comfortable, I am not likely to give their interpretation much credence. Whatever peace you have made with your faith, that is your decision entirely. I don’t think I’m being super-conservative here when I saw that there are requirements and guidelines, as there are of ALL faiths, and that it is reasonable to feel free to pursue those. One should not have to live in fear that s/he will be jumped or abused because of his/her decision to follow their religion freely. Freedom of religion is supposedly a value we ought to have in the U.S., and this includes freedom of expression of that religion. It is not like such “outward” observances hurt ANYONE, nor do they deviate from the morality of American society.

    It is easy to tell us to “assimilate.” I’m sure that if that is the decision the faith community decides to make that they will decide to do so if they wish. It is not the right or privilege of external forces, however, to dictate to us how we ought live our lives when our observance does no harm.

  20. typos galore, sorry. It should read:

    “when a person from another religion…”and “when I say…” Hopefully the post is intelligible, nonetheless.

  21. Camille,

    My point is that if such external clothing were required in the religion, it would be explicitly stated so by the founder of the religion. If muslims or sikhs can provide shastric (scriptural) references wherein the founders of their religions explicitly wrote what was to be worn and explicitly stated that it’s required to make spiritual advancement towards God, then I would say “fair enough”. It has nothing to do with assimilating into the country that I happen to be camping out in at this point in time.

    If you can provide such statements from the founding Guru of Sikhi, stating that men have to wear that in order to make spiritual progress but women do not have to, I would be interested in reading and researching that.

  22. PG, your standard is completely arbitrary, and in my opinion, a little ridiculous. Additionally, to clarify, the dastar/turban is not necessarily for the spiritual progress of men, nor does it exclude women. It simply says that women are not required to wear if they so chose. This is because, in my opinion, Sikhi recognizes that equality of the genders does not mean a masculinization of women so that they will be treated equally. It is part of the whole package of a how a Sikh is asked to live his/her life, and the prescriptions are based in scriptural teachings but also in the idea that spiritual progress requires living your life in a way that enables such progression.

    The requirements in Sikhi are in the Rehit Maryada, which was adopted in the late 1920s. After the installation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the “living Word” and the last Guru, the power to make decisions was delegated to the Granth and the Panth, the latter being the Sikh community at large. As a community, Sikhs adopted the Rehit Maryada, which does NOT run counter to any of our teachings, scriptural or otherwise. This is what gives us the flexibility to “unadopt” the standard of kes. That said, the inclusion (or non inclusion) of the turban in scripture does not make it any less significant or any less required. Different faith traditions have different standards and ways of doing things. I maintain that it is not the right or privilege of someone of a different faith tradition to dictate what is reasonable/unreasonable or desirable/undesirable in the religious practice of others.

  23. Camille, In a court of law this would not hold up.

    Basically what you are saying is that the requirement of wearing turban/dastar was not created by the founder of your religion but by members of it (perhaps mostly men?), many years later. I wonder if it’s the same for the hijab/burkha/niqab in Islam.

    If one wants to wear turban or burkha or tilak in public fine. I have no problem with that at all. However, if one says it is “required” in their religion, proof should be given how it’s required and when and how that became a requirement. If it was not explicitly stated by the founder of the religion then they are hard-pressed to proove that it is anything more than an “option”.

  24. Among young Punjabi Sikh’s here in Vancouver[ the biggest sikh community out side of India] and the Punjabi Sikh community in Northern and Central California[biggest in the United States] it seems like around only 10 to 20% of young kids don’t cut there hair. I maybe wrong but that what I’ve seen in those community.

    However not all sikh’s are punjabi. There is a small but growing sikh community in United States in place like New Mexico, among white but also some black and hispanics. From what I’ve been told all there kids don’t cut there hair at all.

    Does anybody have any info on young white and blacks sikhs and if they face any problems for there religous beliefs.

  25. If one wants to wear turban or burkha or tilak in public fine. I have no problem with that at all. However, if one says it is “required” in their religion, proof should be given how it’s required and when and how that became a requirement. If it was not explicitly stated by the founder of the religion then they are hard-pressed to proove that it is anything more than an “option”.

    PG, respectfully, your positions are blinkered and presumptuous, exactly and approximately.

  26. Maybe it’s time the individual member of those religions do some inner reflection on what is neccessary and what is not neccessary for their inner development.

    Why? If it is important to them and doesn’t hurt other people, why should they need to rethink how they express their spirituality. The only time, it seems, people should rethink how they express their spirituality is when it isn’t helping them in their spirituality.

    Camille, I’ve known Sikhs who have cut their hair and do not wear a turban but still consider themselves Sikh. I purposely put in “how you interpret your religion” just b/c there are different interpretations of what makes you a Sikh. I remember reading a thread on SM about this — some Sikhs on SM said doing this and this made you a Sikh; other Sikhs claimed they are Sikh even if they have cut their hair etc.

  27. PG, in a court of law your rational wouldn’t stand up either. And actually, the turban has stood up in courts of law in the U.S. and Canada, several times over for the last 40 years. I don’t have access to WestLaw at the moment, or I would offer you citations. Feel free to inquire with SALDEF, though. They keep that information on file.

    Camille, I’ve known Sikhs who have cut their hair and do not wear a turban but still consider themselves Sikh. I purposely put in “how you interpret your religion” just b/c there are different interpretations of what makes you a Sikh.

    PS, we had this conversation on this thread, which was also (surprise!) about Sikhs and hate crime. I think we ran the gamut on that thread re: different interpretations of the requirements of faith. Sikhi is very clear what constitutes a Sikh, and the requirements are as follows: A Sikh is someone who: 1. Believes in Vaheguru (the idea of one Creator) 2. Submits to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Living Word of God) 3. Acknowledges and practices the teachings of the Sikh Gurus 4. Conforms to the lifestyle of a Sikh, as dictated by the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Rehit Maryada [Rehit Maryada, p. 5]

    The requirements are cumulative as you move forward in your spiritual progression. To be a Sikh, you should have #1-4 on lock. From the previous thread, we all agreed that if you are an amritdhari (i.e. confirmed) Sikh, then you are absolutely required to keep your hair, and if you are a guy, this includes the turban. If you are working towards an amritdhari lifestyle, there is a bit more flexibility in interpretation. The departure was about whether or not “cut hair” meant you were not part of the faith. This is where we had some divergence of opinion. I feel that, based on both scripture and the Rehit, if you call yourself a Sikh and are trying to live a Sikh lifestyle, you cannot cut your hair. If you’re cutting your hair, you’ve already made a decision. I personally feel that some folks feel a really strong affinity with their faith group, but are not really religious themselves and have a hard time letting go of the fact that they’ve already kind of decided not to be Sikh. I think it gets more complicated with folks who do feel very committed to the teachings of the faith but choose to cut their hair. At present, it’s still considered to be “out of sorts” with the faith itself. Until Sikhs get together to change the Rehit Maryada, the prevailing requirement is going to be that part of being Sikh is keeping your hair.

  28. PS, we had this conversation

    Yeah, that’s what I alluded to. I know – i read that thread. Thanks for giving me your opinion of what makes a Sikh a Sikh, but to me it is still your opinion.

  29. A few of you have misunderstood my point.

    Tilak is worn in my religion. However, if it became against the law of any country to wear tilak on my face (such as at school or at work), I could not argue that it is a “requirement” and therefore a law against it is a violation of my religious rights. I could only argue that it is an option that I choose to exercise. While I may not be legally allowed to wear tilak to work or school, nobody can come into the privacy of my own home and stop me from praying to my version of God. Hence, there is no violation of my religious rights.

    As far as I have read, burkha/niqab/hijab is not required dress in order to be a Muslim.

    I’m simply asking if wearing a turban is required for being a Sikh.

    If these are optional

  30. PG:

    Excellent points. Everyone can agree that religions are man-made. They may be inspired by “God” – I for one, believe the Vedas were inspired by God – but at the end of the day, “God” did not tell explictly tell anyone to wear a beard, or a turban, or for that matter, to hold hands while walking around a fire during marriage. These are RITUALS created by religious figureheads for varying purposes. Its easy for people to get carried away by the emphasis on rituals – in fact, it is this very overemphasis on rituals that led the Buddha to shun “Hinduism.” At some point, every religion, and the adherents of those religions, have to come face to face with reality. In our modern world, that reality is the one defined by science.

  31. In our modern world, that reality is the one defined by science.

    And not the reality defined by some Mullah, Guru, Rishi, or Preacher. This is why I say religion has no place in schools, except for the sole purpose of historical analysis.

  32. I mean, religion is good as far as teaching morals goes. But where reason and logic are concerned, there is no substitute for science and mathematics. I wish the Americans would follow the example of the French, and ban headgear once and for all. 95% of those complaining would eventually adapt, showing you how ridiculous their complaints are even at this stage. Economic woes and the needs of day to day survival will win over the larger lot of complainers – after all, that is why they immigrated in the first place.

  33. PS, I understand. I also wasn’t trying to divert from your point – just wanted to provide a link to your reference. The italics I posted, however, are not my opinion. They’re the consensus of the Sikh faith community at large. Just to clarify.

    PG, it is not optional, as I have stated numerous times.

    Maybe it would help if other Sikhs on SM could back me up a bit here? I have a feeling folks are disinclined to believe me because I’m a single voice basically repeating the same thing with varying evidence.

    LK1, I’m sure life in a fascist regime will be great once we all just suck it up and “adapt.”

  34. I don’t want to offend you – I can see where this might be touchy b/c I’m not Sikh, but I think you are?

    But as you say, it is a “consensus” and people will always have different interpretations of what makes them a believer or not.

    For example, I went to a Christian school during elementary school, and they were very much that if you are a Christian, than that means you have accepted Christ in your heart and you will go to heaven. Other Christians I’ve met don’t interpret their faith this way and thus they can conclude to me that they don’t think I’m going to hell :) . You have every right to believe what you feel makes a Sikh a Sikh, but I’m just open to other people’s interpretations of their faith.

  35. A few of you have misunderstood my point.

    Tilak is worn in my religion. However, if it became against the law of any country to wear tilak on my face (such as at school or at work), I could not argue that it is a “requirement” and therefore a law against it is a violation of my religious rights.

    if it became against the law of any country to wear tilak

    It would be a violation of your rights – I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but I’m sure under the First Amendment it would violate your rights; In the US you can’t pass some arbitrary law that you can’t wear a Tilak or a brown shirt, just cause the king said so…A fine mess we’d be in. If wearing the Tilak causes some physical danger to others, than the govt would have some sort of case to preventing you from wearing your tilak.

    I could not argue that it is a “requirement” – you could if that was your interpretation of your religion. Even if it isn’t a requirement but that is how you want to express your religion than you should have the right to under the US constitution.

    The French are really going down a slippery slope.

  36. The French are really going down a slippery slope.

    I am not disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing – I agree with all your other statements, except for this one.

    To understand why the French passed this law, you have to first of all consider their motivations. I stated earlier that they are having a very real problem with Muslims assimilating. By assimilation is not meant the number of Muslims attending mass on a daily basis. I am talking real, viable economic indicators – high rates of poverty, poor educational performance, etc. I, for one, saw those riots. The banning of headscarves in public and educational places is an attempt to make the Muslims integrate. Its not about French Catholicism vs. Islam. The effect of Muslim poverty was beginning to affect mainstream French society.

    Anyway, the response of Muslims to this ban on headscarves says loads. Opening Muslim schools just so girls can wear their headscarves 24/7? Like I said before, this is sheer nonsense; France has one of the best educational systems in the world. To go to France and send your children to a Muslim school means you are better off staying in your own country. I am never an apologist for stupidity. Hindutva fundamentalism is wrong, issuing fatwas is wrong, believing that its a God-given duty to wear religious garb 24/7 is wrong… it doesn’t matter what religion you are… common sense will tell you who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” here. Thats why I noted the importance of science. Children today should not be bothered about religious fundamentalism.

    I applaud the French for their actions.

    Du sublime au ridicule il n’y a qu’un pas.

    Translation: Its just one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.

    • Napoleon
  37. I don’t want to offend you – I can see where this might be touchy b/c I’m not Sikh, but I think you are?

    No worries, I’m not offended. :) Thanks for the respectful dialogue.

  38. And in other news, 17 year old Umair Ahmed, the boy who attacked the Sikh, could face up to 7 years in prison. IMO: that is absolutely ridiculous. I am thoroughly horrified that this could happen in America, of all places. This was not even a hate crime – the two were friends, according to reports. Umair Ahmed’s life will be ruined because of a fight he won fair and square? At that age, suffice it to say that I would have done exactly the same thing to the Sikh kid. You get into a fight at that age, there’s a lot at stake. Your pals are going to remember it forever… its your reputation on the line. Anyway, suffice it to say that the other children at that school will remember the Sikh kid as a coward and cry-baby who sued after losing a fight. I hope his parents are happy. My condolences go out to Umair Ahmed – he did what all REAL MEN worth a grain of salt would have done at that age, which was teach the Sikh kid a lesson.

  39. This IS a hate crime.

    Ahmed did not just beat up the victim, he cut off his hair. Unshorn hair is an important part of Sikhism. The accused knew that Sikhs, like Vacher, are not supposed to cut their hair, but he did that to the victim anyway. Ahmed purposely targeted the victim’s religious faith. This is not okay.

    Yes, apparently, they were friends at one point, but many friendships do fall out. And what is this crap about “the sikh kid should have protected himself” or “that is how teenage boys act”? Thats easy to say when your not in the situation and you’re sitting on your ass at home. Ahmed was 17 years old, thats almost an adult, he should have known not to get in a mess like this. Will he act the same way 10 years from now, and expect his co workers to be fine with him commiting hate crimes? HELL NO

    The accused COULD face up to 7 years in prison, very unlikely that he will. Some community service at most, even a month at juvie is out of question.

  40. I’ve met and spoken w/ a few kids who go to Newtown HS, and there have been Muslim vs. Sikh incidents in the past. Sometimes older guys, NOT even HS students, hang around near the school and try to start stuff. The last few mos., many people (including small business owners) have been concerned about it.

  41. Emma, i’m just curious, do you know approx. what perecentage of the high school is south asian?

  42. Red Snapper, comment #189 proves every single thing you’ve been saying about this jerk all along. The man hates Sikhs, simple. Maybe he lost his girlfriend to one once, or got his ass kicked by one. I’m going to keep it to myself but I think I’ve guessed his background too. It would be great if someone could teach him a lesson soon.

    At that age, suffice it to say that I would have done exactly the same thing to the Sikh kid.

    I get the feeling you’d do it at your age now too. Your biases and lack of objectivity (as well as your simple desire to rile us all up and get a reaction) are all very obvious. Suffice it to say you’re just a jealous loudmouth behind a keyboard.

    As for Umair, if he did the crime, I hope he goes away for seven years.

  43. Ahmed did not just beat up the victim, he cut off his hair. Unshorn hair is an important part of Sikhism. The accused knew that Sikhs, like Vacher, are not supposed to cut their hair, but he did that to the victim anyway. Ahmed purposely targeted the victim’s religious faith. This is not okay.

    Its not okay. Ahmed deserves to be punished. But to suggest imprisonment as the punishment is ridiculous. Do you know how high the testesterone levels run among adolescent boys? Even as far as men are concerned – have you ever been to a bar? Do you know how easily fights break out over the smallest issues? Ahmed should be suspended from school for a year, for improperly touching another student.

    On another note, keep in mind how inner city public schools are. Kids sell drugs in the bathroom. Kids bring guns… at my old high school, after the Columbine incident, metal detectors were installed. These schools are hopelessly under-funded and overcrowded, not to mention, supervision is poor; this is exactly the type of environment that led to the incident portrayed above. You have a few thousand nervous, high-adrenalin teens, who form into various cliques – power struggle is inevitable. One clique will try to show its dominance over another. So maybe the Sikh boy and his parents will feel vindicated if Ahmed is punished, but I assure you, you are not dealing with the core issue, which is the quality of the high school in general.

    Yes, apparently, they were friends at one point, but many friendships do fall out.

    Doesn’t it seem odd to you that if Ahmed had such a distate for Sikhism, he would have been friends with a Sikh to begin with? Perhaps Ahmed was just being mean?

    And what is this crap about “the sikh kid should have protected himself” or “that is how teenage boys act”? Thats easy to say when your not in the situation and you’re sitting on your ass at home. Ahmed was 17 years old, thats almost an adult, he should have known not to get in a mess like this. Will he act the same way 10 years from now, and expect his co workers to be fine with him commiting hate crimes? HELL NO

    Because I’ve been there and seen that. Grade school was especially worse. Boys were constantly hitting each other, often provoked by (judged from an adult perspective) immature comments. Not everyone matures overnight. 17 is still a young age. Even if Ahmed was just 17, I doubt he forsaw the possibility of prison. Kids don’t evaluate the consequences of their actions on the basis of “hate crimes.” In a way, that makes sense, because the majority of violent crime is committed by those over 20… also note what I said before, you are ineligible for the death penalty if you are a juvenile. In a court of law, they have to determine the motivation for the crime – and the motivations of under-age children are usually too simplistic to warrant the severest punishment. For one thing, kids are too, too easily manipulated by adults. The boy who was involved in the D.C. sniper incident is a case in point. And no, he didn’t get the death penalty.

    The accused COULD face up to 7 years in prison, very unlikely that he will. Some community service at most, even a month at juvie is out of question.

    The question is, will it be on his record? Good luck to him, finding a job. There’s no way this wouldn’t pop up in a background check.

  44. LK1,

    I know how teenagers act, the social aspects of high school, etc very well. This is because I am one and I attend a inner city school. I see and intereact with teenage boys everyday(on a level you no longer understand), and yes they do fight over the littlest things (although girls are not much better), but there is a difference between typical bullying/fighting and victimizing someone over their religous faith.

    It is very possible Ahmed did not care what Vacher’s religious faith was when they were friends. But when they did fall out (when threats and yo mama jokes ensued), he showed he did not respect the victim’s religion and went out of his way to insult Vacher and his religion.

    When one “clique” is trying to dominate another, fighting between the two groups does follow. Yet, once one group target’s another group’s religous faith or ethnicity, it is a very different story. Ahmed did not simply “make fun” of Vacher’s religion, he purposely cut off his hair, which is an important part of the Sikh religion. Therefore, this is a hate crime. If Ahmed does get a punishment and this event goes on his permenant record, it is all his fault. It is up to his future employers to decide if they want to hire someone who commited a hate crime in high school to work for them.

  45. navi,

    Its good to know that you and I are on the same playing field, as far as the experiencing of attending inner city schools goes.

    I assume you understand this thing about “needing to make a point” in front of your friends. “Needing to make a point” involves getting some kind of reaction from your victim. The more spectacular the reaction, the better, short of actually evoking a last dying gasp from them. You and I will agree that Ahmed was trying to make a point. Where we disagree is whether he fully understood the consequences of his actions. When a Neo-Nazi (Skinhead) vandalizes a synagogue, there is no doubt that he knows what’s in store for him, if he is caught. But he doesn’t make a point of doing it in front of several other people, e.g. witnesses. Ahmed, on the other hand, chose the most public place of all, the bathroom. Anyone could have walked in there while the hair-cutting was going on. Which shows that Ahmed’s actions were spontaneous, not pre-meditated. A hate crime, IMO, is usually pre-meditated. As I see it, these two exchanged fights… Ahmed had to show his friends “he’s the man”… Ahmed had to evoke the most spectacular reaction from his victim… he also had to do it within a time frame. What were his options? Yes, the thought of removing the Sikh guys turban and cutting his hair would have run through his mind. I saw this in an Italian movie once… the women of the little town in Italy wanted to get even with a lady who had been a prominent Nazi supporter… they dragged her out of her home, and what did they do… they beat her up and then cut her hair off. Of course, you could argue that men seldom see cutting another man’s hair off as adequate punishment… but in this case, the base motivation that Ahmed had was to humiliate the Sikh boy as much as possible. The hair, unfortunately, was just too obvious to bypass.

    Its relevent to ask, if the Sikh boy did not have the long hair, nor wore the beard, would Ahmed still have sought punishment? Answer: yes. And that completes my justification of why this was not a hate crime. Because Ahmed would have found a way to get even with the Sikh boy no matter what. Was cutting the Sikh’s boys hair far worse than giving him a black eye or bloody nose? Looking at the responses to this thread, many Sikhs would say yes. But that is besides the point… the fact of the matter remains that Ahmed was ready and willing to get even with the Sikh boy with whatever means were available at his disposal. And I don’t think the word “hate crime” ran through his head.

  46. As I see it, these two exchanged fights…

    *As I see it, these two exchanged verbal insults

    By the way, navi, I left out an important point. Didn’t the Sikh kid sort of dragged himself into this situation by exchanging insults with Ahmed? Usually, if you know someone is more powerful than you, you don’t exactly insult their mother… common sense!

  47. With my apologies to Ennis for “lifting” a comment from his forum and to paraphrase it (forgive me muralimannered if I’m way off the mark)… reasoning with people like LK1, and that oh so famous PG and others is like reasoning with cottage cheese.. you won’t get very far. They’ll believe what they want to believe and they’ll justify whatever they want to justify. This type of on-uppance (hell give me a break it’s late and I’m inventing words) can be very tiring, and it kinda gives them the fuel they need to spew misguided or skewed beliefs (uh-oh I’m asking for it am I not??). Hence, let’s all stick to SM’s posting mantra “Please do not feed the trolls”. Good night.

  48. Unfortunately, some of us forget that this is supposed to be a debate and not a symposium for the outpouring of pro-Sikh sympathies:

    Is this a hate crime? Or just juvenile stupidity and roughhousing gone too far?
  49. LK1 – what do you think about elective (of course, what do you think I am, fascist?) plastic surgery to make ourself lighter complexioned so we fit in better? If it’s good enough for MJ, it must be good enough for the rest of us, right?