Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

On Thursday, several of us Mutineers spoke to an AP reporter about a story in Utah last week — about a girl in middle school in Utah who got suspended from her school for violating dress code, after getting her nose pierced. She and her family said she did it to get in touch with her Indian cultural identity — she had the piercing done on Diwali just a couple of weeks ago. The school, however, had a strict “ear pierces only” policy, and was only willing to allow her to have a “transparent” stud in her nose, not the more obviously Indian nose ring she wore to school initially.

Here is the AP story that resulted. It’s been printed in a fair number of newspapers around the country. The reporter quotes Abhi, Sandhya, and myself. But something goes wrong here:

“I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family,” said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India as a member of the Sikh religion.

“I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture,” said Suzannah’s mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. “I didn’t know it would be such a big deal.”

It shouldn’t have been, said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians,” Singh said. “Even if it is just culture, culture matters. And her right to express or explore it seems to me at least as important as her right to express her religious identity.” (link)

Um, wait a minute. Did I read that right? Take a look at it again: “…said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States…”

[UPDATE: The online version of the article has been corrected.]

This is a really bizarre and unfortunate error. Just to be clear, I have one kid, and he’s three years old. I am annoyed on my own behalf, but I also feel bad for the Pablas. (Suzannah has a dad, who is a practicing Sikh. It just so happens that most of the coverage of this story in the local Utah newspapers doesn’t mention his name: see the Salt Lake Tribune, for example)

When I spoke to the reporter who authored this story, he was 100% clear that I was in no way related to the Pablas. Somewhere between that conversation and the story that has now run in 200+ newspapers around the country, that important fact fell out. I don’t know who’s responsible for the error — it appears an editor might have come up with this.

In the end, it’s not really that big a deal; the only people who will really think anything is amiss are people who know the Pablas and people who know me. Still, maybe the moral here is to JUST SAY NO when reporters call you for a quote for a story that doesn’t really involve you directly.

Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?

170 thoughts on “Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

  1. And I don’t think your point about humans being married to dogs even deserves a rebuttal. For every such isolated, ridiculous incident in India, there’s probably something equivalent happening in a Muslim country. I believe the BBC (my primary news source :p) ran an article a while ago about a Sudanese Muslim man getting married to a goat. These rare incidents have nothing to do with religion.

    Thank you, well said!

  2. Dear Pogrom, all I have to say about this, – typical modi apologia. is your funny in a totally unintentional way :)

  3. The most hated white woman in India is Sonia Gandhi, because of her foreign origins, she had to step down as prime minister of India to appease the nativists.

    Only on Sepia Mutiny, you see such amazing fiction.

    Sonia Gandhi was never the Prime Minister of India, not even for 15 minutes.

    Yet, she is perhaps, the most powerful politician in India today, she made Congress party one of the most surprising comeback in 2004, every decision in India by the present Government has to have her onboard, she pulls crowds like no one else can, she makes her chamchas (sycophants) and others in the party win elections. The reason she not choose to become PM are very complex, and they were solely driven by her own (most importantly, her being PM would have jeopardized the future of Gandhi family, Rahul Gandhi in particularly). Maybe, a little reading would help.

  4. LInzi, I enjoy reading your comments and I agree and disagree with some of them. Hope you continue stating what you think.

    Gustavo, I’m afraid you’re losing it and The riots that occurred in Gujarat were beyond barbaric, lives were literally set on fire, a pregnant woman was killed with her child still in utero.

    Your right, and likewise it was beyond barbaric before the riots began that innocent women, men and children were burned alive on a train. Let’s not forget that barbarism. You’re from Afghanistan – shall we talk about the continous barbarism that any Hindu, or particular ethnic, tribal group have had to live under…. All of it is barbaric and one step in the right direction is living under state that gives equal rights to all religions. Otherwise another barbaric thing will happen, there will be genocide of said populations as there have been for centuries in muslim controlled regions, so that there are very few Hindus living peaceful lives in Bangladesh or Pakistan or Afghanistan.

  5. If she was born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino how did she end up with a name Sonia? (referring to the link Kush Tandon gave)

  6. Sonia Gandhi reminds me of Sarah Palin. Not the brightest bulb, but definitely a cult of personality and can draw the crowds. Except of course Sarah Palin has an undergraduate degree, even if she went through 5 colleges to get one, unlike Sonia Gandhi who has none.

  7. If she was born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino how did she end up with a name Sonia?

    Sonia was a name gifted to her by her Indian in-laws. Sonia means “golden” or “beautiful”.

  8. and one step in the right direction is living under state that gives equal rights to all religions

    says the modi apologist :)

  9. PS “LInzi, I enjoy reading your comments and I agree and disagree with some of them. Hope you continue stating what you think.”

    Thanks, I enjoy having conversations were we can focus on points… I always enjoy good debates, whether people disagree or agree, and I often find that I can learn a lot of new things or have someone refute my own argument in ways which are still positive and constructive. :)

  10. Gifted by her Indian in laws…Interesting….

    Seems like a way to make Edvige Antonia Albina Maino sound more Indian as Sonia Gandhi instead of Edvige Antonia Albina Maino Gandhi.

  11. Otherwise another barbaric thing will happen, there will be genocide of said populations as there have been for centuries in muslim controlled regions, so that there are very few Hindus living peaceful lives in Bangladesh or Pakistan or Afghanistan.

    If the Muslim rulers of India were truly intolerant, Hinduism would have become extinct or have few followers left like Jainism with only an estimated 5 million adherents today.

    The 12 million displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs as a result of partition was not an intended consequence or designed by the Muslim League.

  12. When I attended UCLA as a undergrad from 1998-2003 (I was a super senior), I noticed the lack of activism among the Desi/South Asian community. Few were involved in political issues, ironically, it was Muslim South Asians under the banner of pan-Muslim organizations that raised awareness. To many South Asians, I was excluded and not viewed as “authentic.” My friend Priti, who was a South Indian Christian, felt the isolation and she was Indian. Even for Indian nationals studying at UCLA, one friend said it best, “These Indian Americans are confused Desis, to them Bharat is nothing more than the bhangra music or Bollywood film. What do they know? Their parents have sheltered them from the reality of South Asia.” I have heard many Desis say Indians overseas try to outdo Indians in India in terms of authenticity.

    If this were slashdot.org, I’d have modded this +5 Informative.

    You don’t have to look very far for another “Priti”. Even Anna, who posts here, always asserts her Malyalee Christian identity. I’ve also heard the ridiculous claim from an “aunty” who has lived here for the past 20 years or so that her kids were “more Indian” than kids who were brought up in India.

  13. If the Muslim rulers of India were truly intolerant, Hinduism would have become extinct or have few followers left like Jainism with only an estimated 5 million adherents today.

    That seems to have a tinge of hubris. They could have made another extinct, but they chose not to. What Arab religions exist today? What Afghan religions exist today in Afghanistan? Very few if any. Perhaps it was not so much that Muslim rulers were not “truly” intolerant of some weaker group, but that the other group was able to withstand and survive unlike Arab, Iranian, Afghan religions in those countries.

  14. What Afghan religions exist today in Afghanistan? Very few if any. Perhaps it was not so much that Muslim rulers were not “truly” intolerant of some weaker group, but that the other group was able to withstand and survive unlike Arab, Iranian, Afghan religions in those countries.

    Yeah, I agree, I mean Hinduism has some of the oldest written books for religion…it is certainly different than many “tribal” religions not under the umbrella of Hinduism. Of course there is also the specifics of particular regions…its geography, history, etc to why said religion survived. It’s very silly to assume b/c Hinduism, Sikhism, thrived in parts of South Asia that that meant the way Islam was practiced was tolerant. Considering all the beautiful temples that were destroyed over centuries and historical record that shows how rulers ruled, there was definintely “worst than Modi” :) type genocide and violence going on, and presently goes on in certain regions of Islam controlled govts. Your hypocritical and false assertions continue to amaze me Gustavo.

  15. Afghanistan was Buddhist, formerly Hindu and Zoroastrian since Afghanistan’s Gandhara region is mentioned in the Hindu epics. Iran was Zoroastrian. Historically, despite Islam arising via the sword, Islam was not the majority faith in the Middle East till 1000 AD. The early caliphs of Islam realized that mass conversion to the faith would deprive the Islamic empire of a crucial tax base needed at the time.

    In the Umayyid period, the Arab rulers relied on Greek speaking Christians to do the administrative work of the empire. While Arabic was the liturgical language of the empire, Greek was the administrative language of the empire.

    The Mughals operated on a similar basis. True, Hindus who converted to Islam did so because of the social perks and prestige that came with it. In fact, some Muslim Desis I know admit to having Hindu branches of their family tree, and anecdotal stories of how their family became Muslim was not because of a sincere belief that Islam was “truth,” it was about the social perks that came with it when northern India was ruled by Muslim sovereigns.

    Few Muslim Indians are foreign in origins, though some may have Persian, Arab, or Turkish origins, the vast majority and their lineage have always been on the subcontinent.

    Sameer, based on your name, I would assume you are at least of a Desi Muslim background.

    What is so hypocritical about my statements?

    Did I not acknowledge the shortcomings of my community. Kerala’s success is due to the Communist Party and their enlightened policies.

    Shintoism is similar to Hinduism, it is a religion whose oral traditions and sacred texts are tied to the geography of the Japanese archipelago. It is a religion that arose out of the local traditions of various localities, and eventually codified after Buddhism ascended in Japan.

    In my Asian studies classes, modern Hinduism was a reaction to the ascendancy of Buddhism under Emperor Ashoka in India. Buddhism was essentially wiped out of India by Hindu persecution, by priests who desired to reinstall the old pantheon of Gods.

    Buddhism has been persecuted by Muslims, Hindus, Confucians, and Shintos alike. In China, Buddhism was initially deemed a “foreign Indian” religion which contradicted with the ethos of the Han Chinese. China and India do have strikingly different civilizations. Buddhism gradually replaced the Hindu religion practiced by Southeast Asians from Thailand to Indonesia.

    Islam under the Malaki Sunni Madhab eventually replaced Buddhism in maritime Malay Southeast Asia due to Indian Muslim traders. To the Malays, Islam was viewed as “another Indian religion” in a long succession of Indian faiths to replace the previous ones.

    I am a secular cultural Shia Muslim. Afghanistan is on the “Indian frontier” and our culture has been shaped by cultural, theological, and historical developments that took place on the subcontinent.

    We Afghans sing Indian wedding songs at our nikahs/shaadis. We incorporate Hindi/Urdu in our speech, even if our languages might be Pashto, Dari (eastern Persian dialect), Uzbek, Tajik, and other Turkic languages. Our culture is a hybrid of Persian, Indian, and Turkish influences with native elements.

    The Taliban is like Pol Pot’s vision of Cambodia, an abrasion to the traditional Sufi Islam of Afghanistan that had its shortcomings, but was surprisingly tolerant.

  16. Kerala’s success is due to the Communist Party

    Dude most of your statements I have stopped reading. I mean you state some things that have no relevance at all. Anyways this whole convo has derailed the thread. But I’m afraid like most of what you say, the above statement is full of holes and I suggest you read more on the analysis of Kerala’s major problems and successes and it’s history.

  17. Dude most of your statements I have stopped reading. I mean you state some things that have no relevance at all. Anyways this whole convo has derailed the thread. But I’m afraid like most of what you say, the above statement is full of holes and I suggest you read more on the analysis of Kerala’s major problems and successes and it’s history.

    Well, if you don’t read everything, you will come across misunderstanding my viewpoint by selecting statements out of context.

    Pogrom called you a modi apologist, not I!

    No nation is perfect, but for your information, I would say “Jai Hind” before I would say “Pakistani Zindabad.”

    Even though I may be biased to Pakistan in favor of India, I will not pretend that India is not without its flaws.

    The same goes for the US and its policies towards Afghanistan since the Cold War.

    Afghanistan was the victim of Cold War rivalries between the “free world” and communism.

    Not all Communism is bad, the Communist Party of Indonesia were quite progressive. But the US crushed that party and thousands were slaughtered on the streets of Jakarta by government forces.

    As a Muslim, I have an internationalist perspective, but I am no armchair jihadist.

  18. PS,

    You seem to be like many Desis, know-it-alls, who can’t stand when non-Desis dispell your worldview.

    So you are a dark-skinned South Indian of a low Hindu caste who is dating a “gora” (white man), probably Republican, and believe in the meritocracy myth of America, where if you pull yourself up by your boot straps, you will succeed. You are probably against affirmative action, thinking South Asians have not benefited from it.

    I am pseudo-socialist who believes that those in a position of wealth should ensure a redistribution of wealth for those less fortunate. This comes from Islam, where Muslims are mandated to pay the zakat (poor alms – obligatory charity) to those less fortunate in society.

    I don’t disagree with affirmative action. Even if I would not benefit in the educational realm, South Asians have benefited from affirmative action in the rewarding of government contracts, etc.

    “Socialism” and “communism” are not bad words, don’t buy into the Right-wing Islamophobic sentiments that “Islam was a reign of terror in Indian history.” I’ve been to those websites, and the historical record is much more complex.

    Before pursuing the medical field, I was interested in social studies and history. Yes, I didn’t want to ghettoize myself into the sciences and engineering, I resisted what my parents demanded and pursued what I liked.

    I sense your rather conservative, whereas I am more liberal on many fronts.

  19. PS,

    Before I respond to you, I read your comments in their entirety before responding.

    If you can’t return the favor, don’t bother replying.

  20. Well of course, no one deserves to be discriminated against. But you seem to think your problems are YOURS exclusively. To be honest,I really doubt you’re being discriminated against anyways, stereotyped maybe but not discriminated.

    I never said Indian men love white women

    OH? I believe it was implied in comment #136.

    I love how some people just love to make this all “you’re a white woman and obsessed with yourself” bullcrap.

    Well that’s exactly what you’re doing..you even admit it. I mean, it’s nice you’ve found a nice man of Indian origin etc etc but we got the point after the first 20 times of you saying so.

    I don’t go around telling them “oh poor you, stop crying… ” I know what it is like and I know how frustrating it can be to have people judge you before meeting you and stereotype you into a box. (Like, you Jenna, and some others have done to me on Sepia Mutiny as well).

    I never told you “oh poor you, stop crying”. &when did I stereotype you? I said a lot of Indian guys view white women to be sluttish but that does not mean I believe that.

    Too many people are too busy feeling upset and slighted by the ‘white woman’ that dares to make any comment about South Asia that they don’t really seem to notice that we have more in common than we have to fight about

    Really, who? I’m not getting upset over you being a white woman commenting on a South Asian blog, I think it’s great you’re open to new cultures, I’m upset because you make everything about yourself. Take the blog about Air India, you commented, which is fine but somehow you managed to make that about you having a half Indian kid. There is nothing about your experience in India or anything.

    Many of my comments end up being about me, because it seems I need to constantly attempt to prove to others here that I am “allowed” to have an opinion about anything related to South Asia

    . 1) You don’t need to prove anything, most people on here are pretty open to listening to everyones views. YOU are the one bringing your own judgements about Indian people here. 2) You making everything about yourself is an attempt to prove you are allowed to have your own opinion doesn’t make sense. Here’s a little lesson: If you need to prove to someone you are “allowed” to have an opinion, you are wasting your time, because you (and they) should know everyone is entitled to an opinion. But see, you have this complex where you think everyone despises you, when in reality, YOU ARE WELCOME TO SPEAK YOUR MIND. You want to talk about an issue regarding south Asians? Feel free, my friend. What annoys me is when you comment, it’s about something completely irrelevant and (surprise) yourself.