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Monday 15 September 2014

Irish Sikhs abandon traditional turbans

SINEAD GRENNAN

Published 28/10/2001 | 00:11

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Ireland's turban-wearing Sikhs are discarding their traditional religious headgear, cutting their hair and shaving in a self-protective attempt to minimise simil...

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Ireland's turban-wearing Sikhs are discarding their traditional religious headgear, cutting their hair and shaving in a self-protective attempt to minimise similarity to terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Dr Jasbir Burie, a Sikh who has lived in Dublin for 13 years, confirmed there has been a "significant increase" in racist attacks since September. Sikhs who wear turbans are also finding it more difficult to get accommodation or employment, he said.

As a result, many are choosing to abandon the turban, an intrinsic part of Sikh identity, and get their first ever haircut.

Dr Burie, a consultant anaesthetist in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, said that many of those who were now getting their hair cut felt that they had no choice in the matter: "They feel bad, rejected. They detest it, but they feel they are under pressure to do it."

He recounted incidents in which landlords and employers told Sikhs that they wouldn't get accommodation or work if they wore a turban. "We tell them we will support them, but many of them are students and need the work," he said.

Dr Burie, secretary of the Management Committee of the Sikh temple in Dublin, has himself been the victim of verbal abuse. "It can happen on the street, in a hotel, anywhere," he said. "They say 'Osama bin Laden' or 'Son of Osama bin Laden ... You Muslims get away from here.' Not only Sikhs, but all of the Eastern nations have been targeted."

Barbers have also noted the increase in the number of Sikhs looking for haircuts since the September attacks on America.

Eddie Mulrooney of the Barber Shop on Chatham Street, said that before September, Sikhs in turbans usually only came into the shop to accompany their friends. Now up to three a day are getting haircuts.

Arthur McGuinness, also of the Chatham Street Barber Shop, said that the men don't often offer an explanation for the radical cut, but they sometimes say that they "want to blend in".

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