Man arrested, charged with hate crime for attacking a Sikh taxi driver


A man has been arrested, Jan 14, and faces hate crime charges for assaulting an Indian Sikh taxi driver while parked at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD) shared Friday night (Jan 14) about arresting Mohamed Hassanain for attacking a Sikh taxi driver (identified only as “Mr. Singh” to preserve his anonymity) Jan 3, announced the Sikh Coalition, a non-profit providing free legal support in this case.

The incident is being considered a hate crime, given that Hassanain shouted “go back to your country” and called the driver “turbaned people” in a derogatory manner while repeatedly punching and shoving him.

Hassanain was arraigned on Saturday, Jan 15, and is being charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime, assault in the third degree, and aggravated harassment in the second degree.

The unfortunate incident happened on Jan 3 morning at the Terminal 4 taxi stand at JFK airport, where Mr. Singh had parked his cab. According to the Sikh Coalition Mr. Singh taxi was blocked by another vehicle, and so when Mr. Singh picked up a customer, he stepped partway out of his car to ask the other driver to move. The other driver instead of moving his vehicle, he attempted to hit Mr. Singh with his own car door; he then began repeatedly hitting Mr. Singh in the head, chest, and arms, causing his dastaar to become unraveled and fall off, and called him “turbaned people” and shouted at him to “go back to your country.”

Mr. Singh, who still requests privacy at this time, released the following statement: “I am thankful to law enforcement, the Sikh Coalition, and all those in the community who have offered their strength in this difficult time. No one should experience what I did–but if they do, I hope they receive the same overwhelming amount of support and quick, professional action by the authorities in response.”

“We are grateful to the Port Authority Police Department and Queens District Attorney’s Office for their prompt action on this case, and for recognizing that the attack on Mr. Singh included clear anti-Sikh bias,” Amrith Kaur Aakre, Sikh Coalition Legal Director through a press note. “This case underscores the importance of sharing all of the details of these kinds of attacks with law enforcement. Holding perpetrators accountable for both their actions and their hateful motivations is the clearest way to show that bigotry, and the violence that it fuels, have no place in our communities.”

As a reminder, Sikhs in the United States continue to experience bias- and hate-driven attacks on account of their visibly identifiable articles of faith (including turbans and unshorn hair) as well as perceptions about their country of origin.

According to the most recent FBI data, Sikhs remain in the top three most frequently targeted groups for religiously-motivated hate crimes and bias incidents nationwide. In the Sikh Coalition’s experience, taxi and rideshare drivers in particular are at a heightened risk of kinds of violent attacks; in recent years, we have provided free legal aid to multiple Sikh drivers attacked across the country, and we continue to provide know-your-rights resources proactively to help the community stay safe.