The Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, staged a demonstration and press conference in Darien, Illinois, today in support of Inderjit Singh Mukker, a Sikh man who was violently beaten days ahead of September 11 by a teen who yelled xenophobic and racist taunts at him.
The rally’s message was slightly altered following an announcement that the teen charged in Mukker’s beating would also be charged with committing a hate crime. In a statement this morning, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin announced that his office filed an amended juvenile petition to include the hate crime count, which is a class 4 felony. The filing happened after the Sikh Coalition, responding to the initial non-filing of hate crime charges, met with members of the State’s Attorney’s office yesterday and presented evidence that proved the racist and discriminatory nature of the assailant’s attack.
The rally, which made use of the hashtag “#TakeOnHate,” was attended by hundreds, including members of the Sikh Coalition and Mukker himself. At it, participants addressed the legacy of hate crimes against Sikhs, especially in the post-9/11 era. In his speech, Mukker addressed the duality of his identity:
The United States is my country. I am an American—and no American should be judged or attacked because of the color of their skin or their religion.
The rally coincided with the 14th anniversary of the 2001 murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi in Arizona. Sodhi, also Sikh, was shot at his gas station by someone who yelled xenophobic and Islamophobic slurs. His murder was the first nationally noted incident of post-9/11 hate violence targeting Sikhs, whose religious adherence to wearing turbans and beards is wrongfully interpreted by many (including Sodhi’s killer) as a sign that they’re Muslim.
Harsimran Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, spoke on the legacy of anti-Sikh hate violence in the years since 9/11 and praised the decision to charge the teen with a hate crime:
From Balbir Singh Sodhi’s tragic death to Inderjit Singh Mukker’s assault last week, we are all reminded of how much more we still have to do to combat the problem of hate in our country…. We are thankful that Robert Berlin and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office have filed hate crime charges in Mr. Mukker’s case. It sends a clear message to Sikhs and other minority communities throughout Chicago that our government will not tolerate this sort of misguided bigotry and violence.
Mukker, a 53-year-old father of two, was assaulted last week while driving to a grocery store in Darien. After pulling over to let an irate motorist pass, the motorist stopped and approached Mukker’s car before shouting epithets like, “Go home, Bin Laden” and beating Mukker. A photo of Mukker in the hospital with blood and bruises on his face made waves on social media.