Mayor Bill de Blasio had a turban tied for solidarity on Sunday.
The atmosphere outside the Gurdwara, the Sikh Cultural Society Inc. in Richmond Hill, Queens was one of unbridled excitement on Sunday, Aug. 29. Those attending the house of worship that afternoon eagerly awaited a ceremony that has not been performed in 30 years.
David Dinkins was the last New York City mayor to have had a turban fastened to his head all the way back in 1992. According to Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of public policy and external affairs for the Sikh Cultural Society, the process which sees the head of the city wrapped in cloth is both a gesture of gratitude and a symbol of tolerance.
“Today, we just wanted to honor the mayor by tying a turban on him while he speaks,” Toor said.
Toor, like many of those in attendance of the event, were grateful for the efforts put forth by de Blasio to allow Sikhs in the NYPD to proudly wear their turban and beard.
For those in the Sikh community, the inability to don articles of their faith had become a deterrent, preventing them from joining the Police Department. This was heartbreaking for individuals like Toor who says he once wanted to serve his city as a member of the NYPD but couldn’t.
“Today, by the mayor putting on the turban we are just making that message clear: This is America, and one should not be judged from their appearance because we end up making judgements on their appearance and through the wrong judgement sometimes people die, which has happened especially after 911,” Toor said, describing hate crimes committed against the Sikh community.
Remembering back to the days after the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, Toor referenced the death of a man who was brutally beaten after leaving the Sikh Cultural Society in the following weeks. He hopes actions such as the turban tying ceremony will help unite Sikhs and fellow New Yorkers, preventing such bloodshed and ignorance from occurring in the future.
After his arrival at the temple, de Blasio was all smiles as he sat behind a desk and underwent the turban tying process.
“It is an honor because we are here today sending a message that the city—this country and this world—needs this message that we are all together. A message of respect. A message of inclusion. The Sikh community has contributed profoundly to New York City. I want to make it very clear New York City is a better place because of this community. We need this community; we cherish this community. And yet, in a world where there’s so much misunderstanding. And too many biases and prejudices, we have to fight every day, every one of us to remind people of these great contributions to remind people, the value of this community and why all of us need to stand shoulder to shoulder,” de Blasio said.
Emerging as a new, albeit more colorful man with his orange turban, the mayor strode around the Gurdwara (where worship services are held) and paid his respects.
“Several of my colleagues here today talked about the decision to bring members of the Sikh community into the NYPD and to allow them to recognize their traditions, their beliefs honorably. I went to a graduation ceremony a few months ago for the NYPD. And in the front row were some of the most distinguished graduates of the police academy, those who had done the best on the test, those who showed the most potential and promise. There was a young Sikh man with his turban and his shield and badge number on the turban. And I looked at that and I thought to myself, how many good young men and women never had that opportunity before who could have done so much who could have protected this city and contributed and how wrong it was that they were excluded,” de Blasio said.