Western intolerance of religious symbols and a series of street attacks are prompting young men to shed their hair and turbans....
Many young Sikh men who have cut their hair say that they did so to escape the humiliation of turban searches at Western airports or to avoid being mistaken for Muslims.
They cite Balbri Singh Sodi, a petrol station owner shot dead in Arizona on September 15, 2001. His American killer, bent on revenge for 9/11, thought that Mr Sodi’s turban indicated that he was an Arab.
The Sikh community was shocked again this month when a gang of youths shouting racial abuse beat up a 15-year-old boy and cut off his hair in a public park in Edinburgh.
“It’s stupid, but the fact is most Westerners don’t know the difference between us and other turban wearers,” said one 31-year-old lawyer, who lives between Delhi and London and no longer wears the turban. “I’d rather blend in and not allow people to tell my religion on sight.”
But worrying as racist attacks are, Sikh elders are even more concerned by a broader official crackdown on overt expressions of religious identity in the West, especially in Europe.
Turbans have been banned from French state schools, as have Muslim headscarves, under a “secularity” law that came into effect in 2004. Last month a court in Denmark upheld a ruling that an Indian Sikh had broken the law by carrying his ceremonial dagger, the kirpan, in public. And last week, the Dutch Government prompted outrage from civil liberties advocates when it proposed banning the wearing of the burka in public. [Link]
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