Although it is counted as the world's fifth largest religion, relatively few Americans know about the Sikh tradition. This lack of awareness has had severely negative consequences, especially when Americans mistakenly equate a turban with terrorism. The first casualty of a hate crime after 9/11 was a turbaned Sikh American, and last August a white supremacist massacred Sikh Americans at their place of worship (gurduara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The current situation is ironic and disturbing; while the Sikh turban traditionally represents love, faith, and social justice, people unaware of its significance often see it as a marker of violence and fear.
In order to help correct these misperceptions and to share their values of love, faith, and social justice, The Surat Initiative organized its first Turban Day at Union Square in New York City this past Sunday. Volunteers came from all over the northeast and tied over 700 turbans on their fellow Americans. Hundreds of other New Yorkers stopped by to speak with young Sikhs and learns about the religion and the significance of the turban.
The Surat Initiative recently released a free Turban Day Package for those interested in hosting this event, and it is currently organizing Turban Day programs throughout the country. Turban Day events coming up in September include Madison, Wisconsin (Sept. 14) and Washington, D.C. (Sept. 29).