The two hosts of one of New Jersey’s top radio stations have been suspended by their employer after they called the state’s Sikh American attorney general “turban man” on the air.
Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco made the comments about Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on their show last week, while talking about his plan to suspend marijuana prosecutions.
Grewal, 45, who was appointed to his post by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in January, is the son of immigrant parents and the country’s first Sikh American attorney general.
“You know the new attorney general? I’m never going to know his name, I’m just gonna say the guy with the turban,” Malloy said in an apparent quip.
“Turban man!” Franco could be heard saying.
Grewal wrote on Twitter, “This is not the first indignity I’ve faced and it probably won’t be the last. Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It’s time to end small-minded intolerance.”
Closer to home in 2017, a Sikh man was shot outside his home in Kent and told to “go back to your own country.”
Turbans are an important article of faith for Sikhs, who call them dastaars.
They are thought to have been worn by early Sikh gurus, and they symbolize a devotion to the divine and values like honesty, compassion, generosity, and humility.
The hijab (headscarf) is another often-misunderstood piece of religious headgear. Hijab-wearing Muslim women are often targets for violent and verbal assaults.
“There’s a misconception that we’re secret terrorists,” Rabail Sajjad, a Pakistani American told the Northwest Asian Weekly.
She works at the University of Washington’s Diversity Center on campus. “I feel like I have to overcompensate, when I meet new people, based on assumptions that they may already have about me.”
Wearing a hijab is mostly a personal choice that is made after puberty and is intended to reflect one’s personal devotion to God.
Why is there such a stigma or bias against people who wear hijabs or turbans?
Perhaps, it’s because you’re not used to seeing it — or you’ve developed an unconscious bias from images you’ve seen in movies and TV.
It’s not unlike yarmulke worn by Jewish men.
The thing about unconscious bias is that, once you are aware of it, you can be more mindful when it happens and adjust your thoughts accordingly.
Here’s a fun image — six sisters, all wearing hijabs, who play in the summertime league of the Toronto Girls’ Ball Hockey Affiliation.
Asiyah, Nuha, Husnah, Sajidah, Haleemah, and Mubeenah all wear their hijab, and hockey helmets over it.
While some pieces have religious significance, it’s still an article of clothing — a thing that you wear.
And that doesn’t change who you are as a person.