Police in Fresno, Calif., are investigating a hate crime after a 68-year-old Sikh man was hit by a truck and then attacked by two men on Boxing Day.
According to police, the assault happened on Saturday around 7 a.m. when Amrik Singh Bal, who was wearing a turban at the time, was waiting for a ride to work.
Police say two white males in a truck approached Bal and began hurling obscenities at him. Bal tried to cross the street in order to escape, but the attackers backed up their truck and struck him. They then exited the vehicle and beat the elderly man before fleeing the scene.
“We believe that based on his dress that this was a hate crime,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters Monday.
While police would not say whether they believed the attackers thought the victim was Muslim, local activists say the attack is another example where members of the Sikh community have been targeted.
“Sikhs have been mistaken for terrorists and radicals and continue to suffer after 9/11,” Ike Iqbal S. Grewal, member of the Sikh Council of Central California, told the Fresno Bee.
“This is the latest episode of what Sikhs have been enduring when they are very peace-loving and hard-working citizens of this great country and not members of al-Qaida or ISIS or any other radical group.”
The Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the incident saying that Sikhs are often erroneously confused with Muslims.
“We condemn the brutal attack on Mr. Bal and reject the religious and ethnic hatred that leads to such cowardly attacks,” said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra in a statement.
In 2013, a Sikh man was beaten with an iron bar after leaving a temple in Fresno and later that year a Sikh man in New York City’s Central Park was beaten and called “Osama,” according to the CAIR.