Sikh Man Beaten For Looking Muslim


#1

“Terrorist!” “Bin Laden!” “Go back to your country!” came the shouts from the other car.

Inderjit Singh Mukker, a father of two on his way to the grocery store in his Chicago suburb, pulled over when the vehicle behind kept tailgating him, according to the Sikh Coalition. The 53-year-old Sikh man, who wears a beard and turban, expected that the person in the other car would just drive past.

Instead, the Coalition says, the other driver got out and stormed toward him, reaching into Mukker’s car and repeatedly punching him in the face. Mukker lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital, where he received treatment for a fractured cheekbone, bruising and blood loss and six stitches for the lacerations on his face. [Link.]

There’s a video which I can’t bring myself to watch, looking at the man’s face is devastatingly heart-breaking. What surprised me was how angry this made me. It took a second to realize that my jaw was clenched and that I was gnashing my teeth. I wasn’t even angry with particularity at the guy who perpetrated the attack. I was angry with our society. Read the comments to this story, and you’ll find people who are utterly missing the point. There are comments that don’t venture very far from, “How dare he beat up a Sikh! Sikhs are cool! They’re nothing like those fucking Muslims!”

At work a while back I was at work helping a random White guy who was a customer at [MAJOR RETAILER] and asked if he had our loyalty card. He did and it identified him as working for a local university (where I happen to be a student, incidentally.) I asked if he taught there, and he said he was a professor. I asked what his field was and he seemed to hesitate before exhaling a somewhat diminutive, “Islamic Studies.” Some days I look more Arab than others and at work I made sure my name tag is the monosyllabic Anglicized form of my real name (it says Abe). I think I pleasantly surprised him when I asked (in Arabic) if he spoke any. Still, his reaction told me that he had received unfavorable reactions in the past.

I just… don’t know what to do with all this crap. I left Islam after a realization that all religion is pretty much bullshit, but I’m a swarthy Arab guy with a beard (I look weird without facial hair, trust me) and I know that people make assumptions. I can see it coming even before they do, sometimes. The thing that sickens me most though is that I’m not afraid. I’m not scared of ending up like the man in the article. The reason that I’m not afraid is that I know that people are, by and large, not violent if not provoked. Pretty much everyone is a little racist, and I’m conscious of the fact that systemic widespread racism is not enough to lead to proximal violence at every turn. Yet I know that a not insubstantial number of people are willing to perpetrate violence against me if given the right provocation and opportunity… and I’m not afraid. I’m not saying this because it means that I’m this brave person. I’m actually a very mild-mannered, and almost timid guy.

I’m saying this because I cannot begin to express the contempt and fury that I have for people who won’t help refugees, people who are desperate for safety, who are afraid of them. I cannot claim that no refugee will ever harm anyone ever. That’s an impossible standard for any population of people. Still, when you consider their numbers and even do something simple, like count the number of dead from the Paris and Hebdo attacks and compare them to traffic fatalities or our seemingly weekly American mass-shootings you realize that in the worst case, it’s a small indiscernible bump in the amount of suffering in this country. So how fucking dare they be afraid? What kind of a coward is so completely cowed by the specter of marginal risk that they would fail to help people in need? I don’t know what to call that level of chicken-heartedness. Hell, I’ve been around chickens before. That’s an insult to chickens.


#2

This is where I find myself so often lately. The shit out there is so big and bad and I’m here and one guy. What can I do?

I can hold others accountable, even when it’s uncomfortable. And it is very uncomfortable having that conversation in front of a Christmas tree with conservative moronic relations.

But, they haven’t said “towel head” in front of me since. It’s small but it’s an improvement.


#3

My very good friend once attributed half a garbled quote to Junot Diaz from another context, and I am going to start attributing it to her instead, “Half the battle is showing up, and sometimes, it’s the whole battle.”

That’s the way it is in life. You can’t be effective and strategic about everything.

I think about Bartolomé de las Casas: Here’s a guy who was a major fuck-up by his own standards later in life. People are murdering, subjugating, and killing Indians and Africans in the pursuit of colonial ambitions. What does he do? What can he do? Especially in the middle of a society that sees absolutely nothing wrong with what it’s doing. The answer is, basically: he showed up. He wrote things, he debated people, he advocated. What it did in the end was marginally successful and arguably it was all a wash because of his previous sins. Still I cannot think about that time in history without thinking of him. Not because he was this perfect shining savior, but because he is a major reason we can point to that era and say that they absolutely had it in them to be better humans.


#4

You have my support, brother. Hell, if you were a Muslim still, you’d have it too. We’re all people and deserving of basic respect and compassion.

In America, especially, I rather dislike these Nativist assholes that feel that just because their Irish ancestors (and mine) came over 150 years ago and they look white, they have a leg up on everyone else. Fuck that. America is the home to all who come here to build a life.


#5

I’ve heard from many Indians, not just Sikhs about this issue.

But the Sikhs know they have it the worst. One I know in California said he and his family never tried flying again after 9/11.

I don’t think it’s as bad as all that, but yeah. It’s bad.

In the months after 9/11, one guy I knew at a university in Oklahoma had crap thrown at him regularly from pickup driving assholes with jeers of “terrorist!” and the like.

He was actually more pissed at being called an Arab than anything.


#6

I have seen much unfair treatment of Sikh’s first hand, which is a weird contrast for me because I lived for years in a predominantly Kashmiri/Punjabi neighborhood in Queens. My friends who I moved in with are South American, and seemed to feel distant, but not hostile to the Sikhs. I felt no such limitations, so enjoyed the local culture, food, music, etc. It didn’t feel “otherly” to me, despite my awareness that I make the impression of being a scary mutant. But on the edges of my immediate neighborhood, I did see a bit of static. And one day, the Sikh Cultural Center which was only a few hundred yards from our place burned down under (debateably) suspicious circumstances, resulting in one death. NYC is a quite diverse and tolerant place to live, I can hardly imagine how difficult they must have it in other regions.

I encountered some immediate Indian discrimination which in part resulted in my losing my most recent job of six years - the closest to a “real job” I’d ever had. This corner of CT is anything but tolerant. When co-workers were looking for dirt on me, they snooped through my stuff and raised alarm about Yoga books I had, which were in scary Sanskrit. Because there are Muslims as well as Hindus in India, which makes them “the same”. Even though nobody directly said anything, I started needing to endure lectures about how Indian people all worship rats and drink piss, so you can’t trust them in the workplace. Even weirder is I am not dark, and have no traceable ancestry to anywhere near that part of the world. I never let it get under my skin, but it illustrated how personal and bigoted people could get while celebrating their ignorance.


#7

Fuck. There is something fundamental broken in or missing from the minds and brains of racists.

Saw this recently:

Zombies.


#8

Where I come from, this is all lawsuit territory for various kinds of discrimination and illegal workplace behavior. Maybe it is different in CT.

If someone did this at my job, I’d tell them to knock it off before they get fired and tell HR or management. If the latter did nothing or even participated, I’d document the shit out of it for my wrongful dismissal lawsuit.


#9

My Wife is Indian, my daughters are “Aussies with suntans”… they have a bit of Indian brownness to them.

They have always encountered the occasional bigot. Simple things like storekeepers reluctant to serve them,
I’ll be watching. This stuff has unleashed more general bigotry as a side effect. If it’s okay to pick on Muslims, it becomes a bit more okay to treat anyone from immigrants with rudeness.


#10

I’ve been thinking about this all day, and following the comments. But I still don’t have anything useful to add.

Other than… This is too fucked up. I need to figure out a way to fix this. This is wrong beyond…

I’m “anti-theist” but I’m not a bigot, and I’m intolerant of this kind of… Evil? I want to say that these actions; this hatred and harm, is evil. But I’m not exactly sure what evil is. If I had to define it on the spot it’s causing harm to people and the place you’re in (eg the Earth, the solar system and the stuff in it, the galaxy, the universe) for personal gain when there’s clearly better ways you know about. It’s about causing harm. And this kind of harm, on purpose, closely directed, is evil.


#11

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. I share your frustration, anger, and sadness, @ActionAbe. You’re double right about the comments of “how can they hurt Sikhs who are nothing like Muslims” nonsense. WTF.

The hardright is on the march in America, and their primary target right now is going to be people who are perceived to be hostile to… whatever. Whiteness? Americaness? I dunno. There are tons of people who are deeply vulnerable to this sort of violence and it seems to me that it’s going to escalate to lynchings very quickly:

But this is all connected. It’s all part of the same racist regime that seeks to whip up fear and anger at particular groups so the elite can continue to reap rewards. We will stop caring about the fact that we have stagnant wages, the price of housing has spiked, and the public sphere has begun to whither away, replaced by corporatized spaces if we’re all afraid of brown and black people.


#12

Do you also have a million dollar smile?

Oh, and here in Eugene and Portland we will happily take Syria refugees.


Don’t get me wrong, there is still systemic racism and bigotry here (especially if you go over the mountains). But it is mostly a casual live and let live, Chinese people are good at math, black students kick ass at football, and middle Eastern food is delicious kind of racism.


#13

Those same people’s heads would have exploded if you told them Freddie Mercury was Indian. Real name Farrokh Bulsara.


#14

I thought he was Persian! Am I confused? [ETA] I am confused! But he does have an Iranian connection, as his family was Parsi:

But yeah, he’s from India originally.

Also, you guys, it’s not all crap:


#15

I had no idea at all. I am starting to suspect that I am not race blind, or color blind, or orientation blind… I’m just blind :wink:


#16

Remember that current political borders are not historical ones, nor ethnic ones either. Saying someone who is Parsi is “Indian” is not the full picture.

Which (to bring it back to the OP) is part of the problem here: the majority fear people who “look like Muslims” when extremists (and Muslims) come in all skin tones and from all political boundaries.


#17

I thought Freddy was a posh bloke from Oxford! (But really I hadn’t even given it a first thought let alone a second)


#18

Indeed, Indian is too simple a label to sum up Freddie’s family history. But for the sake of giving xenophobes and racists something to chew on, it works nicely.


#19


#20

I guess what I was trying to say is… I know nothing of freddies past or identity. Nor of my neighbors, my biological paternal grandfather, literally everyone I work with (except for one, we’ve been friends for 13 years).

It just never enters my mind. I love hearing stories (one guy I knew was a Columbian refugee, he was the most charming person ever; another was a Soviet refugee, smartest guy ever).

But I don’t ask or assume. It reminds me of a scene in the show Vicious when a character compares someone to, “A Zac Efron. Is that a person or a place?”