American Turban

“Terror” does not equal “Turban”

"The Cape Breton Post is standing behind this editorial cartoon that ran Tuesday depicting turban-wearing terrorists celebrating the Norway massacre. (Cape Breton Post)" (Source: cbc.ca)

"The Cape Breton Post is standing behind this editorial cartoon that ran Tuesday depicting turban-wearing terrorists celebrating the Norway massacre. (Cape Breton Post)" (Source: cbc.ca)

It amazes me how quickly and easily the media points to the turban when acts of terror are committed across the globe, even when the individuals who performed these acts do not themselves wear a turban.  In the case of Norway’s horrendous attack, the perpetrator was a cleancut, white male.  There was one person involved who does wear a turban: a young Sikh woman, who witnessed the shooting and was lucky to escape from the killer’s rampage

And yet, the conversation in the media would have you think otherwise. 

The cartoon above came from a newspaper in Canada, where men in turbans are depicted celebrating the terrorist’s attacks. The newspaper and creator of the cartoon are unrepentent and fail to recognize that they are fueling the very same hatred that the actual killer espoused.  Even when turban-wearing people were not responsible and were also victims, they are still being implicated in these attacks. 

On her blog, Navjot Kaur eloquently discusses the attacks in Norway, and addresses the racial profiling that we’ve seen, and its consequences.

In the earliest moments after the attack and since, words such as “Islamic terrorist” and “Muslim terrorist” were being tossed around with little evidence.   Muslims were being implicated without any evidence.  Instead, it would turn out that the man responsible for Oslo’s bombing and shootings was, in fact, a Christian extremist.  It’s also interesting to note how reluctantly the media has been, overall, to apply such a label. Somehow, applying the word “extremist” or “terrorist” to anything non-Muslim receives the benefit of being up for debate.

Why does this bother me so much? 

Any turban-wearing Sikh in this country will tell you that they have been at the receiving end of ignorant vitriol and more, simply because they wear a turban.  While the media saturates us with images of turbans in negative contexts, in reality, the majority of turban-wearers in this country – Sikhs – are peace-loving and law-abiding people.  The insistence by the media to use the turban as a symbol for evil implicates innocent people and only serves to perpetuate hate crimes and discrimination.  Since 9/11, much of our work as a community has been to educate our fellow citizens that, despite what they see on the news or on the internet, in reality, people who wear turbans are not terrorists and we are not the enemy. 

Working to bring about this awareness is clearly an uphill and ongoing battle, as I am reminded when I watch the evening news.

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