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Friday, April 11, 2008

Sikhs hope to foster understanding between faiths with 'Turban Day'

To understand what it feels like to wear clothes of a different faith, non-Sikhs - including the Jewish mayor of Fremont and a Catholic state assemblyman - plan to wrap their heads in brightly colored cloth this weekend as part of "Sikh Turban Day," an international movement launched five years ago.

"I said, 'Sure, I'll do it,' " said Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman, who plans to show up early to the Fremont Sikh temple on Sunday to get help winding the long piece of turban cloth around his head. Wearing a turban is a first for Wasserman, who is Jewish.

"It's just a way of showing unity and understanding for each other's culture," he said....

"Sikh Turban Day" was first launched in 2003 by a group called Sikh Children Forum.

Founder Hardeep Singh Aulakh, a Union City computer engineer, said a group of Sikhs got together after Sept. 11, 2001, to try to address the mistaken perception that Sikhs had something to do with the terrorist attacks.

Traditionally, Sikh men wear turbans and have been misidentified as Muslims because al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden wears a head wrap, although a different style than the Sikhs.

"We thought, if all the Sikhs wear a turban one day, we can pass the message out and tell others about us," Aulakh said. They likened their approach to Irish wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, or Chinese wearing red on New Year's.

The idea grew from having just Sikhs wear turbans on a designated day, Aulakh said, to inviting non-Sikhs to experience wearing a turban. From one or two Sikh temples participating a few years ago, Aulakh said at least 70 locations in the United States, Canada, England, France, India, Malaysia are participating this year.

"It's been very successful," Aulakh said.[Link]

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