Dear Mr./Mrs. President,
“Paki-piece of sh**.”
These are only some of the many revolting names and curses that Sikhs and Muslims have to endure through on a daily basis. The 21st century was born and baptized in blood, with 9/11 forever changing the political and social landscape of the entire world. In the ferocious and savage war that stretched over almost a decade, the pent up anger of the American people has manifested itself into something truly ugly. Just three days after 9/11, a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona was attacked and brutally murdered in cold blood for wearing the turban and adoring a beard. Three years after, a white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six. The mindless Islamophobia that has crept its way into the streets of America, has taken its toll on thousands of innocent peace loving Sikhs.
Being amongst my fellow Sikh people and seeing the brutal and inhuman ways my people get treated daily, just makes me sick, it makes me feel disgusted. Famous Punjabi youtuber, Jus Reign (aka Jasmeet Singh) for example, was stopped by the TSA at the airport and forced to remove his turban for “safety”. He was given a full body search and had his turban put through an additional x-ray, which, I would like to point out, is stupid because a turban is basically just cloth. After the private screening was over, Jus Reign was forced to walk all the way to the public bathrooms without his turban on because TSA wouldn’t provide him with a mirror. As stated by Jus Reign himself, “Listen, at the end of the day, the main issue wasn’t with me taking off my turban. I get it. I followed protocol. So they could feel safe. The issue is that after they made me remove it in a private room, I asked for a mirror to retie it again, which isn’t a complicated request. Instead they told me to walk out to find a bathroom to retie. What was the point of putting me in a private room? That was the insensitive part.”
What a lot of people don’t realize about the Sikh turban is that it’s not just some piece of cloth we throw onto our heads, it’s something that takes a lot of time and skill to perform. When we are seen adoring the turban, we immediately get mistaken for Muslim which automatically triggers “terrorist” into some people’s brains. Part of the problem is most likely due to the fact that people are completely ignorant in regards to what Sikhism is and the practices Sikhs follow. And yet, people go on judging us and degrading us based on our looks. Our dastar (which we also call pagg) was given to us by the 10th Sri Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj Ji who decorated us with special insignia and baptized us with his blessed sword. Sikhs that have been baptized cannot just let their hair naked, we wear the turban because the hair is sacred to us. Cutting it is seen as a sin. The turban is the pride of a Singh/a Kaur, and a gift of my Guru. The turban is not something we wrap around our heads every morning, but something that we wrap around our souls. It’s not just a turban, it is a crown. What made the event which happened to Jus Reign so thoughtless and inconsiderate was the fact that he was forced to walk all the way to the bathroom with his head NAKED which is highly disrespectful and inconsiderate treatment towards Jus Reign, as a Sikh. It’s revolting to see that the symbols that make us Sikhs now make us looks like terrorists.
Sikhs continuously and consistently get mistaken for being Muslim based off of lack of awareness and appreciation of what either religion is. And because of this false comprehension, Sikhs are susceptible in getting a lot of Islamophobic hate. I’m Sikh so that means people (both males and females) of my faith let their hair grow and wear turbans/paags/dastars. I’m very sad to say this, but frankly, my people get hated on, discriminated against, and just downright detested and despised for looking different, for wearing things that American people don’t understand. Knowing that Sikhs are such a misunderstood part of our community I feel it to be my duty to bring more awareness about my people and their values. I want more individuals to feel enlightened about a culture and a people that have endured the test of time. Men and women in my religion grow their hair long and wear majestic turbans whilst knowing it could have serious repercussions in their daily life. I and millions of other Sikhs feel pride when they tie their turban every single morning. It takes courage to be and look different in this society of ours.
Sad to say, but many Sikhs that I know cut their sacred hair and started dressing more western in a bid to stay safe in the land of the free. My own brother cut his hair when he was in 10th grade after years of getting ridiculed by kids at his school. Society shaped him to feel inadequate and separate from everyone else because he wore a dastaar. Every year, I see younger and even more younger cousins of mine beginning to cut their hair to “fit in” and to prevent from being bullied.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned in all this is that all acts of discrimination, whether it be police shootings of African Americans or the headscarf of a Muslim woman being torn off in the street, have a common theme of hate and ignorance. No one should be treated differently or attacked because of their gender, race, or faith. Instead of using all our energy in hating others for their differences, we should all learn to ask questions that will help us understand more deeply of their lifestyles and way of living. Also that one specific group of people shouldn’t be chastised or rebuked because of the actions of one particular person a part of that group. I think I’m assimilating this idea of love rather than hating those who hate me. My religion believes in karma and salvation, and that spiritual evolution depends on one’s deeds and actions. I continue to teach myself everyday to treat humanity with care and kindness rather than the same hate that breeds within Americans against Islam and Sikhism.
The treatment my people silently suffer through isn’t fair, it is unjust, and things need to change. When people (specifically MY people) get blamed for “terrorism” and having a “religion that believes in terrorism” not only instigates stupidity but distributes false accusations against Sikhs and Muslims everywhere. When my people start to get MURDERED, when I see innocent Muslims DYING and getting shot by hateful Americans, then it’s time for Americans to reevaluate their “values” and what they think a terrorist actually is. And what will YOU do about this Mr./Mrs. President? Will you continue to let all this hate and ignorance grow in this huge melting pot until it boils over, or will you do something about it? It’s essentially your job as our president to ensure that we non-white Americans also feel SAFE within our own country. And by letting this xenophobic American activity continue, you are unconsciously sending the message that you’re okay with letting all this hate spread. Americans need to be taught what the word Sikhism and Islam ACTUALLY mean and the basic values and principles that Sikhs and Muslims believe in so when people feel like throwing us under the bus for “terrorism”, they won’t have to falsely blame our beautiful, peace-loving religions.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.
Foster High School