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Smithsonian Sikh exhibit opens in SA

Institute of Texan Cultures presents Sikh religion exhibit

SAN ANTONIO – For the next seven months, a unique exhibit featuring the history and legacy of the Sikh religion is being featured at the Institute of Texan Cultures, fulfilling a lifelong dream of a local San Antonio businessman who has longed for understanding of his beloved faith.

Dr. G.P. Singh came to United States in the 1970s and admits he was the first to wear a turban here.

It hasn't been easy to raise a family and grow a thriving defense contracting business in the process, he said, but he has.

"It is the fifth-largest (religion), but nobody knows about our faith," he said.

Singh said he was a catalyst for getting the first Sikh exhibit at the Smithsonian, entitled "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab."

Since February, he's moved to San Antonio, which has added another dimension to the presentation. It now features an overview of Sikhs who are Texans.

He said his son, Simran Singh, grew up looking different from the other kids in school, but proudly wears his turban and uncut hair and beard today.

"The violence targeting people who look like us is continuing to increase," G.P. Singh said. "The growth of hate groups continues to rise."

G.P. Singh said the new exhibit explains what the religion is all about, including ideas of service, justice, community and love. It also is a religion that preaches tolerance no matter who you may pray to or who you call God.

A large part of the exhibit has to do with military service, something that is very important to Sikhs. Hundreds of thousands have served and died in wars on behalf of America, but because of their turbans and hair practices, they are no longer allowed to fight.

It is something that goes against their belief that serving their country brings them closer to God.

Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab will be on display until Oct. 18.  For more information, visit sikhdharamsal.org or sikhcoalition.org.