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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-03-03-2008-00.htm

Press Release: 3rd Mar 2008, Friday, 21th Phalgun (Samvat 539 Nanakshahi )

Press Release

Sikh Schoolboy to Receive Justice for Forced Haircut?

Queens, New York – Court is in session this week for the Sikh schoolboy whose hair was forcibly cut at the hands of a classmate in May 2007. The defendant, Umair Ahmed, 17, has been indicted on a total of nine charges, four of which are hate crimes. The trial began on Friday and is likely to proceed through this week.

The incident in question 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, whose name is not being released in order to protect his identity, was allegedly approached by 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. 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. Currently, Ahmed is being 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)

You may read a previous press release on a hate crime victim assisted by UNITED SIKHS at:

Issued by

Baljit Kaur
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)
Email: law@unitedsikhs.org
1 646 315 3909

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