Published December 05, 2011
FRESNO, Calif. – A Sikh man waiting for a plane at Fresno Yosemite International Airport was stabbed in a seemingly unprovoked attack, police said.
The victim was treated at the airport and boarded his flight taking him to another one bound for India.
Fresno police said Mitchell Dufur, 26, stabbed the Sikh man in his 50s in the upper torso Sunday evening near the security checkpoint. No words were exchanged before the attack. The man was standing with his translator when the attack occurred.
Dufur was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a knife in an airport.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations urged the FBI and police Monday to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.
"Sikh men who wear beards and turbans as part of their faith are often targeted by bigots who mistake them for Muslims," said Sacramento CAIR Executive Director Basim Elkarra.
Gina Swankie of the FBI's Sacramento office said agents were having "a dialogue with the group," but she would not confirm whether they had opened an investigation. Police Lt. Don Gross said investigators have not determined whether it was a hate crime because Dufur has refused to talk to police about his motive.
Two elderly Sikh men were gunned down in suburban Sacramento on March 4. Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Atwal, 78 when they were walking through a neighborhood in Elk Grove. Police are investigating the fatal shootings as a possible hate crime potentially linked to the men's appearance. Both men wore turbans and long beards.
Sikhism developed in the Punjab region of northern India. Sikhs in the U.S. have occasionally been the target of anti-Muslim sentiment because they wear turbans and have beards.