"that is unfortunately the experience for many.”
Labour MP Tan Dhesi has spoken about the racism that he faces for wearing a turban in an interview.
He became the first MP to wear the head covering in the country, representing Slough since 2017.
The Labour politician, whose parents are from India, told of the challenges he faced as a Sikh throughout his life in an interview with former Labour MP and GB News host Gloria De Piero on Monday, September 20, 2021.
Tan Dhesi recalled: “When I grew up, somebody – one of my so-called classmates – thought it’d be very funny to try and pull off my turban.
“I was in tears and trying to come to terms with that as a child, and that is unfortunately the experience for many.”
Mr Dhesi also pointed out how the racism against people of colour increased following the 9/11 attacks.
He continued: “After the 9/11 attacks – the level of racism towards people, especially with turbans like me, or with beards, that increased substantially.
“In the US – our close friend and allies – there, Sikhs were shot dead, just because they had a turban and beard.
“People made Islamophobic remarks, calling them the Taliban, and then more than one individual was shot dead, because of that hatred – which is unfortunately instilled in so many people across not only North America but Europe too.”
The MP noted the impact that terrorist groups in Afghanistan had on the minority religions there too. He said:
“Don’t think that minorities like the Sikhs or Hindus see the Taliban as some sort of heroes.
“They have faced the persecution and discrimination from those religious extremists.”
Mr Dhesi also described a time when a turban-wearing person outside the House of Commons was racially abused.
“As he was queuing up outside Parliament, somebody filled with so much hatred made disparaging remarks to him, Islamophobic remarks to him, saying ‘go back to your country.
“He also, unfortunately, also tried to pull off his turban.
“What image is that going to make of our country as he goes back to India?”
“And unfortunately, it made news within the Sikh media – that this had happened outside the House of Commons, for which people have a great and higher regard – thinking of it as the mother of all parliaments.”
The politician said it was a privilege to be the first turban-wearing Sikh in British and European Parliament but that it came with a huge sense of responsibility to represent the community.
He added: “If I say something incorrect, it won’t just reflect on me, it will reflect on anybody that wears a turban, any young children who face bullying.
“I want them to look up and say ‘if he can do it, why can’t I?”
Sikhs make up around one per cent of the UK’s population and many wear turbans as an article of faith and if they follow the five Ks of Sikhism, to cover their long, uncut hair or ‘kesh’.