Donning The Turban

by Patrick Appel

Kevin B. Lee, who created a mini-documentary about Sikhs, considered joining the religion. Why he didn't:

As a practicing Sikh, a man is required to wear a turban at all times in public.  … [T]o truly be a Sikh, you have to stand out like a sore thumb as a living, visual manifestation of your beliefs. I just couldn’t do it, simply because I felt too self-conscious about how people would look at and perceive me. I couldn’t resist the comfort of not being looked at, of knowing that I could blend into a crowd, withdrawing into the secluded, private existence that I’d grown accustomed to. (Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is my favorite novel for a reason.) Maybe this is why I’ve found a more successful career as a film critic than as a filmmaker: I find it easier to watch others than to be looked at.

He adds that his "failure to don the turban does not reflect poorly on Sikhism itself":

[M]y failure to adopt the turban, after all my experiences and all that I learned about Sikhism, symbolizes the distance between my present self and the ideals I wish to embody. What the turban tells me is that our ideals are not a matter of convenience, but of true conviction. It also fills me with respect for all the Sikhs in America who do choose to look as they do, especially the Sikh children born in this country who every day are faced with the temptation to assimilate, particularly when post-9/11 America sees the turban as a threat.