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The Battalion

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Tie a Turban day to educate students on Sikh faith

 
 

At Texas A&M University, a small group of students practice a religion that numbers more than 30 million globally and is the fifth largest organized religion in the world. Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th Century in Punjabi, India, is a religion that places importance on equality, service, social justice and truthful living.
Every spring semester, the Sikh Students Association hosts Tie a Turban day to encourage A&M students to learn about the Sikh faith and try on a turban. The Sikh Students Association will set up Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon near Rudder fountain for the event.
Tie a Turban day is an opportunity for students to ask questions without feeling offensive while learning about our religion, said Jaskirat Singh Batra, electrical engineering graduate student. I appreciate when students come up and ask questions because that makes a difference when they decide to break out of their shell and find the real truths.
Through this event, Batra said he hopes to create a visual experience students enjoy while also promoting diversity and awareness of the Sikh faith.
We want to give students an opportunity to experience another religion they may not have known about before, but more importantly we want others to ask questions, Batra said.
Sikhis is commonly mistaken for Hinduism or Islam, which has been evidenced by hate crimes committed against Sikhs after the Sept. 11 attacks. Most notably was last Augusts attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by Wade Michael Page. Some speculated that Page had mistaken the Sikh community for Muslims.
Historically, tensions have existed between Muslims and Sikhs, yet this friction does not seem to play a noticeable role on the Texas A&M campus.
Taha Habib, senior industrial engineering major and president of Muslim Student Association, said the effect of the shooting may had been different for the Sikh and Muslim communities around the country, but as Aggies, it only united the two communities.
After the shooting, they reached out to us and we reached out to them, Habib said. There were not any hard feelings, instead it brought us closer. When they have events, we are there to support them just as they support us.
Batra, a graduate student from India, can be spotted on campus with a colorful turban and an untrimmed beard, which is a symbol of his faith. He said some Sikh students may be apprehensive to keep the beard and turban because of discrimination that many Sikhs experience, but he believes part of being Sikh is being visible.
Spirituality, solidarity, faith and standing up for others are a part of our religion, Batra said.
As the religion evolved through the centuries, the last living founder, Guru Gobind Singh, collected writings from other Sikhs and created the Guru Granth Sahib. The religion was formalized around 1699 when he gave the Sikh a look or khalsa, and created the five Articles of Faith also known as the Five Ks.
A baptized Sikh is easily identified through the Five Ks, which include: Kesh, long unshorn hair; Dastar, a turban; Kangha, a comb ; Kara, a steel bracelet; Kaccha, a specific style of cotton undergarments; and Kirpan, a ceremonial sword worn as a religious symbol and not a weapon.
Batra said the most controversial Articles of Faith are the Kesh, Dastar and Kirpan because of discrimination that many of his people experience.
No matter if you are born here or from India, you are still looked at like you are not a normal person, Batra said.
Yet through educational events such as Tie a Turban day, Navjit Kaur junior supply chain management major and president of the Sikh Students Association said he hopes that understanding and respect will flourish.
I think by being open, asking questions and trying to find the truth [it] will allow others in our community to become educated instead of continuing with false assumptions, Kaur said.

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