US boy charged with hate crime for burning Sikh’s turban

May 16th, 2008 - 10:44 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 16 (IANS) As demanded by the local Sikh community, US authorities have charged an American teenager with hate crime for setting fire to a fellow Sikh student’s turban in a New Jersey school. The accused, 18-year-old Garrett Green, has pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges of aggravated assault, bias intimidation, arson and criminal mischief in the incident at Hightstown High School in central New Jersey May 5.

Municipal Court Judge Gregory Williams has asked Green to appear before him May 21.

The victim, a 16-year-old Sikh boy who does not wish to be identified, did not suffer any major burns after his headgear (patka) was allegedly set on fire witn a cigarette lighter during a fire drill on the school playground.

Green was reported to the police by the school authorities and arrested soon after the incident. The police had earlier charged him with arson and criminal mischief but after investigation added THursday the hate crime to the charge of bias intimidation and aggravated assault.

“The bias intimidation was added because a patka, which is a Sikh religious symbol, was set afire,” a police officer said.

In a press release, the New York-based Sikh Coalition earlier this week demanded that the incident be treated as a hate crime. The coalition also said the victim suffered emotional damage in the incident.

His mother was quoted as saying: “No mother should have to worry that her child could be hurt at school because of the way he looks.”

Sikh children have been attacked in New Jersey schools earlier too. A bias-motivated attack against a Sikh boy at Marlboro High School in 2003 caused him severe head injuries, prompting his parents’ eventual decision to move him back to a school in Britain.

In 2006, New Jersey’s Department of Education sent a memorandum to school superintendents calling on all schools to protect Sikh children from harassment. That memorandum cited quite a few bias incidents against Sikh students in the state.

In a school in New York’s Queens area too, a Sikh student’s hair was forcibly cut last year. The accused fellow student was convicted of hate crime in March.

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