Event ties a new meaning to turbans

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Mathematics graduate students Sukhpreet Singh, left, and Rustam Antia, right, participate at the Student Sikh Association’s annual Tie a Turban Day event. The event took place on the UT west mall Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

Students were wrapped into Sikh culture Wednesday as a religious organization worked to change peers’ views of turbans.

The Sikh Students Association hosted “Tie a Turban” Wednesday on the West Mall. The event educated participants about how to tie a turban while also aiming to change pre-existing misconceptions. Sikh Students Association hosts free events every few months to educate about Sikhism. This event was the kickoff to introduce Sikhism to the campus.

Harnavneet Kaur, co-president of Sikh Students Association, said Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. The religion originated in Punjab, India. She said Sikhism is an open and welcoming religion.

“Everyone is equal,” Kaur said.

Individuals who practice Sikhism grow long, uncut hair and wear turbans to cover the unshorn hair. Kaur said traditionally men are required to conceal their hair, but it is also an option for women.

Turbans have cultural significance in Eastern and Middle Eastern culture, where the religion originated. The creator of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, chose the turban because it is a symbol
of esteem.

“Because you wear a turban does not mean you belong to a religion, just a particular area,” active committee chair Ajaypal Singh said.

Ajaypal Singh is originally from Punjab, India. He moved to the United States in 1997 because of political pressure in India. Singh said Sikhs are a small minority in India that was targeted in a mass genocide there that began in 1984. He said today’s degree of friction between American culture and Sikhism did not exist before 9/11.

“Since then, there have been misguided individuals,” Singh said.

Singh said people associate turbans with the stereotype that everyone who wears one is Muslim and that this misconception has resulted in violence toward Sikhs.

One case of violence is the Aug. 5 shooting of a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. On Sunday morning, as Sikhs were gathering to worship, a shooter entered the temple and opened fire, killing six people. According to the New York Times, the police said they were treating the incident as domestic terrorism.

“We are American. Just because we wear a turban doesn’t give the right to categorize,” Singh said.

At “Tie a Turban,” donations were taken for the victims of the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting. International relations and global studies freshman Mercedes Bellcase came to the event with her roommate to learn how to tie a turban. She said the event would help people that come from areas that are not exposed to diverse religions and cultures.

“Not everyone can see the value of the diversity they come into at UT,” Bellcase said.