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Columbia professor grateful for support after attack

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MEGHAN BARR | AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Columbia University professor who is Sikh and who has written about violence against the religion's followers said Monday he was overwhelmed by the support he received since being attacked by a group of young men who called him "Osama" and a "terrorist."

Prabjhot Singh, 31, told reporters he is thankful that his injuries, including a fractured lower jaw, are not worse.

The attack occurred around 8 p.m. Saturday in upper Manhattan. Singh said he was walking with a friend after dropping off his 1-year-old and his wife at the family's apartment when he was approached by a group of 15 or 20 young men.

"I heard `Get him. Osama.' I heard `terrorist.' And I felt somebody grab my beard," Singh said. "What ensued was punching until I was ultimately on the ground."

Singh said three bystanders intervened and stopped any further damage but his lower jaw was fractured and was wired by an oral surgeon.

He said he is working with investigators from the NYPD hate crimes unit. An NYPD spokeswoman confirmed that police are investigating it as a bias attack.

Sikhism is a religion that originated in India. Its practitioners have been targeted by attackers who in some cases confuse Sikhism and Islam because Sikh men and boys are required to wear turbans and beards.

Singh was the co-author of an op-ed piece in The New York Times last year accusing the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti-Sikh violence.

The article was a response to the Aug. 5, 2012, shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee in which a white supremacist killed six people before fatally shooting himself. In it, Singh and his co-author argued that it is wrong "to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim." They said Sikhs themselves have historically been targeted.

Singh said that after Saturday he feels "a deep amount of empathy for all the other people who have experienced things like this, whether or not it makes the news."


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