(RNS) The man who led police to the bombing suspect in New York and New Jersey was none other than another Asian immigrant.
Harinder Singh Bains, a native of India who practices the Sikh faith, said he saw Ahmad Khan Rahami “right in front of my face” and made a call to the police after matching the man’s image with the one Bains saw on TV.
Rahami, who is accused of placing the bombs that exploded Saturday (Sept. 17) in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and in Seaside Park, N.J., was sleeping in the doorway of Bains’ bar in Linden, N.J., when Bains spotted him.
Bains’ identity reverberated on the campaign trail when GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump called for police profiling of people from the Muslim world. Trump also touted his plan to stem immigration to the U.S.
On Tuesday morning, Bains released a statement that said: “As a Sikh American, I realize that I could have been mistaken for the perpetrator. I want to remind Americans that after an attack, we should target people based on evidence, not their faith or their country of origin or their accent.”
Bains said that even though it hasn’t happened to him, he knows of Sikh friends who are taunted on the streets by people who mistake them as Muslims, and some have even been attacked.
Sikhs can often be distinguished by their turbans and beards.
The bombing suspect was born in Afghanistan but is a U.S. citizen. Rahami lived above the fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J., started by his father, Mohammad, and also worked there.
After police arrived at Bains’ bar, a gunfight ensued, during which Rahami was shot multiple times. He was taken into custody and treated at University Hospital in Newark.
Rahami was charged with seven counts, including five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. His bail was set at $5.2 million.
The Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization born out of the backlash against Sikhs after the 9/11 terror attacks, estimates that there are more than 500,000 Sikh Americans. Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world, with around 25 million global followers.
But Bains told CNN his actions had nothing to do with his Sikh faith.
“I did what I think every American would have done,” he said. “My neighbor would have done the same thing. Any Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Muslim. Anybody would have done the same thing.
“I’m from Sikh faith,” he added. “I’ve been taught always stand up against the atrocities, any kind of persecution.”