Anuraj Singh is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

Anuraj Singh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sikhs hold turban tying event to educate Americans about their faith.

Even as American Muslims have been bearing the brunt of the crimes by terrorist groups like ISIS, American Sikhs too have been the targets of Islamophobic attacks. A survey by the National Sikh Campaign showed that 60 percent of Americans are still unaware of American Sikhs. Only 11 percent correctly identified them, while 20 percent thought they were Muslims and 28 percent thought they were from the Middle East.

Clearly, there is an urgent need to educate Americans about the reality of Sikhs and their culture. At the root of the confusion is one of the Sikhs’ articles of faith, the turban. To educate the public, the 24-year old founder of Sikhs of New York, Chanpreet Singh, together with a group of volunteers, held a turban-tying event in New York on the occasion of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi.

Turban Day, as it has been called for the five years it has been observed, was celebrated at New York’s Time Square with the help of 500 volunteers. More than 8,000 people came forward to either learn how to tie a turban, or to get a turban tied for themselves. The volunteers also gave the participants information about their faith, besides answering many questions from non-Sikh Americans.

Turbans are one of the core symbols of Sikhs. Sikh men leave their beards and hair uncut, tying up their hair into a turban. The turban is so important that the U.S. Army has allowed Sikh soldiers to continue wearing their turbans while on-duty. Many Americans still don’t know that Sikhism is a religion that is rooted in Hinduism and born in India. It was founded by Guru Nanak, and developed further by subsequent gurus after him.

Although some Sikhs have criticized the project, saying the participants may not really know what Sikhism is about, Charanpreet Singh believes making a start somewhere is always more helpful than not trying at all. He says his team makes sure to tell the participants to refrain from smoking and alcohol while wearing the turban, thereby underlining its spiritual significance.

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