Washington: Sikhs need to explain to Americans the significance of the turban, the most visible sign of their identity, an influential US lawmaker has said, amid reports that a majority of children wearing turbans are bullied in schools.
Congresswoman Judy Chu, founder and vice chair of the Congressional American Sikh Caucus, said despite the fact that Sikhs have been woven into the fabric of American culture for more than a century, there is a need to educate Americans about it.
Chu was speaking at the Capitol Hill this week after receiving a report on "Sikhs in America" from the National Sikh Campaign (NSC).
The report has been prepared by Geoff Garin, head of the Hart Research Associates.
"The most significant finding here is that most Americans do not know much about the Sikh community," Chu said.
Chu said that though it is disappointing, it can also be a positive because it can be a way to educate people about Sikhs. "It's an opportunity to tell your neighbours about why Sikhs wear turbans and have long beards and that these are articles of a loving and peaceful faith."
"But there're also some things in this report that show there are issues that need some serious attention," she said.
"In particular it has to do with the fact that more than half the Sikh children endure bullying in school and this number is worse for children who wear turbans," she said.
Chu said: "It is important for us to be able to communicate what is happening to Sikh children with regards to bullying, and communicate to a wider audience."
Briefing lawmakers on the report, Garin, a former political strategist for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said one of the main points taken from the findings was that Sikhs "have to explain to American people what turban means because that is the immediate source of identification."
Sikhs, he said, have to explain what it symbolises and what values it represents. "This will have a very powerful impact [on the broader American public]," he added.