Harkirat Singh, a practicing Sikh, says his turban is like his crown. He's wearing a new one this week after his old one was ripped from his head by passengers who attacked him, calling him "Ali Baba."
Singh said he picked the passengers up at Eighth Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday.
The passengers typed in their destination in his GPS: Jerome Avenue and 165th Street in the Bronx. But when they got there, the passengers — three men and a woman — said he was at the wrong location.
“I was scared. They were, you know, hitting the partition, like this. They were shouting in my cab,” Singh said. “I say, ‘Stop this. Why are you doing this?’”
The passengers sent him in a couple different directions before he finally tried to kick them out and call police. That’s when a scuffle ensued. Singh snapped a photo of two of the passengers as they were outside the cab.
Moments later, Singh said they smashed his meter, punched his arm and pulled his turban off his head, calling him “Ali Baba.”
“He picked up my turban from my head, and after he said, ‘Now you see Ali Baba,’” Singh said.
Mayor de Blasio tweeted Tuesday that Singh did the right thing when he called police. Meanwhile, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim civil rights organization, condemned the attack.
Harpreet Singh Toor, of The Sikh Cultural Society, says taking a turban is a violation worse than death.
"As a human being, as a Sikh, I would prefer to die than somebody taking off my turban and walking away with it,” Singh Toor said.
Singh moved to New York City from India three years ago. Despite the attack on him, he said he’s encouraged by all the support.
Police are searching for the passengers. The NYPD hasn’t said if the attack is being investigated as a hate crime.