Turbans are not Islamic dress

In the first part of his definition below, our old friend Webster 1913 appears to have got his facts slightly askew. In the light of the fact that recently in the USA many Sikh men have been attacked, harassed and in the case of Balbir Singh Sodhi killed, after being idiotically mistaken for Muslims, it would appear important to correct the dangerous mis-information below, even if it may not be possible to prevent such mindless attacks on anybody else.

Few men in the Levant, especially "Mohammedans of the male sex", wear anything that could be considered a turban. Although Islam does have several traditions of head coverings such as the Keffiyeh, ghutrah or shumagh for scholars of Islam, which may be found in the Levant, they denote something more similar to a checked scarf. More elaborate forms are popular in Oman and are called Dastār or Umamah.

A turban is however a distinctive part of the requirement for men of the Sikh faith, a religion which has absolutely no relation to Islam. Although Sikhism has its homeland in the Punjab region of northwest India, there are significant populations of Sikhs throughout the world. At the time of writing the numbers of Sikhs in the Levant were insignificant compared to the 100,000 in the USA, 336,000 in the UK and 19,220,000 in India. Despite various traditions of turban wearing amongst the nobility of Rajasthan and Mysore, also Indian non-Islamic people, It is safe to say that the vast majority of men that wear turbans around the world are likely to be Sikh adherents and not those of Islam.

The Sikh turban itself is intended to protect the hair, which must never be cut. It is made from a single piece of coloured fine muslin cloth five meters long and one meter wide, which is smoothly wound around the head clockwise six times. Both ends of the cloth are then tucked in securely, and are not left loose flowing, as with other non-Sikh Indian turbans. Sikh turbans are usually removed like a hat and re-worn many times. It is common practice to wear a white under-turban to enable easier washing. In Britain turban wearing Sikhs are the only motorcyclists exempt from the law requiring crash helmets to be worn.

Tur"ban (?), n. [OE. turband, turbant, tolibant, F. turban, It. turbante, Turk. tulbend, dulbend, fr. Per. dulband. Cf. Tulip.]

1.

A headdress worn by men in the Levant and by most Mohammedans of the male sex, consisting of a cap, and a sash, scarf, or shawl, usually of cotton or linen, wound about the cap, and sometimes hanging down the neck.

2.

A kind of headdress worn by women.

3. Zool.

The whole set of whorls of a spiral shell.

 

© Webster 1913.

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