Last week, the aptly-titled Reddit user “european_douchebag” posted a candid photo on the online community site. The image, of a young Sikh woman playing with her phone while waiting in line, included the caption “i’m not sure what to conclude from this.” No, “european_douchebag” wasn’t questioning which game the woman was playing on her phone, he was referencing the abundance of facial hair on the young woman’s face—a nod towards her Sikh beliefs of not altering her body image. Unaware that others around him might practice faiths besides his own, “european_douchebag” posted the picture under the Reddit tab “Funny,” hoping to get an elbow-in-the-side snickering reaction from the online community.
But what happened next speaks volumes of Reddit contributors. Although many of the mostly white, liberal, and somewhat-educated young male audience showed their ignorance for diverse religious values, most bit back. Reddit peers verbally tore “european_douchebag” apart, castigating him for not only taking a creepy smartphone picture of an innocent young woman, but for taunting her based on her physical appearance—a physical appearance that, in her mind (the only one that matters) is divinely inspired. Of course the woman’s appearance only seems odd to some because of our own culturally mutated and narrow-minded gender norms.
The virtual conflict became very real when the anonymous woman got a name—Belprett Kaur—and logged on to Reddit to comment herself. Kaur’s response is genuine, open and doesn’t contain a hint of vengeance or hate. She jokes that if someone wanted a picture of her, she would have happily obliged and smiled for the camera. She then gently, with the patience of a preschool instructor teaching her students how to share, briefly describes Sikh beliefs that reject vanity in place of creating positive change:
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.
After watching his mobile upload turn against him, “european_douchebag” finally apologized to the online community, Kaur, Sikhs in general and anyone else who might have taken offense to his posting. Reddit in search of mindless memes beware: between the cat videos and bizarre news stories you might just find some religious tolerance.