History and information on turbans


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Volume 9.2        Spring 2008


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Neha Singh Gohil
Dawinder S. Sidhu
Turbans have been worn by different people around the world for at least the past
3,000 years.  For one community, the Sikhs, the turban carries deep religious
significance. Members of the Sikh faith—the  fifth largest religion in the world—are
required to wear a turban pursuant to religious mandate.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Sikh turbans have
taken on a new meaning.  Because non-Sikhs tend to associate Sikhs’ turbans with
Osama bin Laden, Sikhs with turbans have become a superficial and accessible proxy for
the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.  As a result, turbaned Sikhs in America have been
victims of racial violence and have had their identity challenged by calls for immigrant
groups to assimilate into Western societies.
This essay examines how the turban has transformed from a sacred piece of attire
for Sikhs to a target for discriminatory conduct and an object of marginalization after
9/11.  Part I provides an introduction to Sikhism, which originated in 17th century South
Asia, and discusses the religious significance of the Sikh turban.  Part II examines
incidents of discrimination in several contexts involving turbaned Sikhs in America.  Part
III analyzes the debate surrounding assimilation that has been taking place in the West,
which implicates conspicuous articles of faith, including the Sikh turban.  The essay also
explores the legal remedies available to turbaned Sikhs affected by discriminatory
conduct or by broader policies on the wearing of turbans.

M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; J.D., Yale Law School;
B.A., University of Southern California.  Ms. Gohil is Advocacy  Director and Staff
Attorney at the Sikh Coalition.  She would like to thank Amy Chua for her assistance
with the first draft of this paper, the Discrimination and National Security Initiative for
developing it, Amardeep Singh for help along the way, and her parents and husband for
their constant support.
J.D., The George Washington University; M.A., Johns Hopkins University; B.A.,
University of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Sidhu is a founding director of the Discrimination and
National Security Initiative, and civil rights attorney.  He would like to thank Anil Kalhan
and Valarie Kaur for their helpful comments on earlier drafts, Rajbir Singh Datta and
Amardeep Singh for their assistance in identifying relevant incidents, and his parents for
their love and encouragement.

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Ten to twenty feet of cloth, neatly folded and wrapped around one’s head until it
completely covers one’s hair.  This particular headdress has been worn for hundreds of
years and for a variety of reasons—from protection against the weather to signifying
royal status.
For members of the Sikh religion, however, the turban is not a fashion trend or
indicia of social standing—it is an essential part of their faith.  Sikhs are required to wear
turbans pursuant to religious mandate. They consider it to be an outward manifestation of
their devotion to God and solemn adherence to the strictures of their religion.  It has been
this way ever since the Sikh religion was formally established in the Punjab region of
South Asia in 1699.
Over three hundred years later, in the  aftermath of the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, the turban has been assigned a different meaning.  In contemporary
post-9/11 America, the perceived similarity of Sikhs with turbans to Osama bin Laden
has made the turbaned Sikhs, already one of the most visible minority groups in the
United States, a superficial and accessible proxy for the elusive bin Laden and his distant
al-Qaeda regime.

As a result, some Americans have directed their post-9/11 rage towards Sikhs.  In
particular, Sikhs with turbans in the United States have been murdered, stabbed,
assaulted, verbally harassed, discriminated against in the workplace, and refused service
in places of public accommodation, among other things.
At the same time, turbaned Sikh-Americans have also faced a broader attack on
their identity, leading them to question whether and to what extent their faith is
compatible with Western society.  In several democratic nations, conspicuous religious
clothing, especially the Muslim veil, are considered marks of separation and
demonstrative proof of a stubborn refusal to assimilate into mainstream society.  This
largely European debate concerning the proper balance between multiculturalism and
integration has necessarily placed visible  articles of faith, including the Sikh turban,
under intense scrutiny in the United States as well.
These tangible and intellectual challenges to the Sikh turban
have resulted in
serious consequences for turbaned Sikhs in America.  More than physical violence, Sikhs

See Leti Volpp, The Citizen and the Terrorist, 49 UCLA L. REV. 1575, 1590 (2002)
(“Sikh men, who are religiously mandated to  wear turbans, have been conflated with
Osama Bin Laden and have suffered significant violence[.]”).
As used in this Article, the “tangible” challenge is characteristically direct in nature, is
generally carried out by ordinary citizens, and its immediate impact is local, that is to the
victims and to members of the Sikh community in that region,  though the long-term
aggregate effects may be broader.  The “intellectual” challenge is, by contrast, more
abstract in nature, is generally engaged in by government agents or influential media
outlets, and is, at a minimum, national in terms of impact, due to the question of whether
individuals who wear certain religious clothing should be permitted to wear those articles
of faith in a particular society.

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in America are wondering whether they are truly members of this political community
and whether the American legal system is sufficient to protect them from the post-9/11
They are also wrestling with the importance of the turban itself, despite the
longstanding belief that it must be worn.
In short, the Sikh sense of belonging to the
American experiment, their faith in the rule of law in America, and Sikh identity itself are
in jeopardy.
The central purpose of this Article is to examine the turban as a sacred piece of
attire for Sikhs and as a  target for discriminatory conduct and an object of
marginalization after 9/11.  While the post-9/11 backlash has been discussed in other
particularly as it relates to Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians,
serious study

See Videotape, Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity, available at
[hereinafter Dastaar Video].  Amric Singh Rathour, a turbaned Sikh who was asked to
remove his turban in order to serve with the New York Police Department, noted,
“[w]hen you’re ridiculed and discriminated against, you feel inhuman, you feel different,
and you want to feel the same.  Even though I was born and raised here, I felt that this
wasn’t my country.”  Id.
For example, previous legal commentary has indicated that it is unclear whether
American law would prohibit  legislation similar to the  French ban on conspicuous
articles of faith in public schools, which includes a ban on Sikh turbans.  See infra Part
See Jeremy Page, Sikhs head for the barber and turn their backs on tradition, TIMES
ONLINE (UK), Nov. 24, 2006, available at
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article648044.ece [hereinafter  Sikhs
head for the barber].  “Western intolerance of religious symbols and a series of street
attacks are prompting young men to shed their hair and turbans . . . . Many young Sikh
men who have cut their hair say that they did so to escape the humiliation of turban
searches at Western airports  or to avoid being mistaken for Muslims. They cite Balbri
[sic] Singh Sodi [sic], a petrol station owner shot dead in Arizona on September 15, 2001.
His American killer, bent on revenge for 9/11, thought that Mr Sodi’s [sic] turban
indicated that he was an Arab . . . .  But worrying as racist attacks are, Sikh elders are
even more concerned by a broader official crackdown on overt expressions of religious
identity in the West, especially in Europe.”  Id.
Existing articles have discussed, for example:
1) Racial profiling, including:  Racial Farah Brelvi,  Un-American Activities: Racial
Profiling and the Backlash after Sept. 11, 48 FED. LAW. 69 (2001) (offering a critical
analysis of racial profiling during times of war); Thomas M. McDonnell, Targeting the
Foreign Born by Race and Nationality: Counter-Productive in the “War on Terrorism,”
16 PACE INT’L L. REV. 19 (2004) (criticizing the effectiveness and morality of profiling
of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians in the aftermath of 9/11);
2) Government policies, including immigration: Muneer I. Ahmad,  A Rage Shared by
Law: Post-September 11 Racial Violence as Crimes of Passion, 92 CAL. L. REV. 1259

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of Sikhs, the community that is said to have “borne the disproportionate brunt of hate
violence in the aftermath of September 11,”
has not been offered.
This Article

(Oct. 2004) (discussing public and private racial violence against Muslims, Arabs, South
Asians, and Sikhs after 9/11); Sameer M. Asha,  Immigration Enforcement and
Subordination: The Consequences of Racial Profiling after September 11, 34 CONN. L.
REV. 1185 (2002) (discussing immigration enforcement following the 9/11 attacks);
3) Identity issues: Volpp,  supra  note 3, at 1526 (“suggest[ing] that September 11
facilitated the consolidation of a new identity category that groups together persons who
appear Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim, whereby members of this group are identified
as terrorists and dis-identified as citizens.”); Jagdish J. Bijlani, Neither Here Nor There:
Creating a Legally and Politically Distinct South Asian Racial Identity, 16 BERKELEY LA
RAZA  L.J. 53, 54 (2005) (exploring “the argument that because of their collective
racialized experience, South  Asians should be identified as a legally and politically
distinct racial group for the limited purpose of encouraging group empowerment.”); and
4) Civil liberties generally after 9/11: Erwin Chemerinsky, Civil Liberties and the War on
Terrorism, 45 WASHBURN L.J. 1 (2005) (arguing that civil liberties are in a state of peril
after 9/11).
A number of excellent resources exist on challenges to these communities after 9/11.
See Deborah Ramirez & Stephanie Woldenberg,  Balancing Security and Liberty in a
Post-September 11th World: The Search for Common Sense in Domestic
Counterterrorism Policy, 14 TEMP. POL. & CIV. RTS. L. REV. 495, 495 (2005) (arguing
that “racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims does not make operational sense because it
fails to help in narrowing down a list of potential terrorist subjects and succeeds only in
alienating . . . the largely untapped linguistic and cultural expertise that the Arab and
Muslim communities can bring to the table with law enforcement in a joint effort to
prevent future acts of terrorism.”); Susan M. Akram & Kevin R. Johnson, Race, Civil
Rights, and Immigration Law After September 11, 2001: The Targeting of Arabs and
Muslims, 58 N.Y.U. ANN. SURV. AM. L. 295 (2002) (examining the demonization of
Arabs and Muslims); Dalia Hashad, Stolen Freedoms: Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians
in the Wake of Post 9/11 Backlash, 81 DENV. U. L. REV. 735, 735 (2004) (chronicling
“government-instituted discrimination and racist implementation of policy” after 9/11).
Ahmad, supra note 8, at 1330 n.174 (“Many Sikh men, who wear turbans and long
beards, were targeted in post-September 11 hate violence because they were mistaken to
be Muslim. As a result, Sikhs have borne the disproportionate brunt of hate violence in
the aftermath of September 11.”).   See Tamar Lewin & Gustav Niebuhr,  A Nation
Challenged: Violence, Attacks, and Harassment Continue on Middle Eastern People and
Mosques, N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 18, 2001, at B5 (“Perhaps even more than Muslims, Sikhs in
the United States have been singled out for harassment since the terrorist attacks, perhaps
because the long beards and turbans prescribed by their Indian religion give them a visual
resemblance to the terrorist Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.”); Laurie Goodskin,
American Sikhs Contend They Have Become a Focus of Profiling at Airports, N.Y.
TIMES, Nov. 10, 2001, at B6 (“Sikh travelers say that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
they have been singled out for questioning by the police and security workers at

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represents a modest attempt to shed light on a group whose experiences have largely been
subsumed in broader discussions of post-9/11 issues, including bias incidents and legal
Over a hundred years after Sikhs first set foot in America, they continue to
experience discrimination, suggesting strongly that ignorance about Sikhs and the
significance of their turban is still rampant in the West.  Precisely because of this
ignorance and continuing discriminatory conduct against Sikhs, a meaningful overview
of Sikhism and the Sikh turban should be  offered not only for  the benefit of those
interested in civil rights and pluralism, but  also for those who represent or hear cases
against Sikhs.
Indeed, as Amardeep Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition, a

American airports.”); U.S. Sikhs Bear Brunt of Backlash, CBS NEWS, Sept. 25, 2001,
available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/09/24/archive/main312265.shtml
(“[M]any Sikhs say they have been singled out most; they blame their resemblance to the
suspected perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, who also has a flowing beard and wears a
turban.  ‘The picture of Osama bin Laden is constantly being flashed on TV sets,’ says
Prabhjot Singh, director of the United Sikhs In Service of America (USSA), a prominent
Sikh organization. Ironically, he says, Sikhs  here look more like bin Laden than most
Muslims do.”).   Cf. Karen Engle,  Constructing Good Aliens and Good Citizens:
Legitimizing the War on Terror(ism), 75 U. COLO. L. REV. 59, 98 (2004) (“Whether
through government investigations and raids  or ‘private’ vigilance, the brunt of the
internal war has fallen on Muslims, particularly those of Arab descent (now that
Americans seem to have learned the difference between Sikhs and Muslims).”); Susan
Martin & Philip Martin, International Migration and Terrorism: Prevention, Prosecution
and Protection, 18 GEO. IMMIGR. L.J. 329, 342 (2004) (“An Amnesty International report
issued the first week in October 2001 cited more than 540 attacks on Arab-Americans
and at least 200 on Sikhs in the week following the attacks on the World Trade Center
and Pentagon.”).
Perhaps the article that comes close to achieving the purpose of this essay is Mark
Stromer, Note, Combating Hate Crimes against Sikhs: A Multi-Tentacled Approach, 9 J.
GENDER RACE & JUST. 739 (2006), which describes the backlash against Sikhs generally,
but focuses on one aspect of the backlash (i.e., hate crimes) and argues how hate crimes
legislation may be improved.
The purpose of Parts I & II is to achieve greater understanding of Sikhs, not to
differentiate Sikhs from any other group, including Muslims, such that other groups are
to be thought of as the more appropriate objects of post-9/11 animus.  Some Sikhs in
America have engaged in the enterprise of deflecting negative attention away from
themselves and towards Muslims.   See Volpp, supra note 3, at 1590 (commenting on
Sikhs and South Asians claiming, in response to racial attacks, that they have been
misidentified, “rather than condemn[ing] violence regardless of its target”); Gregory
Rodriguez, Aftermath: Identify Yourself: Who’s American?, N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 23, 2001,
at A1 (“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, there has been a notable number of hate crimes against
Arab-Americans and Muslims. Frightened by  a wave of violence, American Sikhs are
explaining to the public that despite their turbans and beards, they are not Muslims[.]”).

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leading Sikh advocacy organization, noted, “Litigation in the Sikh community is unlike
litigation in any other community you can think of because what we’re doing . . . is
beyond arguing the law; we’re giving a little mini-history and religion lesson” on the
“How can you apply the law against a group you don’t understand?” he added.

Part I will thus present an introduction  to Sikhism, including its founding, doctrinal
development, and the historical establishment of the requirement for adherents to wear
turbans.  It will also describe the symbolic importance and physical aspects of the Sikh
Part II of this Article will summarize prominent incidents
in several areas in
which Sikhs with turbans have been subject to discriminatory conduct in post-9/11
harassment, detention by law enforcement, racial violence, denial of entry
into public places, employment discrimination, and airport profiling.  These incidents
cover not only a wide range of discriminatory behavior, but also span each of the years
since the 9/11 attacks.  As such, this section will convey both the scope and continuing
nature of the post-9/11 backlash against Sikhs.  In addition to the factual circumstances,
actual and possible legal resolutions of the incidents will  also be mentioned, where
Part III will examine the Western debate surrounding assimilation, spurred on by
the specter of terrorist activity after 9/11 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005.  The
notion that religious minority  groups should abandon their articles of faith in order to
adopt a more homogeneous, national appearance has called into question not only the
Muslim veil, but also the Christian cross, the Jewish yarmulke, and the Sikh turban.  This
section will discuss how several Western democracies initially absorbed the entry of
Sikhs to their nations, the global challenge to religious identity after 9/11, and finally
whether the American legal apparatus could tolerate some of the drastic restrictions to

This Article attempts no such thing.  Again, the intent in crafting Parts I & II is to educate
the reader about one group, not to isolate or endanger another.
Dastaar Video, supra note 5 (Statement of Amardeep Singh, Executive Director, Sikh
These examples were selected in consultation with the executive directors of the two
leading Sikhs civil rights organizations assisting Sikhs after 9/11, Rajbir Singh Datta of
the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Amardeep Singh of the Sikh
It should be noted that not all Sikhs wear turbans.  See Sikhs head for the barber, supra
note 7.  In fact, some Sikhs have cut their hair in direct response to the treatment they
received after the 9/11 attacks.  See Michael Winerip, The High Cost of Looking Like an
All-American Guy, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 21, 2001, at A33 (noting that a young Sikh man cut
his hair after being subject to harassment).  In each of the incidents described in this
Article, however, Sikhs with turbans are the targets of the discriminatory actions.

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religious attire that have been enacted elsewhere in the wake of 9/11.  Part IV will
Before we begin this discussion, a few cautionary statements are in order.  First,
the scope of this Article is limited to challenges to turbaned Sikhs in the context of the
post-9/11 backlash in America. As a result, it does not focus on other groups that have
also been subject to acts of hate and to calls to integrate, including Muslims, Arabs, and
South Asians.
Second, this Article does not dismiss the difficult circumstances that the
country finds itself in following the terrorist attacks in Washington, New York, and
Pennsylvania.  Third, this Article acknowledges that those circumstances have given way
to encouraging developments, with the backlash reportedly waning,
leading public
figures to appeal for tolerance
and reach out to targeted groups,
and federal courts

This is not an exclusive list of communities subject to post-9/11 discrimination.  See
Volpp, supra  note 3, at 1599 n.2 (“Persons of many different races and religions have
been attacked as presumably appearing ‘Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim.’ South Asians,
in particular, along with Arabs and persons of Middle Eastern descent, have been subject
to attack, although Latinos and African Americans have also been so identified.”).
See Eric Treene, American Muslims and Civil Rights: Testimonies and Critiques, 19
J.L. & RELIGION  89, 89 (2003-2004) (“After 9/11 we saw a sharp spike in bias-crimes
against Muslims and Arab-Americans, as well as those perceived to be Muslim or Arab,
such as Sikhs, who are targeted because of their distinctive turbans. Thankfully, this spike
in bias crimes has subsided to roughly pre-9/11 levels, although we do not have accurate
statistics on bias crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans before 9/11 to provide a
baseline for comparison.”); Stephen J. Ellmann, Changes in the Law Since 9/11: Racial
Profiling and Terrorism, 19 N.Y.L. SCH. J. HUM. RTS. 305, 360 n.43 (2003) (“A count by
my research assistant of the airport incident reports, however, strongly suggests that this
problem has now been addressed[.]”) [hereinafter Ellmann].
See Press Release,  President Pledges Assistance for New York in Phone Call with
Pataki, Giuliani, White House, Sept. 13, 2001,  available at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010913-4.html (“our nation must
be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans who live in New York City who
love their flag just as much as the three of us do.  And we must be mindful that as we
seek to win the war that we treat Arab Americans and Muslims with the respect they
deserve.  I know that is your attitudes, as well; it’s certainly the attitude of this
government, that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of
terror.”).  See also,  Continuing Story: Elected Officials Respond to Backlash The
Pluralism Project, http://www.pluralism.org/news/index.php?xref=Elected+Officials+Res
pond+to+Backlash (other statements by elected officials responding to backlash post
September 11).
See Hon. Mary Murphy Schroeder, Guarding Against the Bigotry that Fuels Terrorism,
48 FED. LAW. 26, 27 Dec. (2001) (noting that “by visiting a mosque soon after the
attacks, the President sent a good signal.”).

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writing in defense of pluralism and the religious freedom of Sikhs.
That said, this
Article discusses ongoing challenges to the Sikh turban despite these efforts.  Moreover,
remaining challenges may intensify and new ones may arise if future attacks occur. Thus,
attempts to foster understanding of Sikh identity and the Sikh experience continue to be
relevant and necessary.

See U.S. v. James, 328 F.3d 953, 957 (7th Cir. 2003) (“Tolerance usually is the best
course in a pluralistic nation.  Accommodation of religiously inspired conduct is a token
of respect for, and a beacon of welcome  to, those whose beliefs differ from the
majority’s[.]”).  See also Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Multani
c. Marguerite-Bourgeoys, 264 D.L.R. 4th 577 (2006) (The Court held that “an absolute
prohibition against wearing a kirpan infringes the freedom of religion of the student in
question under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [hereinafter
Canadian Charter]. The infringement cannot be justified under section 1 of the Canadian
Charter, since it has not been shown that such a prohibition minimally impairs the
student’s rights.”).
The potential for racial violence arguably exists as long as the possibility of war or
crisis exists, thus rendering  individual incidents of a backlash worthy of our attention,
such that we may learn from our mistakes and refuse in the future to manifest national
anger, fear, and ignorance in the  form of discriminatory actions.  See  William H.
that the nation’s past will not repeat itself);  see also Mark V. Tushnet,  Defending
Korematsu? Reflections on Civil Liberties in Wartime, 2003 WIS. L. REV. 273, 273
(2003) (arguing that we have learned from our past mistakes only not to repeat those
precise mistakes, rather than more general lessons).

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I.  Sikhism and the Sikh Turban
Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living.
– Guru Nanak
A.  Founding and Early Development of Sikhism
In 1469, a man named Nanak was born in Punjab—the region now split between
present-day northwest India and eastern Pakistan.
Historians contend that Nanak lived
in a time of “tumult of hate and falsehood” involving Hindus and Muslims, where tension
existed between the two communities and where the religious practices of both groups
were generally becoming more ritualistic and less meaningful.
At the age of 30, Nanak
emerged from a period of intense meditation with a vision of unity and spiritual
renaissance: “There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman,” he declared.

According to Sikh history, at this age,  Nanak also penned a brief verse that is
recognized as the fundamental summation of Sikh philosophy and theology.  Hence, this
verse is called the mul mantar, or “root formula.”
The importance of the mul mantar in
Sikhism is clear, as it serves as the opening passage to the Sikh holy book, the Sri Guru
Granth Sahib, which totals 1,430 pages.
The text of the mul mantar, as translated to
English, is as follows:
God is only One.
His name is True.
He is the Creator.

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He is without fear.
He is inimical to none.
He never dies.
He is beyond births and deaths.
He is self-illuminating.
He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru.
Repeat his Name.
He was True in the Beginning.
He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True.
He is also True now.
Nanak says that He will certainly be True in the future.
In addition, Nanak established what  are generally understood to be the three
essential aspects of Sikh life: 1) remembering and meditating upon God’s Name (naam
japna); 2) living a truthful and honest life (kirat karni); and 3) giving one’s resources and
labor to help others in the community, particularly the less fortunate (vand ke chhakna).

These three activities blend solitary reflection with active service to society.

Nanak also believed in the equality of all people, including the downtrodden.
This was a groundbreaking principle, given the rigid social hierarchy that existed at the
As a result of this doctrinal tenet, Nanak contended that every person, regardless
of circumstance, could realize God by following the three aforementioned rules.  He also
rejected all forms of caste systems
and extolled the equality of the sexes, a progressive

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position at the time.

Nanak spread his message across South Asia and the Middle East, traveling from
the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains to Baghdad and as far south as Sri Lanka.

Mardana, a Muslim and a trained musician, usually accompanied Nanak.
teachings were thus recited to music,  making the hymns easier for the masses to

Nanak became the first of ten teachers, or Gurus, whose disciples were named
“Sikhs,” literally students or seekers of truth.
Nanak, the man, is therefore called “Guru
Nanak.”  While Nanak and the Gurus are revered by Sikhs, Nanak made it clear that the
Gurus were “ordinary” men, not supernatural figures to be idolized.

The nine Gurus that followed Nanak continued to develop his message and
expanded the faith’s base.
The fifth Guru, Arjun, was a prolific proponent of Nanak’s
philosophy and authored a majority (2,218) of the hymns that are in the Sri Guru Granth
Sahib, Sikhism’s holy text.
Importantly, Arjun is known for refusing to give in to the
demands of the Mughal
Emperor of the time, Jahangir, who was concerned about the


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spread of Sikhism.   Arjun refused to convert to Islam and was eventually tortured to
death by Jahangir in 1606.
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Whereas Arjun adopted a pacifist approach to Mughal demands, the sixth Guru,
Hargobind, advanced a more aggressive  approach to threats from the Mughal
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While Arjun calmly chose death over conversion to  Islam, Hargobind
thought that Sikhs were morally  obligated to defend their faith.
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Hargobind, for
example, asked Sikh followers to donate weapons and horses, with which he established
a cavalry.
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This militaristic mentality was later embraced by the tenth Guru, Gobind
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Gobind Singh led the Sikh people after  his father, Tegh Bahadur, who was
beheaded at the command of the Muslim emperor, Aurangzeb.
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Gobind Singh, a fierce
warrior, created a religious army to resist the persecution by the Mughal rulers.  On or
about April 14, 1699, Gobind Singh called together approximately 80,000 Sikhs in the
small town of Anandpur in Punjab, “specifically exort[ing] the Sikhs to come with their
hair and beards unshorn.”
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There, Gobind Singh formally organized Sikhs into an army
of God, a community of saint-soldiers, known as the Khalsa, or the pure.
Gobind Singh

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“name given the Muslim rulers, or emperors, who controlled western India, with
decreasing effectiveness, from 1526 to 1858 (932-1274 H).”).
Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Saheb Ji-Part 2, Gurmat Studies Foundation, July 2003,
available at http://www.gurmatstudies.com/articles/5guru1.htm.
See Juss, supra note 28 at 491.
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Guru Hargobind Sahib,  Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (“Guru Sahib
converted the peaceful sect into a warlike community, ready to defend their interests with
the swords and it was the need of the hour.”)  available at
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See Prithi Pal Singh,  The History of Sikh Gurus, 81 (2007) (noting that Guru
Hargobind “advised his followers to make offerings of arms, weapons, and horses.”).
48  See More All History and information on turbans
See Juss, supra note 28 at 491 (identifying Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh as
the only two Sikh Gurus who “took up arms.”).
49  See More All History and information on turbans
See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 74-76.
50   See More All History and information on turbans
See id. at 82; see also Sikhs and the Arts of Punjab, Victoria and Albert Museum,
available at
51  See More All History and information on turbans
Gobind Singh instructed all Sikh men to adopt the surname “Singh” (meaning lion) and
all women the surname “Kaur” (meaning lioness or princess).  See Juss, supra note 28 at
533 n. 42 (This was done again to abolish any distinctions, based on caste or occupation,
and to foster a sense of  unity.); Michael Rosensaft, The Right of Men to Change their
11  See More All History and information on turbans


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employer’s directives, Singh eventually and reluctantly agreed to wear a logo on his
SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
The Sikh Coalition has filed suit on behalf of Singh.
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The DOJ has also filed
suit on behalf of Singh.  The case is still pending as of February 2008.
If the Jaggi and Rathour cases were  precedential, should have a strong case
against the MTA.  It should be noted, however, that the Jaggi and Rathour resolutions
were ultimately reached via settlement, not via judicial determination.
What of the courts?  Some legal scholars, including Circuit Judge Michael W.
McConnell, have claimed that the courts have eviscerated religious rights in the
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a situation that would ostensibly imperil turbaned Sikhs from bringing
successful Title VII claims.  For example, the Supreme Court has  held that employers
need not bear more than a de minimis cost to accommodate religious employees,
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that employers are not required to accept a particular accommodation suggested by the
Courts have also allowed employers to defend themselves against undue
hardship by claiming that the accommodation would negatively affect business
impose on co-worker rights,
or endanger public health or safety.

SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

See Michael W. McConnell, Symposium, Religion in the Workplace: Proceedings of
the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Law
and Religion, 4 EMPLOYEE RTS. & EMP. POL’Y J. 87, 98 (2000) (noting that “the Supreme
Court’s decisions in Hardison and Philbrook have made mincemeat of the congressional
intention in Title VII.”); see also Thomas D. Brierton, “‘Reasonable Accommodation’”
Under Title VII: Is it Reasonable to the Religious Employee, 42 CATH. LAW. 165, 182-
186 (2002) (describing the ways in which the  “[t]he courts have weakened reasonable
accommodation rights in the workplace[.]”) [hereinafter Reasonable Accommodation].
See TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 84 (1977) (“To require TWA to bear more than a
de minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship.”).
See Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986) (“We find no basis in
either the statute or its legislative history for requiring an  employer to choose any
particular reasonable accommodation. By its very terms the statute directs that any
reasonable accommodation by the employer is  sufficient to meet its accommodation
See EEOC v. Sambo’s of Ga. Inc., 530 F. Supp. 86, 91 (N.D.Ga. 1981) (disagreeing
that “customer preference is an insufficient justification or defense as a matter of law[.]”).
See Weber v. Roadway Express Inc., 199 F.3d 270, 274 (5th Cir. 2000) (finding that
an accommodation is “more than a de minimis expense because [it] unduly burdens his
31  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

Once Chawla arrived in Brooklyn, “he slipped  into a shop, stuffed his turban into his
briefcase and wore his hair in a ponytail for the rest of the day.”
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No legal action was taken against those who chased and verbally abused Chawla.
This incident is significant in at least two respects.  First, the attack on Sikhs with turbans
occurred almost immediately after the towers were struck, meaning turbaned Sikhs were
imperiled as soon as the attack occurred. As a result, the Sikh community had to rapidly
mobilize, in an already emotional and uncertain moment, to educate others, appeal for
tolerance, and assert their rights.  Second, verbal harassment of Sikhs, such as being
called “bin Laden,” “raghead,” or “towelhead,” is commonplace, but generally happens
without any formal legal consequence.

On September 14, 2001, Manga Singh, a cab driver in the New York City area,
picked up a passenger who proceeded to reach through the open partition and tried to beat
him with an umbrella while yelling, “I hate you, I hate you and your turban.”
Singh’s father, Surinder Singh, “recalled a rider who said to him, ‘You do [sic] that, you
attacked the World Trade Center!’” He responded “No, I am an American Sikh . . . .
Osama bin Laden has a turban, but it’s very different.”
There are no reports of legal
action being pursued in this case either,  again supporting the contention that verbal
harassment, however hateful and hurtful, generally occurs without legal repercussions.
Sikh youth are particularly  vulnerable to being bullied by other students.  For
example, Mandeep Singh, a ninth grade student from the Philadelphia area, was regularly
harassed in school.
He was called “bin Laden” and told to go back to “turbanland,”
among other things.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission investigated the

Somini Sengupta,  Arabs and Muslims Steer Through an Unsettling Scrutiny, N.Y
TIMES, Sept. 13, 2001, available at
See e.g., Beth Velliquette,  3 teens held in Sikh assault, The Herald-Sun (Durham,
Chapel Hill, NC), Apr. 2, 2004 (discussing the story of turbaned Sikh, Gagandeep
Bindra, who claimed that being called “Osama bin Laden” or “terrorist” was “a normal
occurrence after 9/11” and whose harassers were apprehended only when assault was
Chastity Pratt and Melanie Lefkowitz,  Arab, Shik [sic] Cabbies Offer Free Rides,
Volunteers help families, hope to avoid harassment, NEWSDAY, at W33, Sept. 16, 2001.
106   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
Coalition Helps End Student’s Suffering From Bullying In School, The Sikh Coalition,
Feb. 27, 2006 [hereinafter Coalition Helps End Student’s Suffering]  available at
Id.  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

21  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/


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years. Sikhs even have their own commemorative stamp, issued on the 300
birthday of
the year when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa.
Sikhs immigrated to the United States  as early as 1899, settling mainly in the
West “to build railroads, farm, or work in mills and foundries.”
Sikh agricultural skills  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
combined with the similarities of the fertile land of California with that of Punjab made
the Western region of America a natural home for many Sikhs.
Although there has   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
been a vibrant Sikh community in Central California since the late 19
century, most of
the Sikhs currently living around the country arrived after the 1965 immigration laws
nullified immigration quotas.
“After 1965 in the United States . . . . immigration laws
were revised to admit Indians in numbers equal to those for people of other countries.”
As a result of the change in laws, which favored professionals, Sikhs were among the
approximately “hundred thousand engineers, physicians, scientists, professors, teachers,
business people and their dependents [who] had entered the United States by 1975.”

There are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the United States today, one third of
whom reside in California and New Mexico. Many of them wear turbans and keep long
beards as symbols of their faith.
Despite the discrimination that Sikhs have faced in
the United States, they have prospered in  various aspects of American life, including
politics and business.

See SikhTimes.com (image of stamp)   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See Civil Rights Concerns in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Area in the
Aftermath of the September 11, 2001, Tragedies, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 8
(June 2003) [hereinafter Civil Rights Commission Report].

Lea Terhune,  Sikhs Rule in California’s Central Valley, SPAN 2 (May/June 2005),
available at http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/in1/wwwfspmayjune4.pdf.
See L. Scott Smith, From Promised land to Tower of Babel: Religious Pluralism and
the Future of the Liberal Experiment in America, 45 BRANDEIS L.J. 527, 570 (2007);  see
also Stromer, supra note 11, at 739-40, 742-43.
Jensen, supra note 90, at 280.
SMART, Who are the Sikhs, Sikh Media Watch and Resource Task Force, available
at http://www.sikhmediawatch.org/pubs/smartpub1.htm.
Civil Rights Commission Report, supra note 222 at 8 (quoting Patwant Singh, The
Sikhs  242 (1992)).   See e.g., Stephanie M. Weinstein,  A Needed Image Makeover:
Interest Convergence and the United States’ War on Terror, 11 ROGER WILLIAMS U. L.
REV. 403, 427 (2006) (“Religious minorities, such as Sikhs, are also experiencing
economic gains. Akal Security, owned by  the Sikh Dharma community, is one of
America’s fastest growing security companies.”).
41B.  The Global Call for Assimilation after 9/11
The war on terror has not only increased racial violence, harassment, and adverse
employment actions against Sikhs with turbans; it has also led to a more abstract
questioning of the proper degree to which visible immigrant minority groups should be
part of mainstream Western society.
Western societies have generally permitted
immigrant minority groups to maintain aspects of their identity and heritage.
Canada,  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
for example, is famous for advancing this more permissive approach to multiculturalism.
Indeed, former Canadian Prime Minister Diefenbaker once said
Canada was not a “melting pot” in which the individuality of each element
is destroyed in order to produce a new and totally different element. It is
rather a garden into which have been transplanted the hardiest and
brightest of flowers from many lands, each retaining in its new
environment the best of the qualities for which it was loved and prized in
its native land.
In a multicultural society, certain pockets of a city may have a large concentration
of ethnic or religious immigrants.
The Little Italy’s or Chinatowns that are embedded

229  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See Helen Elizabeth Hartnell, Belonging: Citizenship and Migration in the European
Union and in Germany, 24 BERKELEY  J. INT’L  L. 330, 339 (2006) (“Questions
surrounding tolerance, multiculturalism, and the existence of ‘parallel societies’ have
returned to the forefront of contemporary debates in  Germany, particularly since the
eruption of ethnic violence in the neighboring Netherlands in the summer of 2004 and in
France in October 2005.”).
230  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See, e.g., Kenneth Lasson,  Religious Liberty in the Military: the First Amendment
under “Friendly Fire”,  9 J.L. & RELIGION 471, 471 (1992) (“most western cultures
regard religious liberty as so fundamental that their military establishments routinely
develop regulations to accommodate specific religious practices.”); Gidon Sapir, Religion
and State- A Fresh Theoretical Start, 75 NOTRE  DAME  L. REV. 579, 583 (Dec. 1999)
(“The vast majority of Western nations accept the view that people should be granted
freedom of religion.”).
See, e.g., Singh, supra note 113, at 208.
See Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller,  Immigrant Residential and Mobility
Patterns, (in Reed Ueda, A COMPANION TO  AMERICAN IMMIGRATION, 309 (2006)) (“A
common characteristic of immigrants in various destinations and in various time periods
is that they tend to be geographically concentrated.  Immigrants of a particular origin tend
to live in areas where others from the same origin live, rather than disturbing themselves
across the regions of the destination in the same proportion as the native-born population.
The result of this tendency to settle among others from  the country of origin is the
formation of immigrant and ethnic concentrations or enclaves.”);  cf.  Dessa Marie Dal
42in some countries’ major metropolitan areas—with restaurants and grocery stores
offering traditional food and dual language business signs—are examples of societies
exhibiting permissive multiculturalism.
While minorities and immigrants may live in
these concentrated areas, they nonetheless participate in society, by, for example, taking
part in political and civic activities or accepting jobs that some consider undesirable.

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, is France. The French Republic was
built on principles of separation of church and state and religious secularism, known in
French as laïcité.
Laïcité was at the base of the French Revolution, and has been a
basic tenet of French government since the 18
The separation of Church and
State was formally declared in 1905, and the idea holds an almost militant sway over the
French to this day.
Secularism implies not just neutrality, but is itself a government
mandated social norm,
leaving little space for identities that might clash with one’s
role as a politically French citizen. France has a long tradition of secularism.  As one
commentator noted, “[t]he will of the state to avoid knowledge of citizens’ spirituality is
. . . a guarantee of liberty for the diverse  religious confessions.”
As one writer

Porto, La Piccola Italia Invisible: Washington D.C.’s Invisible Little Italy, 11 GEO. PUB.
POL’Y REV. 15, 16 (2006) (arguing that “an ethnic community can exist without having an
ethnic enclave.”).
THE VILLAGE TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD, 864 (2003) (“Contemporary Italian American
neighborhoods are varied but share elements of appearance and traditions such as food
preferences that result in the Italian groceries, bakeries, and delicatessens.”).
ENCLAVE (1992) (using New York’s Chinatown as an example of an immigrant enclave
that is distinct, though still inextricably linked to broader American society).
See Christine Langenfeld, Germany: The Teacher Head Scarf Case, 3 INT’L J. CONST.
L. 86, 93 (Jan. 2005) (describing  “the principle of laicism (principe de laïcité )” as a
“core principle of the French Republic,  that guarantees the peaceful and equal
coexistence of different religions in French society” and which “demands a strict
separation between the secular state and religion[.]”).
See id. (noting that laïcité was “[m]entioned in France’s 1789 Declaration of Human
See id. (“this principle was legally introduced in 1905 as the expression of a long
tradition of separation of church and state and is now enshrined in Article 1 of the French
Henri Astier, The Deep Roots of French Secularism, BBC NEWS ONLINE, December
18, 2003 available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3325285.stm.
239   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
Jacques Robert, Religious Liberty and French Secularism, 2003 B. Y. U. L. REV. 637,
643 (2003).
43describes it, “[t]he Republic has always recognized individuals, rather than groups: [a]
French citizen owes allegiance to the nation, and has no officially sanctioned ethnic or
religious identity”
240   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
—placing France squarely in  the “melting pot” category of
With terrorist activity  occurring in the United States and throughout Europe,
immigrant communities are increasingly coming under attack—there is, as will be
described below, an increased call for Western societies to shift to the French side of the
assimilation/integration continuum.
More specifically, the pockets that are home to
immigrants are no longer charming corners of America or Europe; they are considered by
some to be isolated societies that serve as breeding grounds for “homegrown
Integration, it is argued, prevents a non-Western identity from festering
and developing into extremism.

There are calls, therefore, for members of these self-segregating immigrant
communities to sufficiently blend into mainstream society—to adopt more of a Western
identity and to consequently shed some of their cultural ties to their homeland and native
There is a mounting emphasis on the outer, superficial characteristics of
citizens as being symbols of loyalty to a particular political regime, as though appearance
is almost a proxy for allegiance.
In short, there is growing discomfort not only with
concentrated areas of immigrants, but  also with the clothing of immigrants.
246 SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

See notes 248-83 and accompanying text, infra.
See, e.g., Robert Polner, A neighborhood in a fishbowl: Little Pakistan has lost plenty
of residents since 9/11, and many who stayed behind are struggling to adapt, Newsday,
Aug. 2, 2005 (discussing the impact of post-9/11 scrutiny on Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan).
243   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See, Muslim Integration A Bar To Extremism, FORBES, Oct. 9, 2006,  available at
See European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia,  Muslims in the
European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia, (Dec. 18, 2006); see also, Brian
Murphy, EU report: Muslims face ‘Islamophobia’, ASSOC. PRESS, Dec. 18, 2006
(“Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on ‘assimilation’ and
the assumption that they should lose their Muslim identity[.]”).
See Mark Rice-Oxley, Taking on the veil: West looks to assimilation: From Britain to
Australia, unease grows over the separateness of many of the West’s Muslim
communities, CHRISTIAN  SCI. MONITOR, Oct. 20, 2006 (noting  that, in Australia,
“multiculturalism is seen in an increasingly negative light. Prime Minister John Howard,
[for example,] has spoken of moving away from ‘zealous multiculturalism’ toward a
reassertion of Australia’s national identity.”) (emphasis added).
See notes 248-83 and accompanying text, infra.
44Conspicuous articles of faith are manifestations of a “separate” people and are therefore
under additional scrutiny.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the debate regarding assimilation is most pronounced in
In February 2004, French lawmakers passed a law prohibiting public school
students from wearing articles of faith, such as signs  or clothes, “that exhibit
conspicuously a religious affiliation.”
The French aimed the law against those
religious minorities who are most “visible” amongst them, i.e. those whose appearance
itself manifests an alternative “political” identity.
The purpose of the ban was
ostensibly to discourage the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and to promote
Although passed explicitly to prevent the wearing of headscarves by

See Rice-Oxley, supra note 245.
See U.S. Department of State, Bureau  of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
International Religious Freedom Report 2005:  France, Nov. 8, 2005 (“The [French]
Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this
right in practice; however, some religious groups remain  concerned about legislation
passed in 2001 and 2004, which provided for  the dissolution of groups under certain
circumstances and banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public school
employees and students.”), available at
Law No. 2004-228 of Mar. 15, 2004, Journal  Officiel de la République Française
[J.O.] [Official Gazette of France] 5190, Mar. 17, 2004.
Many of the French arguments for the law have been on the grounds that the presence
of headscarves and yarmulkes in schools politicizes the school atmosphere and leads to
political incidents between students.  See Statement by M. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Prime
Minister of France, Feb. 4, 2003,  available at http://www.ambafranceus.org/news/statmnts/2004/raffarin_secularism_030204.asp (noting in a speech entitled,
“Bill on the application of the principle of secularity (laicite) in state schools,” that, “[i]t
has to be recognized that certain religious signs, among them the Islamic veil, are now
becoming more frequently seen in our schools. They are in fact taking on a political
meaning and can no longer be considered simply personal signs of religious affiliation.”);
see also Stasi Commission Report,  http:// www. Assembleenationale.fr/12/dossiers/laicite.asp; The Sikh Coalition,  Chirac Endorsement- English
Translation, Dec. 17, 2003,  http://www.sikhcoalition.org/frenchban_chiracspeech.asp;
Caroline Wyatt,  French Headscarf Ban Opens Rift, BBC, Feb. 11, 2004,
See William J. Kole, French Rue Religious Symbol Ban, ASSOC. PRESS, Feb. 15, 2004
(describing the ban as “France’s response to  what many perceive as a rise in Muslim
fundamentalism[.]”); Christopher D. Belelieu, The Headscarf as a Symbolic Enemy of the
European Court of Human Rights’ Democratic Jurisprudence: Viewing Islam Through a
45young Muslim women, the ban also prohibits Jewish skullcaps, “large” Christian crosses,
and the Sikh turban in public schools.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre  Raffarin, commenting on the law, noted,
“Today, all the great religions in the history of France have adapted themselves to [the
principle of secularism] . . . . For the most recently arrived. . . secularism is a chance, the
chance to be a religion of France.”
Secularism under this view implies not just
neutrality, but is itself the “state religion” of sorts.

The ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public school upset minority groups
whose religious identities were challenged.
They are now required to choose between
observing their faith and obtaining an education.
For example, Sikh boys with turbans

European Legal Prism in light of the Sahin Judgment, 12 COLUM. J. EUR. L. 573 (2006)
(commenting on the “simplication of the legal debate through a representation of the
headscarf as a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism.”); Stefanie Walterick, The Prohibition
of Muslim Headscarves from French Public School and Controversies Surrounding the
Hijab in the Western World, 20 TEMP. INT’L & COMP. L.J. 251, 254 (2006) (“While the
new law reflects France’s particular tradition of laïcité, the law can also be seen as a
backlash against France’s growing Muslim minority population.”).
See Walterick,  supra note 251, n. 251 (“Although the new law  contains neutral
language that prohibits all religious garb, including large  Christian crosses, Jewish
yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans, the law was enacted with the specific intent to eliminate the
Muslim hijab, or headscarf, from French public school classrooms.”).
Debate Begins in France on Religion in the Schools, N.Y. TIMES, Feb. 4, 2004,
(French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, as quoted in Elaine Sciolino) available at
Henri Astier,  The Deep Roots of French Secularism, BBC NEWS, Dec. 18, 2003,
available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3325285.stm.
For example, demonstrations were held in response to the ban.  See, e.g., Delfin Vigil,
Worldwide Protests over Ban on Religious Symbols: French Proposal Would Apply to all
its Public Schools, Jan. 18, 2004.
In the words of one 17-year-old Sikh  student, “I’m 100 percent French, I speak
French, I was born here.” He continued, “[b]ut it’s impossible for me to take off my
turban. If they force me, I’ll have to drop out, and never be able to do anything except a
job that no one else wants.”  Elaine Sciolino,  Bobigny Journal; French Sikhs Defend
Their Turbans and Find Their Voice, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 12, 2004,  available at
46are uniformly forbidden to enroll in public schools.
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Accordingly, a number of students
from these minority communities have been forced to find alternative forms of basic
education, such as private or religious schooling, or home-schooling.
The accepted
form of integration, for these individuals who rejected the ostensible call to shed religious
attire, was one in which each culture adds to the identity of a nation by being able to
express its own diverse characteristics, including, but not limited to, turbans.
prominent Sikh scholar I. J. Singh points out, “the only desirable integration for a small
minority such as ours lies in a mosaic where our identity is sacrosanct.”

The Sikh perspective was completely overlooked in the lead up to the French
When initially faced with Sikh objections after the bill’s passage, one
Ministry of Education official replied, “What? There are Sikhs in France? I know nothing
about the Sikh problem.  Are there many Sikhs in France?”
This is despite the fact that
approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Sikhs live in France,
far more than the 1,200 veiled
Muslim schoolgirls in the country.

Although the ban officially affects only primary and secondary education (elementary
through high school), there have been reports that universities too are refusing to accept
Sikh men with turbans. Karamvir Singh, 19 year old French-Sikh and French citizen, was
rejected from 5 French universities in October in anticipation of the ban. He was told that
they were willing to accept him, if he took off his turban. Press Release, United Sikhs,
Right To Turban Petition, Jan. 3, 2004 available at http://www.sikhpride.com/france.htm.
See, e.g., Emma Jane Kirby, Sikh school sidesteps French ban, BBC NEWS, Sept. 15,
See Robin Cook, France need not fear schoolgirls in headscaves, THE INDEPENDENT
(U.K.), Dec. 19, 2003 (arguing that the British form of multiculturalism has “judged that
we are more likely to reduce friction and to promote harmony if we respect religious and
cultural diversity and tolerate rather than suppress its outward expressions.  While France
has acted to ban headscarves, we adapted our law to permit Sikhs to wear their turbans
when others may be required to wear helmets. . . . Our lives are enriched by the
consequent diversity of cultures, heritage and, most popularly, cuisine.”).
Foundation 1998) (1993).
UK Sikhs join ‘headscarf’ protest, BBC NEWS, Feb. 21, 2004,  available at
Sciolino, supra note 256.
French Sikhs lambast school ban, BBC NEWS, Sept. 7, 2004,  available at
Elizabeth C. Jones,  Muslim girls unveil their fears, BBC NEWS, Mar. 28, 2005,
available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/4352171.stm.
47   Despite protests from Sikhs, France’s highest administrative body, the Council of
State, upheld the ban as it applied to Sikhs.
According to reports of the ruling, the
Council of State concluded that the ban was “justified on the grounds of public security,”
an apparent allusion to the  concern regarding the spread  of religious fundamentalism,
“and was not a restriction on freedom of faith.”
The Council of State also ruled that a
Sikh can wear his turban in drivers’ license and passport photos, reasoning on procedural
grounds, rather than reasoning respecting the rights of Sikhs with turbans.

Specifically, the Council stated that the transport minister, not the local interior officials,
could establish regulations regarding such conditions or restrictions.
France’s actions have set an example for advancing a largely integrationist agenda
in Europe. Belgium imposed a similar ban in 2005, specifically disallowing Sikh turbans
in public educational institutions.
The Netherlands is contemplating “a total ban on
the wearing of burqas and other Muslim face veils in public, justifying the move on
security grounds.”
Moreover, Germany

has increased its integration efforts regarding immigrants but grapples
with sensitive issues such as headscarves.  Amid heightened fears that
wearing a veil is a symbol of fundamentalist Islam, the headscarf issue on
another level also reflects sensitive  topics such as the modern secular
identities of European states, the  compatibility of Islam with largely
Christian Europe, the acceptance of immigrants, integration and religious
French Sikhs appeal on turban ban, BBC NEWS, Mar. 7, 2006,  available at
See Rediff.com, France rules Sikh turbans legal, REDIFF.COM, Dec. 5, 2005, available
at http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/dec/05paris.htm.
The Tribune, Belgium bans turban in schools, THE TRIBUNE, Sept. 5, 2005, available
at http://wwww.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050905/punjab1.htm#10.
Alexandra Hudson, Dutch to ban wearing of Muslim burqa in public, REUTERS, Nov.
17, 2006 available at
German State Bans Hijab-clad Teachers, JUDEOSCOPE, June 1, 2006 (noting that the
hijab “has been the subject of growing debate in several parts of Europe for more than a
decade. But it especially intensified following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York
and Washington.”).
48 Accordingly, now half of Germany’s states prohibit Muslim schoolteachers from
wearing headscarves.
In addition, a school in Berlin has not allowed “370 pupils. . . to
speak in their native tongue” even though “[n]inety percent of the school’s students have
foreign-born parents . . . and each class features between eight and ten different
The school’s headmaster explained, “We have introduced this ban to
enable our students to take part in German society through speaking and understanding
the language properly[.]”
The row over integration and articles of faith is perhaps most fervent in England,
where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw  claimed that Muslim attire that covers
women from head-to-toe, exposing only the eyes, hinders communication:
“Communication requires that both sides see each other’s face . . . . You not only hear
what people say, but you also see what they mean.”
Moreover, he stated that the
Muslim veil “separates people,” suggesting that its use contributes to the erosion of
British society.
He added:
Simply breathing the same air as  other members of society isn’t
integration.  Britishness is thus an  identity available to Anglicans,
Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and those of other religions and
none, and a central element of that identity is the principle that everyone
has the freedom to practice their faith not as a matter of tolerance but of
To wear a headscarf, therefore, is to refuse to adopt British identity, a decision
Straw does not find acceptable.  Following Foreign Secretary Straw’s foray into the
subject, Prime Minister Tony Blair affirmed  Straw’s view that the veil is a “mark of
separation” that makes “people from outside the community feel uncomfortable.”
SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

Stefan Nicola, German school bans foreign languages, UNITED PRESS INT’L., Jan. 26,
2006, available at http://www.upi.com/archive/view.php?archive=1&StoryID=20060126
Fareena Alam,  Beyond the Veil, NEWSWEEK, Nov. 27, 2006,  available at
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15789437/site/newsweek/ (noting also that “British
Muslims immediately wondered how Straw’s former cabinet colleague, ex-Home
Secretary David Blunkett- blind since birth- ever did his job.”).
Muslims must feel British—Straw, BBC NEWS, Nov. 2, 2006,  available at
49Moreover, on March 22, 2006, the House of Lords ruled that a Muslim girl’s “right to
manifest her belief in practice or observance” was not infringed when her high school
excluded her for wearing a jilbab, or a long shapeless black gown, instead of the school’s
The lords reasoned, in part, that “there were three schools in the area at which
the wearing of the jilbab was permitted . . . . There is, however, no evidence to show that
there was any real difficulty in her attending one or other of these schools[.]”
To be sure, not all Western nations have responded to the terrorist activity and
subsequent concern for the spread of  fundamentalist Islam by clamping down on the
wearing of articles of faith.   For example, in 2005, the Australian government rejected a
proposal “to ban Muslim girls from wearing traditional headscarves in state schools.”

In discussing why he disliked the proposal, the Prime Minister stated, “If you ban a
headscarf you might, for consistency’s sake, have to ban a . . . turban,”
which the
Prime Minister apparently was not willing to do.   Moreover, an official in opposition to
the proposal said, “We’re at war with terror, not young girls wearing scarves or (people
wearing) crucifixes or skull caps.”

Canada traditionally has been lenient towards minority groups.  Former Prime
Minister Pierre Trudeau, for example, instituted a policy of multiculturalism that sought
to assist members of all cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers, promote encounters
between different groups, and support all of Canada’s cultures.
Canada’s commitment
to multiculturalism has been hotly debated and opposed since the nation’s inception.
Opponents to the policy feel that it leads to the erosion of a unified Canadian identity.

R v. Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School, (2006) UKHL 15,
available at
Brendan Nicholson, PM rejects headscarves ban, THE AGE, Aug. 30, 2005, available
at http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/pm-rejects-headscarvesban/2005/08/29/1125302511538.html.
282   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See A. Wayne MacKay & M. Chantal Richard, Multiculturalism: Who Needs It?, 8
EDUC. & L.J. 265, 282 (1998).
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Id. at 270 (pointing out that multiculturalism cannot be blamed for everything, since
these groups would be demanding certain rights whether or not an official governmental
policy on the issue had been articulated).

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Despite the opposition, the government supports  visible minorities in their integration
into Canadian society.
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After 9/11, the Canadian courts have ruled consistently with this approach.  The
Supreme Court of Canada concluded that Sikh students can carry kirpans to schools.
287  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/

The Court specifically held
an absolute prohibition against wearing a kirpan infringes the freedom of
religion of the student in question under [section] 2(a) of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms [hereinafter Canadian Charter]. The
infringement cannot be justified under [section] 1 of the Canadian Charter,
since it has not been shown that such a prohibition minimally impairs the
student’s rights.
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Similarly, a postsecondary student in Quebec, Canada, “was told to remove her
hijab at College Jean-Eudes[.]”
In response, the Quebec Human Rights Commission
ruled that “religious schools admitting students from more than one faith must make
reasonable efforts to accommodate all their pupils’ beliefs”—irrespective of whether they
are public or private institutions.
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A 2006 shooting spree in French-sp eaking Montreal, Canada by an immigrant
Sikh challenged Canada’s multicultural ideal.  On September 16, 2006, Globe and Mail
columnist Jan Wong argued that the young man  killed because of an alienation from
Quebec’s francophone society, which explains not only this rampage, but also others that
occurred in Quebec’s recent past.
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The Montreal Gazette rejected Wong’s argument in
clear terms:
The foolishness of her deduction was confirmed by the lack of evidence to
support it. In none of the cases . . . was there even the slightest tangible

286 SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
See M. Neil Browne & Michael D. Meuti,  Individualism and the Market
Determination of Women’s Wages in the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong, 21
LOY. L.A. INT’L  & COMP. L.J. 355, 383-386 (July, 1999); Jason R. Wiener, Note,
Neighbors up North: Nunavut’s Incorporation in Canada as a Model for Multicultural
Democracy, 28 SUFFOLK TRANSNAT’L L. REV. 267, 297-98 (2005).
Multani v. Comm’n Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, supra note 21.
Id.   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
Private schools can reject hijab, MONTREAL GAZETTE, Oct. 5, 2005, at A5.
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Jan Wong, Get under the desk, GLOBE AND MAIL, Sept. 16, 2006, at A8.
51hint that their actions were spurred by alienation from mainstream Quebec
society. . . . In each case the ethnicity factor was purely incidental.
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C.  The State of the Multicultural Union
In the United States, “as in other industrialized democracies, we are seeing the
‘return of assimilation.’”
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In Detroit, Michigan, home to a sizable Muslim population,
a Muslim woman’s case was dismissed after she refused to remove her veil.
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judge, Paul Parah, explained that he needed to see the woman’s face in order to assess her
, an argument similar to the one made by Britain’s Jack Straw, who
claimed that the Muslim veil hindered effective communication.
A court in Florida upheld a state law requiring an individual’s full face to be
shown on his or her driver’s license photo.
A Muslim woman who wanted to wear her
veil for her license photo, sued, arguing in the main that the state law infringed upon her
First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
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In ruling against the Muslim
woman, the court wrote:
We recognized the tension created as a result of choosing between
following the dictates of one’s religion and the mandates of secular law . .
. .  However, as long as the laws are neutral and generally applicable to the
citizenry, they must be obeyed.[Moreover, the law] did not compel [her] to
engage in conduct that her religion forbids—her religion does not forbid
all photographs.
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Hubert Bauch,  Jan Wong was misguided, maybe. But why the fuss?  MONTREAL
GAZETTE, Oct. 1, 2006, at A15.
See Yoshino, supra note 131.
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Zachary Gorchow, Veil costs her claim in court, DETROIT FREE PRESS, Oct. 22, 2006,
at 1B.
Id. (noting that the judge in question stated that, “[m]y job in the courtroom is to make
a determination as to the veracity of somebody’s claim . . . . Part of that, you need to
identify the witness and you need to look at the witness and watch how they testify.”).
Florida appeals court won’t allow veil in driver’s license photo, ASSOC. PRESS, Sept.
7, 2005, available at http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/%5Cnews.aspx?id=15748.
52 On October 24, 2006, in one of the leading newspapers in the world,  The
Washington Post, a columnist argued that Muslim women in America should not wear a
full-faced veil in public because “it [is] considered rude, in a Western country, to hide
one’s face.”
While what is considered “rude” is inherently subjective (and thus may
be based on bias, unfounded stereotypes, or class distinctions), the columnist nevertheless
expressed the underlying notion  that Western society is uncomfortable with certain
articles of faith and that it is incumbent, therefore, on religious minorities to shed this
attire rather than continue insulting the host majority—a line of thinking again consistent
with recent statements made by British leadership.
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The editors of  The Washington Post, one day later, struck a different tone.
Responding to the European fixation and discomfort with the Muslim veil, the editors
It’s hard to believe that veils are the biggest obstacle to communication
between British politicians and the  country’s Muslims; and it’s even
harder to imagine Mr. Straw raising similar objections about Sikh turbans
or Orthodox Jewish dress. True, the Labor Party MP was reflecting—or
maybe pandering to—the concern of many in Britain  about the selfsegregation of some Muslims. But veils . . . are not the cause of that
segregation, much less of terrorism. Attacks on Muslim custom by public
officials are more likely to reinforce than to ease the community’s
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As noted in the previous section, Sikh Americans have struggled with the legal
system to uphold their religious rights.
What if Congress banned the wearing of
conspicuous articles of faith, including Sikh turbans, in public schools?  The Supreme
Court has never ruled on such a question.  While the legal remedies, particularly
constitutional protections, available to Sikhs if legislation similar to that passed in France

Anne Applebaum,  Veiled Insult, WASH. POST, Oct. 24, 2006, A19,  available at
See Amna Saadat,  Jack Straw and “Unveiling” Britain, THE  GLOBALIST, Oct. 13,
2006 (“Britain’s former foreign secretary Jack Straw . . . recently argued that the
traditional veil worn by Muslim women is a  visible statement of their separation from
society. . . . [T]his implies that the multicultural experiment in Britain has failed—and the
blame has been candidly laid at the feet of Muslims.”).
Editorial,  Europe’s Muslims, WASH. POST, Oct 25, 2006, at A16,  available at
See Section II. G., supra (concluding that “the availability of legal remedies for Sikhs
in various areas, including verbal harassment and most employment discrimination cases,
appears limited.”).
53was enacted in the United States are unclear, there is reason  for optimism following
recent Supreme Court pronouncements.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that “Congress
shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].”
The Free Exercise
Clause has been interpreted to generally mean that, “the government is prohibited from
interfering with or attempting to regulate any citizen’s religious beliefs, from coercing a
citizen to affirm beliefs repugnant to his or her religion or conscience, and from directly
penalizing or discriminating against a citizen for holding beliefs contrary to those held by
anyone else.”
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In the 1963 case of Sherbert v. Verner
, the Court identified “strict scrutiny” as
being the appropriate standard by which to examine a Free Exercise claim.
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Accordingly, for the government to prevail in a Free Exercise claim, it would have to
prove that the law is supported by a “compelling state interest” and that alternative forms
of regulation that are less restrictive of the Free Exercise right are unavailable.
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would therefore seem that Sikhs, who wear their turban as an expression of their religious
identity, generally enjoy the highest level of protection under the First Amendment for
the manifestation of their faith.
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After  Sherbert, however, “the Court has started to move toward a narrower
conception” of the free exercise clause.
In 1990, in Employment Division, Department
of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith,
the Court upheld a state statute that
prohibited the use of peyote for religious purposes by Native Americans, ruling in part
that the law was generally applicable, neutral on its face, and evidenced no intent to
discriminate against particular religious groups.
Although the Court did not expressly
overturn  Sherbert, it limited  Sherbert’s ruling to cases regarding the denial of
unemployment compensation: “even if  Sherbert  possessed any vitality beyond the

303  SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
U.S. CONST. amend. I.
Donald Kramer, 16A AM. JUR. 2D, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW §424 (1998).
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374 U.S. 398 (1963).
Id. at 403.
See Kathleen Sullivan, The New Religion and the Constitution, 116 HARV. L. REV.
1397 (2003) (providing an in-depth discussion of interpretations of the Free Exercise and
Establishment Clauses).
See Walterick, supra note 251, at 264.
494 U.S. 872 (1990).
Id. at 878-82.
54unemployment compensation field . . . we would not apply it to require exemptions from
a generally applicable law.”

As one legal commentator noted, the  Employment Division decision leaves
“religious conduct little protection from the effect of a law that is neutral and generally
Since a ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public schools would not
intentionally target Sikhs, and Sikhs would thus be seeking an exemption from generally
applicable policy, one would suspect that any First Amendment right that they could
claim to allow them to wear the turban may fail under the  Employment Division

A state court case in which the appeal was dismissed by the United States
Supreme Court,  Cooper v. Eugene School District,
highlights the limitations of
religious dress statutes enacted for public employees when applied specifically to Sikhs.
Janet Cooper was a public school teacher, who converted to Sikhism and began to wear a
white turban and white clothes while teaching her sixth and eighth grade classes.
was disciplined and her teaching license revoked as a result of a state statute that
prohibited teachers in public schools from wearing any religious dress while engaged in
the performance of duties as a teacher.
The Supreme Court of Oregon held that the
religious dress statute did not violate, among other things, the First Amendment, stating
“If such a law is to be valid, it must be justified by a determination that religious dress
necessarily contravenes the wearer’s role or function at the time and place beyond any
realistic means of accommodation.”
The court maintained that by excluding teachers
whose dress is a constant visual reminder of their religious commitment, the law seeks to
respect the right of free exercise of the students.
Although the court admitted that
Cooper had not been trying to proselytize to her students, it felt that the repetitive and

Amarsect S. Bhachu,  A Shield for Swords, 34 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 197, 204 (1996).
Thomas Berg, The New Attacks on Religious Freedom Legislation, And Why They Are
Wrong, 21 CARADOZO L. REV. 415, 415 (1999).
As we will see in our discussion, infra, this standard has made it more difficult for
Sikhs to successfully assert First Amendment claims.
723 P.2d 298 (Or. 1986), (appeal dismissed, 480 U.S. 942 (1987)).
Id. at 312.
Id. at 300.
Id. at 307.
Id. at 311.
55constant nature of her appearance could have more of a proselytizing effect than she
imagined, and therefore her Sikh regalia should not be permitted in schools.

To those that doubt the weight of a State Supreme Court decision such as Cooper,
it should be noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit relied on Cooper in
1990, following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the appeal, in reaching its analysis of a
case brought by Muslim public school teacher under Title VII.
Accordingly, as one
commentator noted, prevailing case law “suggest[s] that states can prohibit public school
teachers from wearing religious garb in the  interest of preserving religious neutrality
without violating the free exercise rights of teachers as long as the prohibition applies
equally to all religious dress and does not target or burden one religious group over
It may not be surprising, then, that some argue that a ban on conspicuous
articles of faith in public schools is “not completely unthinkable in the United States,”
and that the religious rights of a turbaned Sikh public student after 9/11 are “tentative” at
In 1993, however, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
(RFRA), which was designed to reinstate the “compelling interest” Sherbert test for free
exercise claims.
The RFRA states that the “Government shall not substantially burden
a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general
unless the government demonstrated that the burden is “in furtherance
of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering
that compelling governmental interest.”
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court, in City of

Id. at 312-13.  Interestingly, Cooper’s decision to manifest her faith at school could
have been recognized by the court as an educational benefit, namely of teaching her
students about the diversity of the society they inhabited and, as such, teaching them to
appreciate and respect  those who may not appear to be  the same as themselves.  The
court, however, assumed that visible religious minorities that are active in their
communities are in essence imposing their faith on others by simply adopting the
symbols of their own personal beliefs.
U.S. v. Bd. of Educ. for Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 911 F.2d 882, 884 (3d Cir. 1990).
Walterick, supra note 251, at 267.
Id. at 269.   See also Elliot Taubman,  Headscarves, Skullcaps and Crosses: Does
Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schools Deny Human Rights? 53-Jun R.I. B.J. 9, 34
(2005) (“Even with a compelling interest test, when applied in a public school context,
with at least equality of treatment of all religions, then Justice Scalia may say that taking
the entire balance into account, there is a legitimate basis for a ban on obvious religious
City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 515 (1999).
42 U.S.C.A. §2000bb-1(a).
42 U.S.C.A. §2000bb-1(b).
56Boerne v. Flores, declared that RFRA was unconstitutional as applied to individual
However, it held that it is still applicable to First Amendment violations alleged
against the federal government.

In 2006, the Supreme Court may have marked an expansion of free exercise
protection.  In Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniado Do Vegetal,
a church
that uses hallucinogenic tea in religious ceremonies claimed the enforcement of the
Controlled Substances Act infringed on the church’s free exercise rights.  The Court
unanimously sided with the church, noting  that the government must “demonstrate a
compelling interest in uniform application of a particular program by offering evidence
that granting the requested religious accommodations would seriously compromise its
ability to administer the program,” and rejecting the government’s “slippery-slope
concerns that could be invoked in response  to any RFRA claim for an exception to a
generally applicable law,” namely, “If I make an exception for you, I’ll have to make one
for everybody, so no exceptions.”
The Court indicated that a case-by-case approach to
evaluating exemptions to generally applicable religious laws was appropriate,
as was
the case in the 2005 decision of Cutter v. Wilkinson.
Acknowledging that “there may
be instances in which a need for uniformity precludes the recognition of exceptions to
generally applicable  laws under RFRA,” the Court did not find that the Controlled
Substances Act was immune from exemptions “given the longstanding exemption from
the Controlled Substances Act for religious  use of peyote, and the  fact that the very
reason Congress enacted RFRA was to respond to a decision denying a claimed right to
sacramental use of a controlled substance.”
To the extent that the government may pass a ban on conspicuous articles of faith
to promote secularity or a national identity, such an interest would likely not pass under
Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary,
which soundly

City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 536 (1997).
See Kikimura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 959 (10th Cir. 2001) (noting that “the
separation of powers concerns expressed in Flores do not render RFRA unconstitutional
as applied to the federal government” and that “when a portion of a statute is declared
unconstitutional the constitutional portions of the statute are presumed severable”).
Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniado Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006).
Id. at 421.
Id. at 436.
Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 724-26 (2005).
Gonzales, 546 U.S. at 436.
Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510
57rejected a state interest in ensuring homogeneity of American children and achieving
assimilation in public schools.  The Court stated, “The fundamental theory of liberty
upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state
to standardize its children[.]”
To the extent that a government interest may be based
on fear of fundamental Islam, that interest may be construed as discriminatory animus or
perpetuating stereotypes, which would not please the Court either.

Assuming that the federal government can proffer a compelling state interest,
which is highly unlikely, Sikhs may be able to obtain an exemption from a ban on
conspicuous articles of faith without having to run into the “slippery slope” concern of
the government in part because of the fact that Sikhs have been permitted to wear turbans
in the United States since their arrival.  An interesting situation arises, however, if Sikhs
are presented with the option of covering their hair, for example, with a school hat as
opposed to the Sikh’s turban.  In this instance, a Sikh’s case against the ban may not be as
strong because he is still given an option to cover his kes.
D.  Conclusion
In sum, the debate regarding whether conspicuous articles of faith are permissible
in Western society due to security and/or more pragmatic concerns, such as enabling
accurate identification and facilitating effective communication, is primarily a European
phenomenon focused on Muslims and Muslim religious clothing.  From this analysis it is
evident that a number of sophisticated countries are engaged in this debate, and that
serious infringements of the ability of Muslims, Sikhs, and others to wear insignias of
their faith have occurred in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The United States, as a host for hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Sikhs, is
necessarily involved in the enterprise of determining where on the integration-passive
multiculturalism spectrum its society lies—and consequently determining the extent to
which the Sikh turban will be tolerated or challenged not only as a symbol of terrorism,
but as an assault on American identity and solidarity.  From the Sikh perspective, the
legal framework available to Sikhs is still emerging, though recent developments support
the contention that this framework may adequately protect Sikhs if Congress were to pass
a ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public schools, as the French did in 2004.

Id. at 535.
See Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 252-54 (1982).
58IV.  Conclusion
As noted at the outset, this Article aims to draw attention to the state of the Sikh
turban through an analysis of how the turban has transformed from an article of religious
devotion to a cue for violence and object of marginalization.  Indeed, in various contexts
and settings, Sikh-Americans have been subject to an unfortunate backlash in which their
distinct appearance has been  used as a proxy for the identity of a terrorist or terroristsympathizer.  Broader efforts to achieve integration by eliminating conspicuous articles
of faith from the public sphere have also challenged the Sikh identity on indirect grounds.
In this Article, we have observed that the American legal system is unlikely to
protect Sikhs from the most common form of discrimination—verbal insults such as “bin
Laden,” “raghead,” and “terrorist”—though the nation’s laws may protect Sikhs from a
more drastic and wide-reaching policy of prohibiting Sikhs from wearing turbans in
public schools. Sikhs, however, must continue to utilize non-legal methods to ensure that
discriminatory activities do not occur in the first place, primarily by educating individuals
who are unfamiliar with the Sikh turban or who are likely to associate it with terrorism.
Because redress through the courts takes significant time and is not certain to produce
desired results, a preventative approach—where Sikhs educate others of their identity and
commitment to fundamental American principles—is likely to be the more effective
means by which Sikhs are seen as a distinguishable, but still a welcomed, part of the
American race.

See Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, 239 (1995) (Scalia, J.,
concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) (“In the eyes of government, we are
just one race here. It is American.”).

Through non-legal avenues, such as awareness and outreach efforts,
discrimination experienced by this minority community, one that espouses basic
American values of equality and civic  involvement, will hopefully cease and will not
remerge with increased fervor if there is another act of terrorism on American soil.   As
Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook noted in 2003, “[T]hose who keep heads covered as a
sign of respect for (or obedience to) a power higher than the state should not be . . .
threatened with penalties.”
Nor should they be threatened with marginalization,
physical injury, or even death because of a superficial resemblance with our real shared
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Sikhs were forced to organize to respond
effectively to threats to the Sikh community  and in particular to  the Sikh appearance.
Subsequent efforts led to significant achievements in the ability of Sikhs to maintain their
religious identity and to defend their rights when and if that identity is challenged.  For
example, Sikh civil rights organizations have kept the Sikh community informed of its
rights and published guidelines explaining  how to respond to racial profiling or
harassment in airports or other public space, see, e.g., Sikh Media Watch and Resource
Task Force, SMART Advisory Memorandum on the issue of Illegal Turban Searches at
Airports,   SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/
available at http://www.sikhmediawatch.org/pubs/SMART_Advisory_Memo_on_Turban
_Searches_at_Airprots.PDF; Press Release, EEOC Provides Answers About Workplace
Rights of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Sikhs, Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, May 15, 2002,  available at http://www.eeoc.gov/press/5-15-02.html (the
EEOC published guidelines for employers and employees specifically detailing the
workplace rights of Muslims, Arabs, and Sikhs); and the federal government published
posters informing security officials, particularly airport screeners, of how a Sikh turban
and kirpan may be identified; see also DOJ Poster, Sikh Americans and the Kirpan, U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (2006),  available at
http://www.saldef.org/anm/articlefiles/1604-SALDEF_DHS_Kirpan_Poster.jpg; see also
USA Patriot Act §1002(a)(5) (These groups also lobbied for a congressional resolution
recognizing that Sikhs have a “distinct religious and ethnic identity” that has become the
target of attacks.).  See, e.g.  id. at §1002(b)(2),  available at
http://www.sikhcoalition.org/Legislative.asp (The resolution notes that Congress
“condemns bigotry and any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans
SSe More All INFO  http://www.punjabiturban.com/


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