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Monday, August 27, 2007

Ireland: Sikhs' identity requires a turban

I am a 30-year-old Sikh girl born in New Zealand and brought up in Sydney, Australia.

Over my lifetime in Australia, I have seen it mature into a wonderful multicultural society. I am now married to an Irish Catholic man, and have been living in Dublin for the last four years. On the whole, I found Irish people quite pleasant, curious about me and my background, but overall pleasant and peaceful people.

I have made many friends here, and think it's generally a great place. As immigration is only really starting now, compared to some of the other Western countries, it's only natural that people are quite ignorant about other cultures. But unfortunately, ignorance usually brings about a lack of tolerance.

I would like to help people understand the reasons why Sikhs wear a turban.

The Sikh religion is only founded in the 16th Century in India. And in a society where there was constant war between Muslims and Hindus, the Sikhs needed to differentiate themselves so they weren't targeted by mistake, and hence they came up with various religious symbols.

One of these symbols and a defining factor of a Sikh is the 'kesh' which is the long uncut hair that a Sikh keeps.

Now to keep this tidy, most men tie their hair on the top of their head and wear a turban on top of it. If men did not wear the turban, they would have to cut their hair, and hence in part they would not be a Sikh anymore.

Now when referring to keeping religious symbols at home, the difference with Sikhs is the turban and the uncut hair is not something that can be left at home and then worn again when they return. If they lose the turban and their 'kesh', they lose their identity as a Sikh man. [Link]

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