A reader writes:
SSakal – The question of the turban as an identification mark of a Singh/Sikh is the key. Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa and gave them 5 ritual markings to carry as an identification:
K – Kes (long hair)
K – Kanga (comb)
K – Karah (bangle)
K – Kashera (underwear)
K – Kirpan (dagger)
Here lies the Truth. The Guru has never dictated, advocated or commanded His followers to wear a sixth article:
T – Turban
D – Dastar
P – Pug
The Singh’s identity was honored by 5 articles of faith, not Six, Seven or Three or Four.
The turban has to be abolished and removed as an identification mark of the Singh, till then the hatred, the persecution, the discrimination and prejudice will continue forever and ever more. We are not greater than the Guru nor should we dictate or command the sikh community to wear the Turban.
I follow Truth and the Truth is the Truth, you need to learn the Truth like so many other millions caught in the same trap.
Religious observance is often very subjective and personal. There are those who believe that one of the five articles of faith that the reader mentions above, kes or uncut hair, actually refers to keski, or a type of small turban. Many followers of the Sikh faith therefore maintain this style of turban on both men and women based in this interpretation, which would contradict the assertion made by the reader that the turban is not a mandated article of the Sikh faith.
If we turn to historical evidence, we would find that the reader’s claims are invalid. I must take issue and disagree with two main points presented above.
First, it is historically incorrect that the Guru never instructed Sikhs to wear the turban. In fact, it is quite the opposite: the instruction to wear a turban (referred to as dastaar) was provided by the tenth Guru (and last in human form) of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh at the turn of the 18th century. This instruction and others related to turbans are recorded in historical hukamnamas (edicts) that he delivered to congregations. Quick research online would provide these references (see this sample of translated edicts, and another 52 of his edicts here). This evidence is consistent with centuries of tradition around the turban. To somehow discount both aspects would make it appear that the reader him/herself is attempting to “dictate or command the Sikh community” in a manner greater than the Guru.
Second, there is no guarantee that removing the turban would spare Sikhs persecution or discrimination, particularly if we maintain the other articles of faith that the reader lists. A simple survey of other religious and visible minorities who do not wear a turban would likely demonstrate that this is the case.
A must-read opinion piece written by Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at the Sikh Coalition, was printed today in the Washington Post and discusses the belief that Sikhs should discard their turbans so as to look more “American” :
A related problem is the “when in Rome” argument – that Sikhs should shed their turbans and beards and begin dressing like “Americans.” The challenge here is to define an “American.” Sikhs have lived in the United States for more than a century. Many of us were born here. Apart from Native Americans, this country is composed of people whose forbears came here—or were brought here—relatively recently from somewhere else. Is there then an objectively “American” way of expressing religiosity?
The notion that Sikhs are more different or less American, on account of their turbans, is a non-starter.
It is up to an individual to decide how they wish to practice the faith they choose, but in doing so, any attempt to misrepresent the faith in order to justify practice is disingenuous.