New York, May 24, 2007
The incident occurred on 24 May, 2007, at Newtown High School in Queens between 12:05 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., according to a police deposition. The victim, 15 year old Sikh student, whose name is not being released in order to protect his identity, was allegedly approached by Umair Ahmed, who declared, “I have to cut your hair.” After the victim explained to his would-be assailant that cutting hair was against his religion, the latter showed signs of becoming violent, and threatened to punch the victim with a ring.
Singh said that Umair Ahmed showed him a ring with Arabic inscriptions and said: “This ring is Allah, if you don't let me cut your hair I will punch you with this ring.” Umair Ahmed had a pair of scissors. Singh was asked by Umair Ahmed to go to the bathroom. Feeling threatened by Ahmed’s behaviour and the fact that Ahmed was wielding the ring and a pair of scissors, the Sikh student feared for his safety and followed his attacker’s instructions to go to the bathroom with him.
It was in the bathroom where Ahmed allegedly forced the victim to remove his turban, which he wore over his then-unshorn hair, and then proceeded to cut the Sikh boy’s hair after threatening physical harm. The hair was thrown into the toilet and onto the floor by the attacker. After the incident, UNITED SIKHS worked with the victim and his family to relocate the child to another school due to the fact that his original school claimed they could not guarantee his safety.
Kesh, or unshorn hair, is a Sikh article of faith that is obligatory for a Sikh to keep at all times. Historically, Sikhs have gone so far as to endure torture and even die before allowing their hair to be cut. “Cutting a Sikh’s hair is an attack, not only on a Sikh as a person, but also an attack on their faith,” commented Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney for UNITED SIKHS. “UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh community hope to see justice served for the Sikh boy and his family for the grievous emotional and spiritual blow they have been dealt.”
Ahmed was indicted in September of 2007 by a grand jury that added the four additional hate crime charges. Ahmed was charged with the following counts:
- Menacing in the second degree, as a hate crime (2 counts)
- Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree, as a hate crime (2 counts)
- Aggravated harassment in the second degree
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
- Harassment in the second degree
- Coercion in the second degree as a hate crime (2 counts)
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