Muslim group hails New York Gov.Cuomo for ordering hate-crime probe into Hindu priest attack

indica News Bureau-

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC ), an advocacy group, has praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that the state investigate as a hate crime last week’s attack on a Hindu priest on a Queens, N.Y., street near the temple where the holy man serves, according to a statement released by the organization.

Cuomo on Tuesday ordered the state police to conduct a hate crime investigation into the attack Monday, July 18 at around 11 a.m. on Swami Harischander Puri, a Hindu priest based in Queens, as he walked a few blocks from the Shiv Shakti Peeth Temple near 85th Avenue on Glen Oaks.

“I am disgusted by the attack on a Hindu priest in Queens, mere blocks away from the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple,” Cuomo said. “This terrible, inexcusable act of violence is now being investigated as a potential hate crime.

“Violence of any kind toward others based on their faith or race is offensive to all New Yorkers and repugnant to our values,” Cuomo added. “These hate-fueled acts are meant to incite fear and division within our communities, and we must stand together and disavow this behavior immediately.”

Puri was allegedly attacked by Sergio Gouveia, who has been arrested in the case. Gouveia allegedly punched Puri in the face and struck him in the body with an umbrella, according to a criminal complaint and published reports. Gouveia has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment and fourth-degree possession of a weapon. Community leaders have called for hate-crime charges.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has called the attack a hate crime, according to published reports.

“It’s clear to me that this should be treated as a hate crime, so I’m urging NYPD to investigate it as such,” James said, according to CBS2. “To the individuals who may have witnessed it, I urge them to come forward.”

The IAMC called the governor’s statement a positive development and called on all people of good faith to end violence of this sort.

“The apparent hate attack on Swami Harish Chander Puri is reflective of the xenophobia and racism that is threatening our shared American values,” said IAMC President Ahsan Khan. “We call upon Indian Americans of all faiths, and indeed all people of conscience, to come together to combat bigotry in all its forms, whether it is in India or the United States.”

Puri, a resident of Queens for 30 years, later said he does not know his attacker, raising the likelihood that he was attacked for his faith and ethnicity, which would be hate crime, the IAMC said.

Puri said Tuesday at a news media conference he forgives his alleged attacker.

A delegation of IAMC volunteers from NY/NJ area visited Swami Puri and wished him speedy recovery, the IAMC statement said.

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