International Sikh Turban Day a success!

Arinder Chadha has heard it all - including the question, "Does your head hurt from wearing that?"

And friends of his have experienced passers-by screaming "Osama!" at them.

Many in the United States who practice Sikhism feared discrimination or physical confrontation and stopped wearing their turban after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because they were assumed to be Muslim, said Chadha, co-director of interfaith activities of the California Sikh Council.

About 1,000 people came to the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple of USA in Buena Park to recognize International Sikh Turban Day, held Sunday for the first time in Orange County.

The Sikh Children Forum started holding the function in 2002 in Northern California with the hope of encouraging those who practice Sikhism - but who do not wear their turban regularly - to wrap their hair up for the day, or join the "fold."

The day was filled with Sikhs of all ages greeting friends and praying in the Gurudwara, which translates into "a door to the teacher." Youngsters had their colorful turbans wrapped neatly around their heads by elders.

There are about 10,000 people in Orange County who practice Sikhism, Chadha said. The core beliefs are based on "devotion, remembrance of God, truthful living, equality between all human beings and social justice," according to The Sikh Coalition Web site.

Most Sikhs come from India, and there are about 25million followers worldwide.

The practice was founded about 500 years ago by a guru, which means prophet. They no longer have gurus - the last living guru was Guru Gobind Singh, who served from 1666 to 1708.

He decided that no future living guru was needed, and encouraged Sikhs to wear the turban so they would all feel equal, Chadha said.

Sikhs are supposed to wear the turban in public at all times, but they are not looked upon as inferior if they do not.

Chadha said not a lot of teaching of the religion occurred before 9/11, but there has been an outreach effort since the terrorist attacks.

One racially motivated murder came four days after Sept. 11. Frank Silva Roque killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who lived in Arizona. Roque was sentenced to death in October 2003.

In June 2002, a Fullerton man who threatened a Sikh couple with a baseball bat three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks pleaded guilty to two hate crimes and was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

The Buena Park couple were selling ice cream when Jason Fulkerson, 31, tried to terrify them into leaving his neighborhood.

Rattanamolo Singh, 17, said Sunday that he doesn't face discrimination at his high school in La Habra.

"Most of my friends are multicultural. When there's such a mixture, every different culture has their own identity," he said.

But Ickdeep Singh, 14, who sported a Yankees jersey, said he has experienced discrimination.

"It hurts. Especially when you feel all alone," he said. There are no other Sikhs who attend his school in Norco.

Hardeep Singh Rai, 16, said wearing the turban helps him steer clear from peer pressure to do wrong.

"When I do something, it's not just making me look bad," he said. "It makes the whole Sikh community look bad."

Singh Rai said he hopes to educate his peers about his religion.

He will be making a presentation to his 10th-grade world history class in about two weeks.

Chadha said he has mixed feelings about discrimination.

"We feel angry," he said. "But at the same time, I feel sad. This poor guy doesn't know what he's saying."