Many McGill students chose to spend the afternoon on March 17 learning about Sikh culture and supporting The McGill Sikh Students’ Association (MSSA) at the second annual Turban Tying Event. Completely free and volunteer-run, over 100 students attended the event, which was held in the Madeleine Parent room in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) building. The event aimed to educate students on various aspects of Sikh culture and the religious practice of wearing a turban. Attendees learned of the significance of the turban, experienced traditional music, and were exposed to the Gurmukhi language. Traditional food was also served from a local community kitchen.
The event was first held in 2014 as a response to the controversial charter of rights and values proposed in 2014 by the Quebec government—which would have restricted religious symbols in public institutions. It was seen by the MSSA as the perfect incentive for the club to increase student awareness of the purpose behind religious clothing and Sikhism. This year, students joined together once again to learn about and celebrate religious freedom and expression.
"It originally began in response to the outright disgrace that was the Quebec charter of values, which completely went against principles of religious freedom in Quebec, as it didn't allow for [the] public display of religious symbols, including turbans,” said Kareem Ibrahim, who attended the event. “Thankfully this did not pass, and SSMU spoke out against the charter as well. Religious expression is a fundamental right for all and is integral to ensuring that our communities area safe space for all. I was happy to see this event continued this year."
Langar, or communal kitchen, is one of the mainstays of Sikhism. It represents the need for equality and sharing within a community. MSSA sought to embody Langar through its annual turban tying event.
Sukhmeet Singh Sachal, a U2 Anatomy and Cell Biology major and one of the leaders of the MSSA, praised the openness and enthusiasm of the McGill community.
"One of the main reasons I chose McGill was for its diversity—today proved just that,” Sachal said. “Students from various walks of life came together to learn about Sikhism, whether it was [through] learning about the significance of why [individuals] wear a turban and keep a beard to learning about the basic principles of Sikhism.”
Despite the fact that it was held on St. Patrick’s day, the MSSA’s second annual Turban Tying Event was undeniably a success. The celebration of cultural, social, and religious differences continues to draw in the support of the McGill community. The MSSA has big plans for the future to further expand the club and raise awareness and accessibility of the turban tying event. According to Sachal, next year will be seeing a big change in the way the event is held.
“We are planning to possibly have the turban tying event on lower field where more people can see,” Sachal said. “We also plan on having a huge community meal where everyone can join, whether they are a McGill student, a non-McGill student, a businessman, or any local really.”