“My turban really saved me”, says a 50-year-old Sikh man who was ambushed, beaten up multiple times by two white men who yelled racial slurs at him in the US.
Surjit Singh Malhi said he was putting out political signs for US Representative Jeff Denham, a Republican running for re-election, near his home in California when he was attacked by the two men who yelled racial slurs that “You’re not welcome here!, Go back to your country!”.
“My turban really saved me,” Malhi was quoted as saying by the New York Times yesterday. He said his turban acted “like a helmet, but stronger.”
“The two men came up behind me and accosted me. They threw sand in my eyes so I could not see, he said, adding that they struck my head and back with what appeared to be a stick and a belt.
“The way they were hitting me, (I thought) maybe I would die. You don’t belong here,” he said they told him.
Malhi, came to the US from India in 1992 and is now a permanent resident. He wears a turban and that may be the reason he was targeted, but it may have also saved his life.
“The only reason (he was attacked), as far as we can tell, is because he was wearing a turban and he was Middle Eastern,” Deputy Royjindar Singh said. “That was the only reason they attacked him.”
Malhi said everything happened quickly. He said he did not get a good look at the attackers, but told investigators they were two men wearing black sweatshirts, KCRA channel TV reported.
He said they spray painted the side of his truck with a white nationalist symbol and wrote, “Go back to your country.”
Malhi said he has never experienced racism like that.
“I never feel that way,” he said. “I’ve never been mistreated like that.”
“I have a lot of friends,” Malhi said. “I have no problem. I do not feel any racism against me ever. I have friends who are standing for me. They love me and I love them.”
Sheriff Adam Christianson of Stanislaus County said his office was aggressively investigating the case and looking for suspects.
“It’s a despicable hate crime,” the sheriff said. “There is no room for this in Stanislaus County or anywhere else in the United States of America.”
Meanwhile, Denham, the Republican lawmaker of California, released a statement yesterday condemning the attack, which occurred in his district.
Central California is home to a large Sikh community, and Malhi leads a group of Sikh volunteers for the congressman’s campaign.
“Inciting violence because of race, religion or political beliefs should never be tolerated,” Denham said. “This is the third incident in less than two weeks where a member of my team has been a target and it must come to an end.”
Turbans represent a commitment to gender and racial equality, as well as religious tolerance, said Gurwin Singh Ahuja, co-founder of the National Sikh Campaign.
“Sikhs wear their turbans to signal their readiness to protect people from injustice,” he said. “It’s very ironic that these people chose to attack him for how he looks, when in fact, how he looks represents the highest ideals of our country.”