Happy World Turban Day and Vaisakhi

World Turban Day
Sikh children in Amritsar (Panthic Weekly).

I didn’t know today (April 13) was World Turban Day until I heard about it this morning on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show (arguably one of the best shows on public radio—if you don’t live in NYC, listen to it online).

The 17-minute segment was entitled “The Sikhs of New York” and offered a quick and dirty introduction to Sikhism courtesy of Lehrer’s guest, Harsimran Kaur, staff attorney at the Sikh Coalition.

Kaur talked about the five Sikhs who won seats on the Queens County Democratic Committee last fall, making them the first to win elected office in New York. The segment mostly focused on what Sikhism is, why Sikhs wear turbans, the discrimination they faced after 9/11, etc. Most South Asian listeners will find it pretty basic, but there was an interesting moment when a caller named Afreen from Queens asked this question:

I wanted to know why Sikh men have long hair and roll their hair in a turban. Growing up in Queens, I’ve heard so many different stories, including something to the effect that there was some historical event when Sikhs decided that they were going to kill all the Muslims, and until all the Muslims are gone, they were not going to cut their hair. I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Can you please clarify this once and for all?

I had never heard this crazy misconception, but Kaur clarified that it had no basis. She also reminded listeners that tomorrow is Vaisakhi, the most significant Sikh holiday that commemorates the anniversary of when Sikhs were bestowed their five Ks or articles of faith (Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kaccha, Kirpan).

So, Happy Vaisakhi to all our Sikh readers! And happy World Turban Day, as well.

Listen to “The Sikhs of New York” segment online

April 13, 2007
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