The Sikh Students Association and other Sikhs from the UT community offered to tie turbans on the heads of passers-by on the West Mall Thursday.
The group offered food and answered questions for students during "Tie-a-Turban Day," which is part of Sikh Awareness Week, to give students an understanding about the religion.
"For us, it represents humility and sovereignty," association member Gurjit Singh said about the turbans.
He added that there is a common misconception that all turbans are associated with Islamic culture, but in actuality
99 percent of people who wear turbans in America are Sikhs. Turbans are common in the Middle East because of the weather or fashion, he said.
Gurpreet Singh, a UT graduate and a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, agreed that people unfamiliar with Sikhism sometimes mistake Sikhs for Muslims. Gurpreet Singh said one of his family members, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was murdered in Arizona four days after Sept. 11, 2001 by a man who stereotyped his turban and beard with that of an Arab.
"They're not even required to wear one, and we are," Gurpreet Singh said.
He added that the turban was originally used as a symbol of brotherhood, which united all the members of the Indian caste system and put them on an equal level. Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, spoke out against the prejudice and inequality that was prevalent in Asia and the Middle East in the 15th and 16th centuries.
"It's pretty unique in that it stresses universal brotherhood," said Harjot Kaur, a biology and pre-medicine senior. "In fact, we have members of different faiths included in our holy book."
Nicolas Watine, an economics freshman, said the association's approach was good compared to more aggressive groups on the West Mall. He said he enjoyed learning about Sikhism at the event's comfortable setting.
"It's really engaging," Watine said. "It's a really good time." [Link]
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