Arguments on turban facile, but fallacious

JAIDEV SINGH RAI’s arguments in his article, “Getting it wrong on the French turban: Defend it as the right of an ethnic community, not as a religious right” (Oped Page, Jan 25) are facile, but fallacious. The facts cited by him are not wrong; their application to this case is, at best, sophistry.

Rai states that Jews, Christians or Muslims wearing their religious symbols are totally committed followers, while turban wearing Sikhs are not always good Sikhs, as seen by the many who indulge in unSikh activities.

This is abysmal reasoning. Is everyone who wears a hijab, yarmulke or cross a perfect Muslim, Jew or Christian? Certainly not! Many Sikhs, too, do not follow their religion very well; in that they are not qualitatively different from people of other faiths. He points to the many Sikhs with turbans that are seen in bars or dance halls etc. But just as many Muslims or Jews are seen there as well. Human failing is no argument for or against any markers of any religion.

Waiting for every Sikh to become a perfect Sikh before we push the argument for public recognition of the turban in French society is suicidal. Most people follow their religions somewhat fitfully; individual failing is not an indictment of a system or a faith. And that is the logical pitfall that has seduced Jaidev Singh Rai.


He points to Harkishen Singh Surjeet or Khushwant Singh, whose commitment to Sikhi is often questioned, and reminds us of the many who have abandoned all markers of their faith. But this is seen in all religions. How does it reduce the import of these symbols for those who choose to value them? We only need to look within the self to see that we have all strayed and fallen sometimes in our lives.

If Sikhism is based on ethnicity, as the writer argues, it, then, cannot be universal, and must remain limited to an ethnocentric existence in Punjab. This means that no non-Punjabi may ever walk its path. (Sikh history tells us how untrue this is.) I know that most religions show some degree of ethnic exclusivity. But those matters are far more complex. Sikhism has never ever argued for ethnic exclusivity, although it is deeply attached to Punjabi culture.

In the new generation of young Sikhs growing up outside Punjab and India, these ties to Punjabi and Indian culture are surely being tested. I am afraid, the writer’s case rests on thin and slippery ice.

Dr I.J. SINGH, Professor of  Anatomy, New York University, New York (USA)


I read the editorial, “Lift ban on turban” (Jan 26). Turban is neither a religious symbol nor it has been prescribed for Sikhs. Not only Sikhs, many non-Sikhs used to wear turban not under any compulsion but as a matter of convenience.

Guru Nanak Dev, who founded Sikh Panth, was very much against the so-called religious symbols of any kind. He even used to criticise the very thin “sacred thread” (janeu), worn by the fellow Hindus. Even the five Kakars (kesh, kachcha, karra, kirpan, kangha) were prescribed for the Khalsas, by Sri Guru Gobind Singh, when he founded Khalsa Panth and not for the Sikhs.

The people advocating the lifting of ban on turban should plead their case on the basis of convenience and not on the basis of religion. The Sikhs residing in France should honour the laws of the land because they are residing in France for their own benefit. Nobody is forcing them to stay there.

A.K. SHARMA, Chandigarh


I have gone through Balvinder’s letter (Jan 26). Wearing turban is compulsory for a Sikh according to the Sikh Rahit Maryada (code of conduct). The ban on the turban in France is against the Sikhs’ human rights. We are sorry that in the land of liberty, equality and fraternity, they don’t understand that the Sikhs too have certain human rights.

AMAR JIT SINGH GORAYA, Griffith NSW (Australia)

Defender of India’s honour

Even as we feel immensely proud of Capt S. K. Chowdhury who attained martyrdom while fighting terrorists just a day after he was awarded the Sena Medal for gallantry on Republic Day, we are shocked on the untimely death of this young and promising officer from the Gorkha Regiment.

This country should forever be grateful to heroes like Capt Chowdhury. India’s integrity, honour and independence will remain inviolate so long as we have amongst us gallant soldiers ready to lay down their lives in the line of sublime duty to the motherland.
Our hearts go out in profoundest sympathy to Capt S. K. Chowdhury’s family members for their traumatic loss. We pray to God to give eternal peace to the departed soul.

Wg-Cmdr S.C. KAPOOR (retd), Noida

Give them their due

I read the news-item, “Kamagata Maru: Ruby to urge Canadian govt for apology" (Jan 20). Indeed, it is welcome. Ironically, however, Kamagata Maru passengers have not yet been accorded the status of freedom fighters by the Union government despite my best efforts. I had filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2003.

The same is the case with Kuka Martyrs of 1872. They are of Malerkotla fame. I had also fought for their recognition as freedom fighters through a PIL in 2003.




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