The Pooni ExpressAKALJOT SINGH
A much misunderstood and, sadly, demonized, article of faith in post 9/11 United States, is the Sikh turban.
While we Sikhs view our dastaars as a crown, and indeed, a gift entrusted to us by our Gurus, the vast majority of the public associates them with the infamous images of arch criminal Osama Bin Laden and with the pseudo-ideologies of Islamic extremism.
Our high schools taught us to critically examine topics and form opinions on subjects after we become educated on them. As a high school debater, I would shudder at the mere thought of competing in a tournament without examining every possible angle of the given resolution.
However, many of us have neglected to apply this lesson to our daily lives when we discuss the faiths of others. Rather than attempting to learn about Sikhism before casting judgment on its tenets, many Americans have resorted to poking fun at, or questioning, articles of faith that they have never bothered to understand.
It is evident that we need to educate our fellow Americans about the Sikh turban.
This past summer, I learned how to fold my dastaar using a doorknob instead of an extra person in hopes of being able to tie it while I study in a college hundreds of miles away from home.
In light of the recent massacre at Oak Creek, however, I have finally begun to understand the need to educate and engage my fellow students about my turban and my faith.
Thus, rather than folding my turban on my own each day, I have undertaken to venture out to the middle of the campus and request a new individual to help me fold it.
While this individual aids me with my pooni - the act of stretching out the turban cloth, usually 18 feet or 6 metres long, and folding it in preparation to tying it -- I will tell him or her about the Sikh turban and what it means to me. This will not only help me tie my dastaar every morning, but it will also spread information about Sikhism and ensure that my peers do not misunderstand me or my faith.
I would like to extend an invitation to all Sikh college students in the United States to participate in similar activities throughout the school year.
The university is the institution that educates our future lawyers, doctors, journalists, and politicians, and if we can promote awareness and respect for Sikhism in society’s future leaders, we will go a long way towards integrating ourselves in the American community and fostering social cohesion in society.
Akaljot Singh is a sophomore at Columbia University.
Conversation about this article
1: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), August 10, 2012, 1:49 PM.
It is interesting to note the symbolism behind one alone in a room and using a door knob to pooni his turban, contrasted with reaching out to a neighbor for some help ... and turning it into a teaching/learning moment. A Sikh moment!
2: Shaminder Singh (Gurgaon, India), August 10, 2012, 3:03 PM.
Every little contribution and effort in spreading awareness will help bring about change in how people perceive Sikhism.
3: Morrissey (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 10, 2012, 3:56 PM.
That's so out of the box ... love it, man!
4: Devinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), August 14, 2012, 7:02 AM.
Simply sophisticated. Very well thought of introduction to our faith for the curious.