December 12, 2001
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Thugs beat up Los Angeles Sikh, accuse him of being bin Laden

Anger against Asians in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks continues in the United States, the latest victim being 47-year old Surinder Singh Sidhu, a liquor store owner who was beaten by thugs accusing him of being Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

Los Angeles police list the attack on Sidhu as a hate crime, one of more than 100 logged since September 11.

Surinder Singh Sidhu had been wearing a star-spangled turban to show his patriotism - and to protect himself.

For a Sikh fearful of being mistaken for a Muslim, it worked until this week when, he said, thugs entered his North Hills store, accused him of being Osama bin Laden and beat him with metal poles, media reports said.

"I've been here 25 years, and this has never happened," Sidhu said on Friday at a news conference called to seek help in finding his attackers.

"I love this country. It's the land of freedom," he said.

The Los Angeles Daily News quoted the police describing the incident as a hate crime.

"It's absolutely unacceptable to have anybody attack anybody because of how they choose to worship," it quoted Joe Curreri, captain of the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire division in Northridge, as saying.

"It was obvious that they were attacking him not because they wanted anything from him but because of what he looked like," Curreri said.

"They obviously had hate in their minds when they walked into the store because they had metal pipes with them."

Describing the events on the fateful day, Sidhu said he was preparing to close his liquor mart store in the 16100 block of Nordhoff Street at about 2300 hours (local time) on Monday when two men armed with 4-foot metal poles walked in and asked, "Are you bin Laden?" Sidhu said.

"No, I'm a Sikh from Punjab, India," he relied adding that in America, only Sikhs wear turbans.

"We'll kill bin Laden today," they said and then hit him about two dozen times with the poles, said Sidhu, 47, who lives in Valencia.

Sidhu managed to escape after pushing over a shelf of candy onto his attackers, described as being white men, about 23-years-old.

Sidhu was treated for head injuries at a local hospital.

"The crime was regrettable but not surprising," Kirtan Singh Khalsa, spokesman for the Khalsa Council, an international council for Sikh affairs, said.

More than 200 have been reported nationwide, he said.

"We're deeply concerned by this event. But we are not shocked," Khalsa said, adding, "Sikhs are accustomed to ridicule because of wearing turbans."


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