New York : A teenager of Pakistani origin is facing up to seven years imprisonment after he ripped off the turban of a Sikh student and cut off his hair at a high school here.
Seventeen year old Umair Ahmed and another unnamed 15-year-old student were arrested Friday following the incident which happened at the Newton High School in Elmhurst Thursday, according to local media reports.
The incident took place after the three got into an argument in which the victim, identified as Vacher Harpal by the New York Times, reportedly made derogatory remarks about Umair's mother.
Vacher apologized soon after but Umair was not satisfied. Around noon, Umair appeared in front of Vacher holding a scissor and said, "I have to cut your hair."
When the Sikh boy said that it was against his religion to cut his hair, Umair pointed to a ring on his finger inscribed in Arabic and said, "This ring is Allah. If you don't let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring."
NY1 web news channel quoted police commissioner Ray Kelly having said,"Vacher was then taken into the boys bathroom in the school and with two other boys acting as lookouts, Umair cut the hair of the Sikh youth."
Umair then threw the hair into the toilet and on the floor. According to reports, Umair has been charged with second-degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, second-degree menacing as a hate crime, second-degree aggravated harassment, second-degree harassment and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He faces up to seven years in prison.
A report in Newsday quoted Queens district attorney Richard Brown as having said, "The defendant is not accused of some schoolhouse prank, but an attack on the fundamental beliefs of his victim's religion and his freedom to worship freely."
The other 15-year-old is being treated as a juvenile. Charges against a third boy, who provided the scissors to Umair but did not take part in the attack, are pending.
There are around 250,000 South Asians in New York and relations between them are generally cordial.