Hindu Priest Brutally Attacked Outside Temple, Faith Groups Blame Trump's Attack on Immigrants: 'This Results in Real Harm Inflicted on Our Communities'

Faith groups are urging that hate crime charges be brought forward against a man accused of attacking a Hindu priest in New York.

Swami Harish Chander Puri Ji was beaten as he was walking down the street in religious attire near to the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oak, Queens, on the morning of July 18.

According to Pixx11, the suspect is alleged to have shouted "this is my neighborhood" during the attack.

Sergio Gouveia, 52, was later arrested on suspicion of assault, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. Police said they are still investigating whether the attack was a hate crime.

Hindu advocacy group Sadhana has now released a statement urging that the NYPD investigate the attack against Puri as a hate crime.

The statement, backed by dozens of multi-faith religious and community leaders, noted how the assault took place in the wake of President Donald Trump's tweets aimed at four non-white congresswomen. The president them to "go back" to the "crime infested places from which they came" despite all four being U.S. citizens and three being born in this country.

Days later, a crowd at a Trump rally in North Carolina began chanting "send her back" when he began talking about one of the women he attacked, Rep. Ilhan Omar. Omar was born in Somalia before immigrating to the U.S. as a child after her family fled the country's civil war.

"Bigotry and xenophobia does not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims, or black or brown skin," the statement said. "When the U.S. President targets immigrants and refugees and encourages chants of 'send her back' at rallies, this results in real harm inflicted on our communities.

"We are deeply heartbroken by reports of a brutal attack on Swami Harish Chander Puri Ji, priest of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oaks, Queens, NY. Swami Puri Ji was attacked on Thursday at 11 a.m. by a man who reportedly screamed 'this is my neighborhood.'

"It is deplorable that in a place as diverse as Queens, such an atrocity can occur.

"The remarks uttered by Swami Puri Ji's attacker are a blatant example of hate speech. Thus, we urge the NYPD to investigate this matter as a hate crime," the statement added.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter (CAIR-NY) also issued a statement condemning Trump's rhetoric, which they said has resulted in a rise of hate crimes in the country.

"We stand by our Hindu brethren during this hardship. No human being should suffer through an assault because of his color or faith," said CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher. "As hate crimes continue to break record numbers, our President revels in promoting a divisive, racist nation. The president can help our nation heal if he wanted to, but he shamefully chooses to stoke flames for his political gain."

New York representative Grace Meng also said she is disgusted by the attack against the priest.

"This type of brutal act is un-American and the person who committed this heinous crime is a coward," she added. "People from across the globe call Queens home and we are proud to embrace this rich diversity that exists in our communities and neighborhoods. I commend the NYPD for making a swift arrest in this case and I'm confident that justice will be served. I stand with the Hindu community and wish the victim a full recovery."

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President Donald Trump speaks at a "Make America Great Again" rally at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina, on July 17, 2019. Faith group have attacked Trump after a Hindu man was beaten in the Queen area of New York. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty
Hindu Priest Brutally Attacked Outside Temple, Faith Groups Blame Trump's Attack on Immigrants: 'This Results in Real Harm Inflicted on Our Communities' | News