Wear a Turban Day shows it’s always better together

Noor Ashouri

There were various color choices for those getting turbans. Photo by Camille Shaw.
There were various color choices for those getting turbans. Photo by Camille Shaw.

Ashok Bazaz and Sukhbir Singh have never cut their hair in their lives.

They are Sikhs and believe hair, including facial and head hair should never be removed.  The turban keeps their hair in place and is a physical identity for Sikhs.

Every morning, Bazaz and Singh spend 10 minutes wrapping their turbans. The cotton cloth is 15-18 feet long, 3 feet wide and comes in all sorts of colors and patterns. It was Bazaz and Singh’s turn to show the UNF community how to wear it on Wear a Turban Day.

Elizabeth Sanchez, senior anthropology major, decided to wear a turban for the day to experience what it is like.

Senior and Anthropology major, Elizabeth Sanchez, holds the cloth between her teeth as the rest is wrapped around her head. Photo by Camille Shaw.
Senior and Anthropology major, Elizabeth Sanchez, holds the cloth between her teeth as the rest is wrapped around her head. Photo by Camille Shaw.

A member of the Sikh Society of Northeast Florida started wrapping a burgundy turban around her head. She was wearing her hair in a bun, tucked away in the back. He asked Sanchez to move all of her hair to the top of her head so that the turban holds. He gave her a mirror to look at herself after the turban was on. She seemed happy with the outcome.

It was raining on Wear a Turban day. Hana Ashchi’s hair was wet.

“This is good for the rainy day,” Ashchi said.

Wear a Turban Day is part of Interfaith Week. The Sikh faith is a focus for Interfaith Week this year because so little is known about it. It’s often confused with Islam, especially after 9/11.  By the time the event was done, the turbans the Sikh Community of Northeast Florida donated were all gone.

The planning for Interfaith Week began in July. For Rachael McNeal, coordinator of the Interfaith Center, education about different faiths didn’t come until entering college.

There was a large Somali population at the high school McNeal attended, but a diverse population didn’t necessarily translate to open conversation.

“The Muslims and Christians didn’t really mix,” McNeal said.

Junior and Communications major, Kasandra Ortiz, asks questions about Sikhism faith while getting her turban. Photo by Camille Shaw.
Junior and Communications major, Kasandra Ortiz, asks questions about Sikhism faith while getting her turban. Photo by Camille Shaw.

Interfaith Week aims to bridge this gap.

McNeal said the focus of Interfaith Week is positive engagement among both the religious and non-religious beliefs.

Ashchi is a member of the Interfaith Week Student Planning Committee and a Baha’i. She doesn’t know anyone else on this campus who shares the same faith as her.

Before she worked with the Interfaith Center, Ashchi would often wear a necklace with a nine-pointed star and Arabic writing in the middle.

“People would ask me ‘oh what is that?’ At first, they think it’s Jewish,” Ashchi said. “I explained it to a few people and they just rejected me.”

“They [said] that’s not a real religion,” Ashchi said.

These rejections drove her to Interfaith work.

“Religious literacy is important because we work with different people every day,” Ashchi said. “We need to understand if they have to step away to go pray or can’t eat a certain meal, we need to understand why.”

Adah Shair, a member of the Interfaith Week Student Planning Committee, described Interfaith Week as a marathon.

“It’s taking me out of my monotonous schedule and it’s giving me this week to do all I can,” Shair said.

The theme of this year’s Interfaith Week is Better Together with our Power Combined, based off the Captain Planet cartoon in the early 90s, McNeal said.

Wear a Turban Day kick starts Interfaith week. Photo by Camille Shaw.
Wear a Turban Day kick starts Interfaith week. Photo by Camille Shaw.

Events of the Seventh Annual Interfaith Week:

Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium: Documentary Screening of Divided We Fall

Valarie Kaur travels across the world to hear different stories after a turbaned Sikh man was murdered after 9/11.

Friday, Feb. 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Lend-A-Wing Pantry in Hicks Hall: Lend-A-Wing Pantry Project

Gather to organize donated goods for the Lend-a-Wing Pantry. Free waffles and subs will be served.

Monday, March 3 at noon to 1:30 p.m.: Student Identity Panel

Hear personal student stories about how beliefs, both religious and non-religious, play into identities. Free lunch.

Monday, March 3 at 8:00 p.m. in the Student Union Ballrooms: Interfaith Week Keynote — Valarie Kaur

Hear the filmmaker, civil rights advocate and interfaith leader share her stories.

Tuesday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m. at the Herbert University Center: Diana Eck — Oneness of Humanity

Wednesday, March 5 at 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Founders Hall, Suite 2100: Coffee and Conversation with Diana Eck

Conversations about identity and traditions over a free cup of coffee.

Wednesday, March 5 from 5:30 p.m.to 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballrooms: Interfaith Fair

Free dinner, music and a chance to join with people of different beliefs.

Thursday, March 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballrooms: i-Dinner

Free family-style dinner over trivia.

Saturday, March 8 at 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Student Union Amphitheater: Holi Festival

This ancient Hindu festival is best known for being a festival of color. Come in white clothing and leave colorful.

Email Noor Ashouri at [email protected]