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Many people practice wearing a turban, and this headpiece is common in a variety of ethnic and religious groups. Turbans are mostly worn by men in multiple African and Asian countries. Reasons for wearing such headwear can be to honor one’s God or to adhere to ethnic traditions. The most prevalent example of turban-wearing people in the US is Sikhs – a religious group that practices Sikhism.
The history of this faith system started when Guru Nanak Dev Ji attempted to address the conflict between Islam and Hinduism (Dhillon 1). He introduced the idea that all people are equal before One God to whom all religious paths lead in the end. Sikhs wear turbans in multiple styles, but the purpose of this accessory is to connect the person with their religion. The turban hides Sikhs’ long uncut hair that they grow out in respect of God (Dhillon 2). It is one of the main symbols of the religion, and both men and women have to uphold this tradition regardless of their occupation or location.
Choice and Feelings
I chose to wear a dastaar, a traditional Sikh turban that is worn by all followers of the religion. I selected this type of turban from many others because Sikh people have to wear this headwear at all times and not just on special occasions. Therefore, their beliefs imply that Sikhs do not have an opportunity of disregarding this accessory if they want to adhere to the standards of their faith. This choice places them in a position where their cultural and religious heritage is always represented in society.
When I was putting the dastaar on, I noticed how difficult it was to make it look authentic and believable. Sikhs perfect their technique for years, and their headwear is much more complicated that is may seem. I felt somewhat uncomfortable when looking at myself with the turban on since I did not feel a connection with this piece in the same way that Sikhs do.
I went to multiple public places to see how people’s reactions might differ. First, I went to a large mall and entered different stores. While there, I noticed some people looking at me, but most of them turned away if they noticed that I looked at them in response. Nobody approached me to talk or comment since many people were walking rather quickly. Then, I went to sit at a bus stop for some time.
Similarly, people appeared to be suspicious of me, but nobody wanted to talk to me. Nonetheless, although I did not face any confrontation, I felt uneasy and nervous when sitting in crowded places or walking near groups of people. It is unclear to me whether my feelings were caused by people paying more attention to me and my headwear or my thoughts about what someone may say or do to me.
This experience allowed me to understand how easy for people to link others’ appearances to some prejudices. Sikhs’ clothes and hair are often attributed to other cultures and religions, although they do not have much in common. In turn, these connections are perceived as dangerous by people who think that individuals of a particular religion (such as Islam or Sikhism) all behave and think similarly.
Dhillon provides examples of Sikh people being the victims of crimes that followed the September 11 tragedy (3). The hours during which I wore a turban were filled with nervousness that I would be exposed to a person who did not see a difference between a regular person and a criminal. As a result, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how judging someone by their appearance could be dangerous and life-threatening.
Dhillon, Jasleen. “The Effect of the 2016 Presidential Election on Sikh-Americans’ Perceptions of Safety in Texas.” SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research, vol. 2, 2019, pp. 1-4.