Standing as One with the Sikhs of Oak Creek, Wisconsin

This is not how I envisioned re-launching the Project Conversion website, and yet, I can think of no better way to support the Sikhi community which showered me with such welcome and grace during my time with them in September of 2011.

Me with my Sikhi mentor, Ajay, in September 2011

Last week, I received news that my maternal grandmother died in her home. I’ve never experienced loss like this before, and so the swath of new emotions and perspectives was overwhelming. Only two days later, as I grieve my grandmother’s passing and the nation mends its wounds after The Dark Knight Rises shooting, I hear of another tragedy which shook my very core.

Another shooting, more wanton slaughter, this time in a Sikhi temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. At the time of this writing there are six dead and three wounded from the attack. The assailant himself was shot and killed by police officers.

Here is a link to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin website.

The Sikhi community is precious to me. The members of this faith community showed me such grace and welcome as I explored their beliefs and way of life that I shudder at the notion that anyone would wish to show them harm. But these are the times we find ourselves in.

People are dying more and more because of fear, ignorance, and intolerance. We are slaughtering one another because of this myopic illusion of “other,” of “us and them.” It must stop, we must come together and put aside these petty, meaningless differences RIGHT NOW or we will soon wake and find ourselves in ashes spread by our own hands.

In honor of the victims of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and solidarity with Sikhs everywhere, I will wear the dastar (turban) I wore while an honorary Sikh from my time with them last year.

And I’m asking you to do the same.

Don’t have the traditional materials? Don’t know how to tie a turban? No problem. A simple, plain bandana or similar sized cloth (preferably orange or blue, though they come in many colors) will do. After you have your cloth, get creative. Perhaps write a simple message or sketch a Khanda (Sikhi symbol) on the front.

The Khanda

Whatever you decide to do, I want to see it.

Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the mortal line of Sikh Gurus, once said that he established the Sikh uniform (the “Five K’s”) in order that Sikhs might “Stand out as one among millions.”

I say we stand together, shoulder to shoulder with our Sikhi brothers and sisters, as one against a world bent on chaos and hatred. Wear the dastar, visit a local Sikh Gurudwara (Sikh temple), and connect with these folks. This is the true spirit of the Path of Immersion: meshing with others in the most intimate and nurturing way.

I’d also like to see photos of you in your dastar, bandana, or whatever piece of cloth you find. Remember, I’m wearing mine as well. I will gather all the images you send of yourselves and then create a digital collage for the members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

Send your photos to

Thank you for joining with me. Be sure to spread the word. Get as many folks involved as you can! Let’s shower this community with support. If you need a little help with tying your dastar, here is a video that helped me during my time with the Sikhs.

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  • Deep S Dhillon

    Andrew, you’re such an amazing person. I am so thankful the world has such loving souls as you.

  • Reena

    I am touched and impressed with your compassion and awareness. It is good to see that in contrast to these hateful neo nazi types like that shooter.

  • Harjeet Singh Kang

    Thank you Andrew for spearheading the most appropriate response to the unfortunate, unprovoked and totally unwarranted bloodshed in a place of community worship. As a sikh myself I am touched by your effort and I know it will go a long way for healing the loss of those who died in the shooting, reagrdless of their fiath, lineage and skin color. President Obama has reached out to the sikh community and the families of the Police personnel who put their life at risk to answer the call of duty. May Waheguru’s blessings be with you throughout your life. God bless you, Barrack Obama and the US Police. Harjeet Singh

    • andrewbowen

      I only wish I could do more…