Sikh And Muslim Women Seek Freedom to Wear Head Coverings

November 7, 2009

Author: John Woolfolk

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Their head wear displayed a full palette of colors and patterns, and symbolized different faiths. But the two dozen Sikh and Muslim women who gathered Saturday at a Fremont community center knew their turbans and scarves had a singular effect on many others in a country where their beliefs are in the minority.

They make the women stand out as different, and to some, threatening.

"Around Sept. 11 this year, I had someone call me a terrorist," said Jasdeep Kaur, a middle-school counselor and volunteer with the Sikh Coalition in Fremont that organized Saturday's unusual joint forum with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Santa Clara to address discrimination that women of both faiths face because of traditional religious head wear like her black dastaar turban. "We are visually standing out compared to everyone else."

Organizers said local Sikhs and Muslims had never held such a multifaith forum to address shared concerns about discrimination and profiling, but decided to do so because it remains a daily concern. While the overt hostility that peaked shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Islamic terrorists has subsided, more subtle discrimination persists, they said.

"There's a lot of covert discrimination out there," said Harsimran Kaur, a lawyer and director of the Sikh Coalition.