Times of India (Gurgaon, Haryana), May 27, 2007
A Pakistani high school student who admitted to cops that he forcibly cut the hair of a Sikh classmate despite knowing its religious significance has been charged with hate crime.
Umair Ahmed, 17, was released on a $ 5000 bail, but on a day of conflicting accounts and great agitation among New York City’s Sikh community, he later changed his story and insisted the Sikh boy had cut his own hair.
However, prosecutors said that he initially told cops of the 110th precinct “I know that his hair is part of his religion . . . I cut his hair.” The attack happened on Thursday noon in a boy’s bathroom near the Newton High School cafeteria in Elmhurst, Queens. According to the DA’s office, Ahmed walked up to the Sikh boy, Harpal Vacher and said, “I have to cut your hair,” after they had had an altercation. He was holding a pair of scissors.
Vacher, the DA’s office release reported, replied: “For what? It is against my religion.” Ahmed displayed a ring inscribed with Arabic words, and said: “This ring is Allah. If you don’t let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring.” Ahmed then forced Vacher into a boys bathroom, cut his hair to the neckline, then threw the hair into a toilet and onto the floor. One student, who was not charged, stood at the bathroom door and acted as a lookout, police said.
The incident followed an argument in which Vacher reportedly made derogatory comments about Ahmed’s mother. Vacher had apologised, but Ahmed did not accept it, according to the police.
Ahmed was arrested on charges of second degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, and second degree menacing as a hate crime, as well as criminal possession of a weapon and aggravated harassment, after the school brought the incident to their notice.