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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Sikhs urged to support Turban Day
By Asit Jolly
BBC correspondent in Chandigarh

Sikhs, some holding the French flag, demonstrate in Paris
Sikhs in France protested over a proposed ban on turbans in schools
A Sikh organisation in northern India has called on all Sikhs to observe 13 April as "World Turban Day".

The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) said the purpose of the day was to improve international awareness of Sikhism.

It believes that distrust and aggression against Sikhs is caused by a general ignorance about the religion. Sikh men have been mistaken for Islamic fundamentalists since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

There has been more than one instance where US-based Sikhs have been attacked and even killed.

SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta told the BBC the idea for the day was mooted as a way to try to tackle the suspicion and hatred directed against turban-wearing Sikhs living abroad.

French ban

Mr Calcutta also said the recent decision by the French government to ban the wearing of religious symbols, including turbans, came from ignorance about Sikh religious customs and traditions.

He said Sikhs living abroad could celebrate World Turban Day by initiating local campaigns to inform other communities about Sikhism.

He said the significance a turban has in their religion should be emphasised.

He asked all Sikhs to don traditional hand-tied turbans on this day rather than the more casual under-turbans and half-turbans.

13 April was selected as Turban Day because it is also the eve of the Sikh festival of Baisakhi that marks the birth of modern Sikhism or the Khalsa.

In the northern Indian state of Punjab, where Sikhs are in a majority, the Baisakhi festival also signals the start of the harvest season and is in general a time of much joy and merry-making.

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