A Sikh man who was putting up campaign re-election signs for a California GOP congressman was reportedly attacked last week and told to “go back to your country” in a case that police are investigating as a hate crime.
Surjit Singh Malhi said he was assaulted last Tuesday in the early morning just outside a town in Stanislaus County, in California’s Central Valley, while placing a campaign sign for incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham, according to NBC affiliate KCRA.
Malhi told KCRA that the two assailants allegedly told him to “go back to your country.”
Sikhs have found themselves the target of bias incidents and attacks, as religious articles they wear like the turban have wrongly been linked with media images of terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
To show their commitment to their faith, Sikhs keep unshorn hair, which men are required to cover with a turban. Some women also wear turbans, while young Sikh boys wear a smaller turban.
The Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, said in a statement in March that, by their estimate, Sikhs in the U.S. had experienced an average of one hate crime per week since the start of this year.
Amrith Kaur, the coalition’s legal director, said through a spokesperson by email that they were “deeply concerned by the violent and brazen hate crime” that allegedly occurred in California last week.
“We remain in direct contact with the impacted community member to guarantee that his legal rights are protected and that all appropriate steps are taken to investigate this hate crime," she said. "The attackers must be apprehended and a hate crime must be charged."