CNN has featured the story of two brothers who have made different choices regarding whether to wear a Dastar, or turban to show their Sikh faith. The brothers, Harmeet Singh Soin and Harkirat Singh Soin, are both members of the Sikh faith, but have different stories. Harkirat decided to cut his hair and stop wearing a Sikh turban, and reflects upon why:
He thought of his upbringing in a suburban Milwaukee neighborhood by Punjabi parents who emigrated from India. He grew up on meals of homemade roti and daal makhani and sessions at Sunday school that instilled Sikh values. He thought also of how his mother had taken time to maintain her boys’ long hair with love and care.
With every snip of the shears, he felt, he lost not just hair but parts of his being.
But he was tired of not fitting in, of being teased. Once when he was in elementary school, he was even beaten with sticks by neighborhood troublemakers, he says.
“I am guessing that they turned on me because I was different,” says Soin, now 32 and studying for his U.S. medical license in Illinois after finishing medical school in China.
Harkirat’s brother, Harmeet, however has kept his Sikh turban and explains his feelings:
Harmeet Soin says he has been called “Osama” on the streets. And when he travels for his banking job, he gets called out at airport security every time, he says, even though he is a frequent flyer and has executive status with various airlines.
He says he, too, wanted to cut his hair when he was in school. But his father sat him down and asked: Is that the answer to your problem? Will you no longer be different then?
He realized then that the turban was as much his identity as his skin color.
“I am very proud of looking different,” he says. “I am proud of my identity.”
The article also makes the point that many believe the shooter in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin was targeting them because he believed they were Muslim. This reflects the ways in which anti-Muslim hate affects Sikhs, including a Sikh gas station owner who was targeted and murdered after 9/11 because he was confused for being a Muslim and assumed by an uneducated, hate-filled person to be a terrorist.
It is crucial to remember that every religion or faith, as well as every ethnicity and race, deserves the right to its own distinct identity, and it is not Muslims or Islam that has caused these attacks against Sikhs to happen, but rather bigotry and ignorance on behalf of the attackers.
The Sikh Knowledge Twitter sent out the following moving message that was retweeted over 1500 times:
It was answered with another simple, but profound message:
As for the Soin brothers, identity is important. CNN sums it up:
As the community stands in solidarity after tragedy, Harkarit Soin says he is considering wrapping a turban again.
“I think this was my vanity,” he says about cutting his hair. “I wanted to conform. But why should I be ashamed of whom I am? We are a hardworking community. And we have been through a lot.”
What do you think of the idea of everyone standing together against intolerance?
Do you believe the shooter who attacked the Sikh temple thought he was killing Muslims?
Does it matter?
To read the full CNN article, click here.
Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo