A man said he was the victim of racial profiling in Northampton County, but police said 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 33-year-old Harpreet Singh 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 said.
But Khalsa, visiting from Maryland, isn't Muslim, and he wasn't carrying a large knife or sword. He was wearing a Kirpan, attached to a strap called a Gatra. The Kirpan is one of five articles of the Sikh faith.
"Kirpan represents the Sikh duty to be compassionate, kind and to protect people. It's not thought of a weapon," said Khurram Hussain, a religious studies professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
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 Capt. Greg Gottschall, Bethlehem Township Police Department. "They did the right thing. They called for us to come and check it out."
But Khalsa said he was racially profiled and misunderstood.
"To have a caller in the first place is pointing to racism, clearly racism," Khalsa said. "Fear-driven racism."
Khalsa wasn't charged, and his Kirpan was returned to him.
But Khalsa said he doesn't plan to come back to the Lehigh Valley and called the way he was treated "un-American."