In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, while Americans of all faiths came together to pray for the victims and assist the survivors, some turned their anger against Americans perceived to be Arab or Muslim. The 9/11 backlash resulted in over 600 bias-motivated attacks, primarily targeting Muslim Americans, but also sweeping in Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs, South Asians, and Hispanics.
Individuals, Homes, Businesses
In the week immediately following the attack on the Twin Towers, a man praying for the victims of 9/11 at a Hindu temple in Queens was attacked with a BB gun as he left. In Richardson, Texas, a Hindu man was assaulted and beaten by several men. In Somerset, Massachusetts, three teens threw a molotov cocktail at a convenience store owned by Ashwin Patel. In Ronkonkoma, New York, a store clerk was assaulted with a handgun. In Salem, Oregon, vandals left a sign “Towell [sic] Heads Go-Home!” outside a convenience store owned by a Hindu American. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, a gas station owned by an Indian family was vandalized.
On September 15, 2001, an Indian man was assaulted in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. On the same night, a Hindu faculty member at New Mexico State University was attacked by a group of men in a parking lot. In Augusta, Georgia, a man called in bomb threats against a hotel on 15th Street owned by Indians, having assumed they were Muslim. Furthermore, in Fort Worth, Texas, three middle schoolers were charged with “terroristic threatening” after harassing an Indian classmate. In Kent, Washington, John Bethel assaulted a man of Indian descent. In Plainsboro, New Jersey, Madhusudhan Natarajan was nearly run over while returning from a grocery store. On September 28, 2001, the Sultan Sandwich Shop, owned by Raj Desai, was burned down in a suspected arson.
On October 4, 2001, Mark Stroman shot and killed Vasudev Patel in Dallas as part of a revenge shooting after the 9/11 attacks. The attacks also killed another person, and seriously injured Bangladeshi immigrant Saif Bhuyan, who later forgave Stroman. On
October 16, 2001, Andrew Savage of Racine, Wisconsin, was charged with a hate crime for verbally harassing an Indian store employee. On October 21, 2001, another Indian Hindu was mistaken for being of Middle Eastern descent and beaten by a group of Asian men in Anaheim, California.
In June 2002, Robert Rowland attacked three Indian Americans in Gainesville, Florida, spraying them with bug spray and harassing them.
On June 25, 2003, Boston deliveryman Saurabh Bhalerao was attacked by a group of four to five men while he was out delivering pizzas. The men beat Bhalerao, robbed him, tortured him by burning him with cigarettes, and left him in the trunk of his car, where Bhalerao prayed to Lord Rama to keep calm.
On June 1, 2006, the home of a Hindu family in Wayne, New Jersey was vandalized with threats to the family and anti-Hindu slurs. The vandals threatened to burn down the family’s home and kill their kids.
On May 22, 2007, Karishma Dhanak, a Hindu student at UC Irvine, was attacked and killed by her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Iftekhar Murteza. Murteza burned and killed Dhanak and her father, while seriously injuring her mother, who was left in a three-week coma. The attack was allegedly motivated by the family’s Hindu faith, which Dhanak’s parents saw as a barrier to Murteza’s relationship with their daughter.
On July 1, 2007, Indo-Fijian immigrant Satendar Singh was attacked and killed by Russian immigrants. Singh was allegedly targeted because of his perceived homosexuality and because he was dancing to Indian music.
In July 2007, Vishal Wadhwa was attacked in South Lake Tahoe, California by Joseph and Georgia Silva. The Silvas first followed Wadhwa, calling him an “Indian piece of garbage” and made reference to “Indian sluts and whores,” “terrorists,” and “relatives of Osama Bin Laden.” When Wadhwa asked them to stop calling him names, they attacked him, breaking his orbital socket, and causing him severe physical injury. To the outrage of the local community, the Silvas’ hate crime charges were dropped.
On November 8, 2008, Oregon native David Lee Katon assaulted a man from India in Longview, Washington believing the man to be a member of Al Qaeda.
In June 2009, a nine year old Hindu boy (name withheld at request of the boy’s father) was forced to eat beef at a Cincinnati charter school. A complaint was filed with the US Department of Justice complaining about the school’s serving of beef to the child, contrary to his religious beliefs.
In July 2010, Jason Wallace attacked his Indian roommate Latchman Ramnarine in New York city. Wallace gouged out Latchman’s eyes, while screaming “I hate Indian people.”
On October 9, 2010, two members of ISKCON, Damadora Roe and Patel Delgado, were attacked by James Gregory Faleris outside a football game in Gainesville, Florida. According to witnesses, Faleris spat in Delgado’s face, used homosexual slurs, and then attacked Roe, before being restrained by a police officer.
On November 21, 2011, Atul Lall, a 32 year old engineer, was attacked by three assailants in a grocery store parking lot in San Jose, California. Lall was beaten with a tequila bottle, spit on, and called a “terrorist.” The injuries left Lall with nightmares, a shattered jaw, and six missing teeth.
On December 27, 2012, Erika Menendez, of New York City pushed Hindu man Sunando Sen in front of a Subway train, killing him. Elaborating on her reasons for attacking Sen, Menendez noted that she “hate[s] Hindus and Muslims.” Menendez was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the assault.
In July and August 2014, a number of homes, parks, and public spaces in Loudoun County, Virginia, were vandalized with anti-Hindu messages. Over 17 incidents of vandalism were reported, including messages that said “No Hindus” and “No Hindus Allowed.” Despite an aggressive response by the community, and organizations such as the Hindu American Foundation, no arrests were made connected to the vandalism.
In October 2014, burglars in Cedar Park, Texas targeted Hindu homes for attacks during the holy Hindu festival of Diwali. Cedar Park police confirmed four separate Hindu homes were targeted in a span of three days, and that similar attacks had occurred the previous year.
Between October 20 and November 29, 2014, five Hindu families were targeted for burglaries in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Authorities believed that the houses were targets because they celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali, during which they’d use gold ornaments and valuables. The brutality of the burglaries, and initial lack of response from law enforcement, created a backlash from the local community, leading to the eventual arrests of five individuals.
On Feb. 6, 2015, Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year old Hindu grandfather, who spoke little English, was attacked by police officer Eric Parker in Madison, Alabama. The attack left Patel partially paralyzed. After two mistrials, Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala acquitted Parker of federal civil rights violations in the assault.
On July 7, 2015, Rohit Patel of North Brunswick, New Jersey, was attacked by 24-year-old Nyle Kilgore. Kilgore saw Patel out on a walk, struck him on the head, and left him beaten and bleeding on a public sidewalk.
On November 29, 2015, an arsonist burned 40 Hindu flags in the courtyard of a family in Queens, New York. Despite television footage of the crime, the arsonist managed to escape police at the scene.
On December 5, 2015, an Indian Penn State student was assaulted by a fellow classmate, Nicholas Tavella. Tavella followed the student, asking if he was going to rape a girl and if he was from the Middle East. He then grabbed the Indian student by the throat, saying, “Don’t make me put a bullet in your chest.”
On May 27, 2016, an Indian taxi driver in Palo Alto, California asked a man parked in multiple spots to move his car. The man began to shout racist remarks at the driver, eventually punching him in the jaw and throwing the driver’s phone at his head. He then ran his car into the taxi and drove away.
On July 9, 2016, an Indian inn owner and his family were the victims of an attempted assault by a man who said he was “trained to kill people like them.” The man told the innkeeper, Preet Moudgil of Kettle Falls, Washington, that he was “going to cut [him] up because [he’s] a terrorist.” He brandished a knife and pushed Moudgil’s father, however, the family was able to escape unscathed. The family is both Sikh and Hindu.
On November 22, 2016, Jeffrey Burgess assaulted Ankur Mehta at a Bethel Park, Pennsylvania Red Robin due to his race. Allegedly, Burgess thought Mehta was an Arab, calling him racial slurs and repeatedly punching him in the head, neck, and throat. Mehta suffered a head injury, fractured jaw, and a lost tooth as a result of the assault.
On December 21, 2016, activist Aravinda Pillalamarri was stopped by a police officer in her Bel Air, Maryland neighborhood. The law official pressed her on whether she was in the United States legally, and antagonized her for not having ID on her in her own neighborhood.
In early February 2017, an Indian family’s house in Peyton, Colorado was vandalized with racist messages, feces, and eggs. The messages expressed that the family should not be in the United States and targeted their Indian heritage.
On February 22, 2017, Adam Purinton shot two Indian Hindu men at a bar in Olathe, Kansas,, killing Hindu immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring Alok Madasani. Prior to the shooting, Purinton repeatedly yelled racist remarks at the pair, yelling “Get out of my country” as he fired his weapon. At a different bar, Purinton admitted to killing two Iranians in Olathe. On May 22, 2018, Purinton who had already been found guilty in state court of the murder and attempted murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, pleaded guilty to Federal hate crime and firearms charges.
On March 2, 2017, Indian store owner Harnish Patel was found dead outside of his Lancaster, South Carolina home. The three people charged in the murder allegedly planned to “smash an Indian.”
On March 10, 2017, Richard Leslie LLoyd attempted to burn down an Indian-owned convenience store in Port St. Lucie, Florida in an effort to “run the Arabs out of our country.”
On August 23, 2017, GMM Nonstick Coatings CEO Ravin Gandhi posted an op-ed denouncing Donald Trump for his response to the Charlottesville Rally. Soon, he began receiving racist emails and voicemails, telling him to go back to India, amongst other hateful messages.
On February 23, 2017, Ekta Desai, an Indian origin New Yorker, was verbally abused by a man on the subway. The man repeatedly called her and another Asian woman on the train racial slurs, which included telling them to go back to their country.
On September 18, 2017, Hindu storeowners Rajesh and Vidhya Patnaik found their sign-printing shop in Indianapolis vandalized with anti-Hindu messages. The graffiti called Hindus “traitors” and “satanists”, amongst other messages.
On October 28, 2017, two men were shot at the Bharatiya Temple and Cultural Center in Lexington, Kentucky. The attack took place during a Diwali celebration, and the perpetrator fled the scene. The incident, however, was not investigated as a hate crime.
In November 2017, a racist mailer was sent out around Edison, New Jersey targeting Asian American candidates. The mailer said that Chinese and Indian populations were taking over their schools, and called to deport the candidates.
On February 10, 2018, three Seattle teens, including Aditya Sastry, an Indian American, were targets of racial slurs and remarks by a white woman. She repeatedly asked Sastry where he was from while using derogatory language. Sastry filmed this and posted the video online, although the woman later took his phone and attempted to smash it.
Houses of Worship and Religious Institutions
Because they are frequently located in rural locations with little security, and due to their visibility and unique architecture, Hindu houses of worship are frequently targets of vandalism, trespassing, and sometimes, of burglary.
While most communities are welcoming of Hindu temples and ashrams, other temples have faced hostility and harassment from their neighbors as well. The following is a catalogue of all the reported attacks on Hindu temples and houses of worship in the past fifteen years.
On September 12, 2001, a Hindu temple in Matawan, New Jersey was firebombed with a molotov cocktail. On the same day, a Hindu temple in Medinah, Illinois was also attacked.
In 2003, the Hindu Cultural Center in Chandler, Arizona was defaced with Nazi symbols, as a part of a rise in hate group attacks on houses of worship.
In March 2003, two teens, Paul Laird and Nathaniel Conner, firebombed a Hindu temple in St. Louis, Missouri. Despite the attack, police did not press hate crime charges, believing that the attack stemmed from “boredom”.
On November 27, 2003, Ashland, Massachusetts teen Anthony Picciolo spray painted hateful messages on the Sri Lakshmi temple. Picciolo was never convicted of the crime. Earlier that year, the Hindu Temple of St. Louis was firebombed twice in a week. The temple’s massive metal doors blocked the first firebomb.
In April 2006, two teens, Paul Spakousky and Tyler Toumie broke into the Maple Grove Hindu Mandir in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The teens destroyed many sacred statues, and caused over $200,000 in property damage.
In June 2006, a concrete statue was stolen from the construction site of the Sarvajana Mandir in Harvest, Alabama.
In July 2007, teens used molotov cocktails to set fire to two lamp posts at the Sri Lakshmi temple in Ashland, Massachusetts. On August 4, 2007, the same group of teens left a number of molotov cocktails on the premises of the temple to burn, where they were discovered by the police. The attacks were not prosecuted as hate crimes.
On June 4, 2010, thieves broke into the Sarvajana Mandir in Harvest, Alabama, and stole two hand-carved murtis of Lord Jaya and Vijaya, worth over $50,000. This theft was a second attack on the temple, after a previous theft in 2006.
In March 2011, a group of men attacked a security guard at the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburgh, one of the oldest Hindu temples in the country. They tied up the security guard at gunpoint, and stole three safes from the temple, containing over $15,000 in cash.
On January 1, 2012, Ray Lazier Lengend, a 40-year old New York man firebombed a Hindu temple in Queens, New York, as part of a series of firebombing targeting Hindus, Muslims, and Arabs.
On November 13, 2012, a giant Shiva statue displayed in front of the Indian Cultural Society Hindu Temple in Wayne, New Jersey, was stolen.
In January 2013, a group of men broke into and robbed the Hindu Mandir in Irvine, California. The attacks were a part of a series of attacks of houses of worship including nearly a dozen churches and an Islamic center.
On May 3, 2013, two men, Melshidezek Reyes and Peter Bergman, entered the Hare Krishna Temple in Alachua, Florida. They proceeded to douse the temple floor in bleach, break vases, and destroy books. They also defecated on the floor and clogged the toilets.
On August 2, 2014, vandals attacked the Vishwa Bhavan Hindu Mandir in Monroe, Georgia. The vandals entered the temple, which is supported mostly by the Caribbean Hindu community, desecrated a sacred murthi of Lord Shiva, cut the telephone lines, and spray painted profanity on the walls. The police made arrests a month later but did not charge the arrestees with hate crimes.
On February 15, 2015, vandals attacked the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Bothell, Washington. The vandals painted anti-Hindu and anti-Muslim messages on the side of the temple and spray painted two large swastikas in an apparent attempt at intimidation.
11 days later after the incident in Bothell, on February 26, 2015, the Kent Hindu temple in neighboring Kent, Washington, was attacked. The vandals broke eight windows, destroyed the metal frames with rocks, and scrawled the word “fear” on the walls.
On April 13, 2015, the North Texas Hindu Mandir was vandalized with symbols of devil worship. The attack shocked both the Hindu worshippers, and the non-Hindus in the area, who worked to help clean up the graffiti.
On July 11, 2015, vandals fired multiple shotgun blasts at a sign marking a planned Hindu temple in Clemmons, North Carolina. The temple’s leadership announced their intention to continue building the temple despite the vandalism.
On March 20, 2016, Sankar Sastri found a severed cow head at his Upper Mount Bethel Township, Pennsylvania cow sanctuary. Lakshmi Cow and Animal Sanctuary was founded by Sastri as a home for cows, driven by his Hindu beliefs. Police called the incident ethnic intimidation.
On September 25, 2017 a window was smashed at a Wilton, Connecticut Hindu temple, resulting in $1,500 worth of damage.
On October 14, 2017, vandals were caught on camera in a Hindu temple under construction in West Palm Beach, Florida. The temple had been subject to four cases of vandalism in five months, which included anti-Semitic graffiti, broken windows, and trashing of the interior.
In late January 2019, a Kentucky Hindu temple was vandalized with Christian supremacist graffiti. The vandal, a local teen, was quickly apprehended.
Trends and Analysis
Looking at the overall number of suspected hate crimes reported in the media, there are two important trends to note.
First, two important spikes in the incidents must be noted: the first occurring right after the 9/11 attacks; the second occurring in 2014-15.
The first spike is more easily explainable, coming as a part of a backlash from the attacks targeting Arab and Muslim Americans, and those who could be mistaken for such, including Sikh, Hindu, and other South Asian Americans. However, the 2014 spike is not tied to any such major terrorist attack.
The second trend is a shift in the types of incidents occurring.
Out of 18 reported incidents in the last three months of 2001, two were attacks on houses of worship, four were attacks on private or commercial property, while the remaining twelve were physical attacks or harassment of individuals. In contrast, out of the 33 incidents in 2014 and 2015, there were only two attacks on individuals, with the rest of the incidents comprising of vandalism, attacks on houses of worship, and home invasions. Subsequent to 2015, there were 18 incidents, 14 of which were directed towards individuals and four against houses of worship.