The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SMU Sikhs tie turbans to advocate awareness

A group of Sikh students with the aid of the Chaplain’s Office staged SMU’s first Sikh Turban Day to promote awareness of the Sikh religion and the headwear that has recently become infamous in the public eye.

“The idea was to create awareness,” said Jaipreet Suri, one of the event’s student organizers. He remarked on how after Sept. 11, the image of Osama bin Laden created the notion “that people who wear turbans are Muslims. Ninety-nine percent of people in the United States who wear turbans are Sikh.”

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded around 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India and was established on the notion that world’s mainstream religions are all praying to the same God. The tenets of Sikhism are built around absolute tolerance and equality between peoples of different genders, races, creeds, orientations and social classes. Sikhism promotes at its core hard work, humility, spiritual living, standing up for human rights against injustice, community service and defending the defenseless. Sikhs are fundamentally opposed to terrorism.

Currently, around one million Sikhs live in North America out of 22 million worldwide. Sikh men and women do not cut their hair, and they wear steel bracelets as a symbol of God’s eternal nature. Both men and women can choose to wear turbans.

The students who organized the event wrapped turbans and answered questions about Sikhism all day, from a simple setup outside of the Hughes-Trigg student center.

“The idea was to make SMU more diverse and create awareness,” Suri said. “The second thing is that they can be in our shoes, so on the issues of racial discrimination; people realize since they’ve been in our shoes what it’s about.”

“All of us worked really hard,” he said. “It’s been a huge success. It was great. If even one of them wasn’t here,” he said as he indicated the entire group. “This wouldn’t be possible.”

He expressed the group’s thanks to the Campus Chaplain and his office for supporting them, as the Sikhs do not represent any formal campus organization, but rather a collection of like-minded students with a message.

“We’ve had all different races ask us all different questions, and they are all eager to try different turbans themselves,” Karan Wazir said. “It makes me feel good because people wanted to learn more from another religion and another culture. We talked about different issues that professors and students wanted to know about.”

He described how students would go about their days and, upon returning, acted with a newfound respect for the headwear.

“I believe in learning from each other and that’s the idea behind the event. This is awareness from a friend to a friend and from a classmate to a classmate,” said Suri of the group’s objectives. The group of Sikh students was proud of the event’s rapid success, “We tied about 70 turbans within two hours, we had a target of 50 turbans,” for the day, “and we were skeptical.”

“It was really nice to see people wearing the turbans and hearing about professors holding discussions in class about it,” Wazir said.

Ravneet Goomber described the unique nature of the turbans, “The Sikh has a different style of tying the turban as compared to the Muslim peoples so that people can recognize the turban as Sikh.”

Priyanka Hooghan added from the perspective of the only woman in the group hosting the event, “Sikhism is based on equality between men and women: People have the conception that only men wear turbans, and that’s not true. I personally have never worn a turban before today; it was basically a Turban Day for me as well, even though I’ve been a Sikh all my life. It was nice that other girls could look at me and say ‘OK, this is cool, she’s doing it too; women in the real world really do wear turbans.’ They were willing to learn and very respectful.”

For Gunwant Sachar, “It was seriously nice to know that they were willing to learn about Sikhism.”

“We will do this again,” Suri said, describing how students and faculty expressed sincere enthusiasm for the event. “People were telling us there should be a turban day every month, every week, every day,” but the event would lose its impact. “But we will do it every year,” he declared, “we enjoy it, people enjoy it, and that’s what it’s about.”

“I’m really glad it was a success because it started by word of mouth and Facebook. I’m glad that campus gave us such a positive response,” Hooghan said.

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