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Sep 24, 2013 09:45 AM EDT

Columbia University Professor Thanks Well-Wishers for Their Over-Whelming Support Following Hate Crime Attack (UPDATE)

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Prabhjot Singh, a 31-year-old Columbia University professor, expressed his gratitude for the support he received from around the world after he was attacked by a group of young men who called him 'Osama' and a 'terrorist.' The Sikh professor sustained injuries from the incident, including a fractured lower jaw.

Singh, a father of one, also expressed his wish to teach his attackers about Sikh religion and collaborate with the NYPD and community leaders to create awareness about Sikhism, which is different from Islam.

Singh said the young assailants were uninformed about the religion.

"I think it's pointless to ask what was going through their minds," the physician said. "I would ask them if they had any questions, if they knew what they were doing? Invite them where we worship. Get to know who we are and then share it with your friends."

Sikhism is a 500-year-old religion born in the state of Punjab, India.

According to the New York Daily News, about half a million Sikhs live in the U.S., and there are Sikh enclaves in Queens and Northern New Jersey. Sikh men wear turbans and beards because their religion does not allow them to cut their hair.

Singh, an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia, wears a turban and beard, respecting his religion's rules.

"The turban and the beard are causing quite a bit of confusion," said Jasjit Singh of the Sikh American Legal Defense Education Fund. "The number one figure associated with the turban and beard among the average American is that of Osama Bin Laden. The face of violence, extremism and terrorism over the last couple of decades is the face of our faith."

Following 9/11, there has been several hate crime incidents across America on Sikhs by miscreants who mistake them for Muslims. Last year, a neo-Nazi shot down six Sikhs at a Wisconsin temple.

After Saturday's incident Singh feels 'a deep amount of empathy for all the other people who have experienced things like this, whether or not it makes news.'

Singh hopes that the stereotype of a man with a beard and a turban will vanish in the course of time. In due course, people will understand that a Sikh person would stand by a person in times of need, instead of invoking fear.

"We can recognize that turban and beard sitting next to you on a plane may be your first line of defense," Singh said. "The first person to jump into a line of trouble for you."

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