Sikh woman turns facial-hair ridicule on Reddit into teaching moment, receives apology from original poster

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2012 9:23 a.m. MDT

Balpreet Kaur responded to critics and supporters on Reddit and proudly stood by her choice and belief in not altering her appearance by shaving.

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Sometimes the Internet brings out the worst in people, particularly when it comes to religious practices, but every so often it surprises us by transforming the worst into the best.

Enter Balpreet Kaur, a sophomore studying neuroscience and psychology at Ohio University and a practicing Sikh. She also has facial hair that she chooses not to shave because of her faith.

Kaur had her picture taken by a bystander while waiting in line. The photo was then posted on Reddit's /r/funny board with the title "i'm (sic) not sure what to conclude from this."

Kaur eventually found the post, and instead of getting angry she opened up about her faith:

"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP (original poster) wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am.

"Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us.

"By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-)

"So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone."

The tenet Kaur referred to is part of the belief known as the "Five K's," five articles of faith created by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. One article is kes, or the belief that body hair, including facial hair, should not be cut or altered as a way of honoring the God's creation, according to Sukhmandir Khalsa at About.com

Many Redditors praised Kaur for her confidence, with one poster commenting, "I have spent most of my life trying to mold my body to the unobtainable beauty standards in our society. Perhaps I'm afraid of being humiliated one iota of what has happened to this woman, yet she takes it in perfect stride. Balpreet Kaur, you are a complete inspiration to me. I will hold you as a beacon in my thoughts as I try to rid myself of my pointless insecurity so I can be present to the people in my life. Thank you."

If Kaur's defense of herself and her faith were not enough, the original poster contacted Kaur and returned to the thread to apologize, using profanity but expressing remorse.

"Balpreet, I'm sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am.

"Sikhs, I'm sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.

"Balpreet's faith in what she believes is astounding."

While wanting to remove any hurt or embarrassment, the original poster said he would not delete the post "because there's so many positive comments towards her and a lot of opportunities to learn."

Read more about Kaur and her response on The Huffington Post.

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