Baron Singh of Wimbledon

First ‘turban-wearing’ peer in House of Lords

As the House of Lords is joined by Indarjit Singh, their first ‘turban-wearing’ peer, we are reminded of the importance of the turban.

Baron Singh of Wimbledonbecame a member of the House of Lords in September this year. He has presented in various shows for BBC Radio stations. Among many other publications he has written for the Guardian and the Independent, and is the editor of the Sikh Messenger.Darsem King, a Sikh peer appointed back in 1999, had decided against wearing a turban in the chamber, along with all the Sikh MPs in the House of Commons.

His peership shows the changing nature of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, as it attempts to appoint more non-party affiliated peers. Reforms this year also look to rid the chamber of all hereditary peers.

As the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK, Mr.Singh is also a representative of the UK’s 340,000-strong Sikh community. He also sets an example for religious cooperation in a Multicultural Britain as an executive committee member of the Interfaith Network UK.

Indarjit Singh says, “”It gives me a new opportunity to do what I have always tried to do: to work with people of all beliefs to increase tolerance and understanding, and work for greater social and political justice in our society,” according to an article in The National.

Symbol of Sikh identity

It’s much more than the comical ‘man-pag, pag-man’ sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, in which a Father explains to his troubled son that “You got pag. You got man. You put pag on man…Sikh!”

The turban, known as pag or dastar in Punjabi, is symbolic of being a Sikh. One of the five objects which Sikhs should be adorned with is kesh, uncut hair. This goes hand in hand with the turban, which is meant to

cover, honour and protect the hair.

One of the 12 Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, had taught that Sikhs should stand out from the crowd by wearing a turban because they were following the unique path of the Gurus. This means that a turbaned Sikh is usually considered to be more devout than a non-turbaned Sikh.

It is also a symbol of respectability, and of one who upholds and practices Sikh morals.

Anoop Singh, a student at the University of Kent, says that wearing a pag has practical, spiritual and personal significance. He goes on, ” personally, its a solid reminder of the path i follow, it is like a flag for all those around to know i follow this path.”

Baron Singh of Wimbledon is someone for young Sikhs to look up to, at a time when many are disregarding their turbans in the name of

Photo: Paul Gooddy