NEW YORK — The iconic Times Square in New York City was seeped in the colors and tradition of the Sikh culture as members of the Indian American Sikh community tied turbans to thousands of New Yorkers and tourists to spread awareness about the Sikh identity amid a spike in hate crimes against them in the country.

The non-profit group 'The Sikhs of New York' organized the 'Turban Day' at Times Square April 15, with its volunteers tying colorful turbans to close to 8,000 Americans and tourists hailing from different nationalities and ethnicities.

The four-hour event, held as part of Vaisakhi celebrations, was aimed at spreading awareness among Americans and other nationalities about the Sikh religion and its articles of faith, especially the turban, which has often been misconceived and misidentified as being associated with terrorism particularly in the years since the 9/11 terror attacks.

During the event, a proclamation by Congressman Gregory Meeks of the 5th Congressional District of New York declared April 15, 2017 as 'Turban Day', lauding The Sikhs of New York for its dedication in educating other communities about the Sikh faith.

The organization's founder, Chanpreet Singh, told PTI Turban Day was started in 2013 at Baruch College to promote and educate people about the Sikh religion and identity.

"We are spreading awareness about the Sikh turban and culture. The turban is the crown of each Sikh and represents pride and valor. Turban Day provides an opportunity for those that do not wear a turban to experience a turban and learn about its significance first hand," he said.

Singh added that he had personally experienced hate during his school years and wanted to take the initiative to educate Americans that "Sikh values are American values.”

He said by inviting people from other nationalities to wear the turban, the event also aims to encourage them to avoid discrimination and speak out against hate crimes targeting Sikhs in America going forward.

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