ROCK ISLAND, IL, USA—A passenger put a gun to the head of a Sikh Uber driver after demanding to know “which country do you belong to?” and telling him “I hate turban people” on Sunday, January 28th.
Gurjeet Singh, a father and husband who wears the religiously mandated Sikh turban and beard, has lived in Northwest Illinois for the last three years and serves as the head granthi (religious community leader) at his local gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). Mr. Singh faced the assailant while driving for Uber and then notified police the next day about the clear bias-based assault. In the nearly three weeks since, despite repeated outreach by the Sikh Coalition, the suspect remains free. While the Rock Island Sheriff’s Department has informed the Sikh Coalition that the investigation continues, charges have not yet been submitted to the Rock Island State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The fact that no arrest has been made and hate crime charges have not yet been filed endangers the safety of Mr. Singh and the Quad Cities Sikh community,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Amrith Kaur. “The facts of this case are clear. We expect the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Police Department to arrest Mr. Singh’s attacker, and the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office to file hate crime charges immediately.”
At 10:39 pm on Sunday January 28th, Mr. Singh picked up a caucasian male and female in the alley next to Casey’s Tavern in Moline, IL. Mr. Singh started driving south towards the passengers’ home when the male passenger began asking Mr. Singh questions: “What is your status here?” “Which country do you belong to?” “Do you serve our country or do you serve your country?” Mr. Singh, a legal U.S. resident who speaks limited English, was confused and scared by the questions but attempted to explain that he serves both countries because his parents still live in India. In response, the male passenger got visibly angry and put a gun to Mr. Singh’s head while saying, “I hate turban people; I hate beard people.” Mr. Singh slammed on the brakes and the female passenger forcibly removed the male passenger from the vehicle. She then apologized for the male passenger’s behavior, and instructed Mr. Singh to drop her home and to avoid taking the same route back to eliminate another encounter with the male attacker.
“As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that this investigation is about as straightforward as it gets,” said Amrith Kaur. “We know this man has a gun, hates people with turbans and beards, and threatened to take our client’s life. Thanks to Uber’s smartphone application we know his identity. Nobody deserves to experience hate violence, and he should be arrested immediately.”
The hate-fueled violent threat against Mr. Singh is yet another incident in a long history of bias-based attacks against Sikhs across the country. Sikh Americans, who have been an integral part of the American fabric for 125 years, practice the fifth largest religion in the world. The articles of faith, including the beard and turban, represent equality and justice for all.
“This never should have happened, and I want my community and family to feel safe,” said Mr. Singh. “There must be justice for this hate crime. Authorities should arrest and charge the man who attacked me without further delays because bigotry has no place in our society.
The Sikh Coalition has represented hate crime clients throughout the United States for the past 17 years and is representing Gurjeet Singh in this case. For all media inquiries, please contact Mark Reading-Smith or Jagmeet Singh. They can connect you with Sikh Coalition lawyers for interviews, provide photos of Mr. Singh and screenshots of the Uber trip. At present, Mr. Singh and his family cannot conduct interviews, and we respect their privacy.