WLU Sikh Student Association hosts annual Turban Up event

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Photo by Madeline McInnis

Turban Up, an event held by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Sikh Student Association (SSA), took place in the Concourse this past Monday.

The event, which has been held at Laurier for the past two years, encourages staff, faculty and stu-dents to learn more about Sikh culture and why Sikh individuals wear turbans. In order to do so, individuals were able to come to the event and not only ask members of SSA questions about Sikhism and the significance of the turban, but also get the opportunity to wear a turban for the day.

“Even out in public, in class, anywhere you go — you might see someone with a turban but you might be hesitant to go and ask them why they tie a turban. You want to avoid that awkward situation or you don’t want the other person to be offended,” said Jaskeerat Singh Gill, president of Laurier’s SSA.

“It’s an open environment; anyone can come and ask questions about the turban and significance about what Sikhism is.”

Turban Up was created in 2012 by a student at University of Waterloo, Sehaj Singh, who had reportedly experienced acts of racism simply because he wore a turban.

“He was actually at McDonalds. Somebody threw a McDonalds cup at him and said some racial slurs at him about his turban and he was shook about why someone was saying this to him [sic],” Gill said.

The incident forced Singh to think about why some individuals feel hatred or are ignorant towards Sikhs who wear turbans. Singh created the Turban Up event in order to focus on the stigma surrounding Sikhism and start important conversations.

The Turban Up event is now held at universities across Ontario every March, including their largest event held in Toronto’s Dundas Square.

Turban Up also leads into various other related events that are held during Sikh Heritage month in April.

Gill explained that Laurier students come from numerous backgrounds, but he noticed in first-year that many of his peers did not know about Sikh culture or why he wore a turban.

“We started that conversation and that was the first time they had heard the word Sikh; they learned a lot about me just in that one conversation. I also started thinking that it’s crazy how many people have never seen or interacted with a Sikh, so it’s really important for us to create these events,” he said.

As well, the event provided a positive way to bring forward cultural awareness and diversity on campus. Gill explained that the event is a way to combat or eliminate ignorance and hate through starting conversation.

“We’re here at a university to learn and expand our knowledge and expand our minds and cultural awareness endeavours are so important — especially in such a diverse nation like Canada. Right now, it’s really important,” Gill said.

“Sometimes people are afraid that if you put on an event like this you might fight some resistance or you might get some haters, but we’ve been getting nothing but love.”

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