Turban Week in Texas ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turban Week in Texas

In Texas, students agree to wear bright colored turbans - as long as they don't drink or smoke while it's on. Almost everyone who wears a turban in the United States is Sikh, and Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world.

As an exercise in religious tolerance, Texas college students were urged to wear blood-red, neon orange, or aquamarine cloth around the heads, symbols of Sikh religion.

Billed as "Sikh Turban Week," Sikh students at colleges including University of Texas at Arlington and Southern Methodist University tied turbans and debunked myths for their classmates during spring break.

Jaipreet Singh Suri, president of Southern Methodist University's Sikh Student Association, decided to host a "turban day" at SMU because of continuing questions and accusations surrounding his turban. He offerred $10 gift cards for Subway, Starbucks, and Chipotle to the first 100 students to wear the turban for three hours and tell others why they were doing so. The participants signed a paper that said they wouldn't smoke, drink alcohol or take off the turban during their assigned time.

Students continued to sign up long after the gift cards were gone.
After 170 turbans were tied by himself and volunteers, he had to send people away. They'd run out of cloth.

Rajinder Singh, a software engineer from Allen who teaches Sikh history at the Richardson gurdwara, said, "If you are asked to strip, it's the same as asking me to take off my turban," he said. "It's a form of identity" and a reminder of faith. Even in India, Sikhs have long been persecuted.

Almost everyone who wears a turban in the United States is Sikh.

Sikhism Related Photo of Kanga, Kara and Kirpa...Sikh symbols of faith. Image via Wikipedia

Sikhism, whose origins date back only to the 15th century, draws on aspects of Hinduism and Islam but is a separate religion. Guru Nanak, the first of 10 Gurus, or holy teachers, pushed the faith's principles of egalitarianism, community service and moral purity. Along with the turban, the religion has five other tangible symbols of faith: uncut hair and beard, a wooden comb worn in the hair, an iron bracelet, a small ceremonial sword and a special type of underwear.

The most distinguishable article of faith – the turban – ends up conjuring notions of Islamic fundamentalism for many Americans, who have difficulty distinguishing the range of cultures from Egypt to India, said Robert Hunt, the director of global theological education at SMU.

About 5,000 Sikhs live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and most Sikhs come from the Punjab region in northwest India. Overall, about a half-million Sikhs live in the United States, with the largest population in California.

Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world and has at least 24 million followers worldwide.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Does this not strike anyone else as odd?

"Southern Methodist University's Sikh Student Association"