In a case of alleged racial profiling in the US, police surrounded a Sikh man carrying a kirpan after getting calls about an apparent Muslim walking around a shopping centre with a ‘large knife’ or ‘sword’.
Harpreet Singh Khalsa, 33, said he was the victim of racial profiling in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, but police stated that those who called in their concerns did the right thing.
Police in Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, received multiple calls about an apparent ‘Muslim man’ walking around the Bethlehem Square Shopping Center with a “large knife” or “sword”.
Multiple officers responded to find Khalsa sitting inside a van parked in the fire lane. “The cops surrounded me and told me to put my hands on my head,” Khalsa was quoted as saying by WFMZ-TV.
Khalsa, visiting from Maryland, was not carrying a large knife or sword. He was wearing a kirpan — one of the five articles of the Sikh faith. Khalsa said he was scared having so many officers around him.
“Embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, for even bothering to come to Bethlehem,” Khalsa said. Given recent attacks in New York and Minnesota, officers said people are on higher alert. “People are a little sensitive to things that are unusual,” said Captain Greg Gottschall, Bethlehem Township Police Department.
“They did the right thing. They called for us to come and check it out,” he was quoted as saying. However, Khalsa said he was racially profiled and misunderstood. “To have a caller in the first place is pointing to racism, clearly racism,” Khalsa said, adding that it was “fear-driven racism”.
Khalsa was not charged, and his kirpan was returned to him. But the Sikh man said he does not plan to come back to the Lehigh Valley and called the way he was treated “un-American”.