Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin LadenIsrael news photo: (file)

An organization representing Sikhs in the United States has approached several large American retailers with a plea to remove from their shelves Halloween masks of Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin-Laden wearing a turban. Sikhs are being stereotyped as terrorists, resulting in attacks on Sikhs who are not terrorists, and not even Muslim, the group said.

After numerous appeals by the Sikh Coalition, Walmart last week agreed to pull the masks from its shelves.

In its appeal to Walmart, Amazon, Sears, and other retailers, the group said that masks - being sold under the product names “Fun World Adult Men's Osama Bin Laden Middle East Costume Turban + Beard” and “Turban Beard Adult Halloween Instant Costume” - encouraged “negative stereotypes about turbans and beards that have led to violence and discrimination against Sikhs and other minorities.”

In a study conducted earlier this year by Stanford University, 49% of Americans said they believed that Sikhism was an offshoot of Islam, and the Coalition cited the study as an example of the ignorance of many Americans that leads to ongoing attacks against members of the religion.

Last weekend, the group said, Columbia University assistant professor Dr. Prabhjot Singh was attacked in Manhattan when a large group of teenagers shouted "get Osama" and "terrorist" as they surrounded him on bicycles and then attacked him. Singh wears a turban and beard in adherence to his Sikh faith.

"There were about twenty of them," said Singh, who is an assistant professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. “A few surrounded me and started punching me." The attack occurred near 110th St. and Lennox Ave. Shortly after the incident a Muslim woman was attacked a few blocks away. There were several witnesses to both incidents,” Singh was quoted as saying on the coalition's web site.

"This is a tremendous blow not just to Prabhjot and Sikh Americans but to the ideals of all New Yorkers," the site quoted Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition, as saying. “What happened did not happen in a vacuum. Here in New York City we regularly receive reports that Sikh school children are called 'Bin Laden' or 'terrorist' by classmates and sometimes endure physical violence.”

Walmart is the only retailer that has responded so far to the Coalition's requests, the group said. The beard and turban kit is currently available on Amazon and numerous other retail sites.