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Police Investigating Possible Bias Attack On Columbia Professor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Police are investigating a possible bias attack after a professor at Columbia University was assaulted by a group of young men over the weekend in upper Manhattan.

It happened just after 8 p.m. Saturday on 110th Street near Lennox Avenue.

Prabhjot Singh, who is Sikh, was approached by a group of 12 to 15 young men on bicycles making anti-Muslim statements, police said.

Police Investigating Possible Bias Attack On Columbia Professor

Some shouted "get Osama" and "terrorist" as the incident progressed, Singh said.

One of the men pulled his beard and as the group fled, they kicked him several times to the body and face, police said.

Prabhjot Singh speaks out about alleged bias attack against him
Prabhjot Singh speaks out about alleged bias attack against him, Sept. 23, 2013. (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

"Punching until I was ultimately on the ground," Singh said at an afternoon press conference on the Columbia campus.

Singh needed surgery for a broken jaw, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

Police Investigating Possible Bias Attack On Columbia Professor

Singh said three people "who could have just walked by," stepped in a chased off the pack of boys.

The NYPD released surveillance video of a group of young men on bicycles near the scene of the attack. They are wanted for questioning in connection with the incident.

Singh co-wrote a New York Times op-ed last year about the very thing he said happened to him: hate attacks on Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.

According to a Stanford University study sponsored by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 70 percent of Americans misidentify turban-wearers in the U.S. as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto when nearly all turban-wearers in the U.S. adhere to Sikhism, SALDEF said.

"Here you have a practicing doctor, a teacher and a community servant falling victim to hate in the largest and proudest melting pot in America," Jasjit Singh, SALDEF's executive director, said in a statement. "This violence is an affront to all Americans' core values."

Sikh Coalition spokesman Amardeep Sing added that children are frequently targeted as well.

"Over 50% of our kids are bullied, called Bin Laden and terrorist," Amardeep said.

The physician and professor said he hopes his 1-year-old son will not have to endure discrimination as he grows up.

"I want to live in a community where somebody feels comfortable asking me 'hey what's on your head? Why do you have that beard?'" Singh said.

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the attack Monday, calling it a "senseless act."

"We are shocked and appalled to hear the news that Dr. Singh, who has been a thoughtful voice on anti-Sikh hate crimes, was a victim of a brutal and senseless act of hate in his own neighborhood," the ADL said in a statement.

As he recovers from his injuries Dr. Singh pondered what could cause this type of violence.

"Think we need to know who gave these kids the green light to hate," he told CBS 2's John Slattery.

There have been no arrests.

The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force is investigating.

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