Man Caught on Camera Attacking Sikh Taxi Driver, Knocking Off His Turban at JFK Airport Arrested, Charged with Hate Crime

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A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime after he was caught on camera attacking a Sikh taxi driver at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier this month.

The driver, who is a member of the Sikh faith, was at a taxi stand outside Terminal 4 at the airport on Jan. 3 when he a verbal altercation took place between him and 21-year-old Mohamed Hassanain, who then assaulted him in video footage that went viral on social media.

'Go Back to Your Country'

Sikh taxi driver attacked
Stills from the video that went viral on social media. Twitter

Hassanain was seen hitting the victim in the face and body multiple times and even knocking off the driver's turban. Watch the video below:

Hassanain told investigators that he was at the airport to pick up his girlfriend and attacked the cab driver after he cursed at him. "I saw a cab driver there who cursed at me. I threw a punch and cursed at him," said Hassanain, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Queens District Attorney's Office.

The victim says during the incident Hassanain told him, "You turban guy, go back to your country," the complaint states. After the attack, the driver went to a hospital with pain in his chest and arms, according to the complaint.

The New York City Police Department arrested Hassanain on Thursday and he was arraigned in Queens County Criminal Court on Friday. He is charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime, assault in the third degree, and harassment in the second degree, according to the complaint.

Victim Releases Statement Following Hassanain's Arrest

The video sparked outrage among the Sikh community. "For those who aren't Sikh, I can't put into words what it means to have your turban knocked off -- or to see someone else's turban knocked off," Simran Jeet Singh, senior fellow for the Sikh Coalition, said in a tweet a day after the alleged incident.

"It's visceral and gut-wrenching and just so disheartening to witness," he tweeted.

"I am thankful to law enforcement, the Sikh Coalition, and all those in the community who have offered their strength in this difficult time," the victim, identified only as "Mr. Singh" by the Sikh Coalition, said in a statement released by the organization Friday following Hassanain's arrest.

"No one should experience what I did -- but if they do, I hope they receive the same overwhelming amount of support and quick, professional action by the authorities in response," Mr. Singh added.

"We are shocked and angered too, Mr. Singh," New York City Mayor Eric Adams tweeted Friday. "This is an outrageous attack. We say 'hate has no home' in New York City and we're living that value."

Hassanain's next court appearance is scheduled for March 8, according to the district attorney's office.

This article was first published on January 18, 2022