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Two crimes in January shocked Queens residents and caused us to question the efficacy of asking police to “focus” on “hate crimes.”
In Jackson Heights, a Sikh was beaten by two men, apparently because of his religious beliefs. Sikh men are identifiable by their unique clothing and beards, although they are sometimes confused with Muslims.
Jasmir Singh was assaulted and stabbed in the eye with a broken bottle, leaving him blind in that eye. Singh said his attackers “were making remarks about my hair, beard, threatening to cut it.”
In another crime, four young thugs were charged with beating and robbing two deliverymen in the Ravenswood Houses and attempting to rob a third. One of the attacks was caught on video and shown on local TV. The attackers knocked the deliveryman to the ground, kicked him repeatedly and stomped on his head.
If convicted, the punks responsible for these crimes ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But despite the brutality in these incidents, only the attack on the Sikh is being weighed as a possible hate crime.
At a press conference in Jackson Heights, Councilman Tony Avella urged police to treat the assault on the Sikh as a hate crime. “This latest bias attack against a member of the Sikh community is an appalling example of ignorance and fear rearing its ugly head,” Avella said.
The community must address and denounce the ignorance that leads to hate crimes, but we see little value in the police focusing on this or any incident as a hate crime. If police can prove someone committed a vicious assault, that should be enough.
The police should not be asked to decide whether the alleged attackers hate Sikhs or deliverymen. We suspect there is more than a little prejudice involved in the frequent attacks on Chinese deliverymen, but these are also crimes of opportunity.
Charging suspects with hate crimes can become a distraction, inviting lawyers to offer the some−of−my−best−friends−are−Sikhs−or−Chinese defense. Police should focus on the crime itself and allow the community to address the issues of hate and prejudice.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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