Walmart, Rite Aid pull ‘Turban and Beard’ costume off shelves
Walmart and Rite Aid have pulled “Turban and Beard” costumes off their shelves after the Sikh Coalition asked several retailers to stop selling the offensive Halloween costumes. On Friday, the organization wrote letters to Walmart, Rite Aid, Sears and Amazon, along with the costume supplier Fun World, imploring them to remove the costumes from stores. Walmart and Rite Aid responded swiftly, and Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition, said that Sears has already told the organization that it will also stop selling the costume. Singh told Metro that in the wake of recent attacks on Sikhs, such as the one on Columbia professor Prabhjot Singh, it is especially insensitive to sell a costume that villainizes beards and turbans. “Members of our community have been physically assaulted and in some cases murdered by bigots who associate us with Osama Bin Laden because we are required by our religion to wear turbans and have beards,” said Singh. “[This costume] reinforces and perpetuates the stereotype that if someone wears a turban and a beard, they are a terrorist.” The costume includes a turban, beard and army jacket reminiscent of Osama Bin Laden’s appearance in photos and videos. Sikhs are not affiliated in any way with Islam or Al-Qaeda.
Singh added that the costume is also deeply offensive to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 or in Iraq or Afghanistan. “It’s sort of like wearing a Hitler costume and trying to needle people who lost loved ones during the Holocaust,” he added.
Ravi Jariwala, director of media relations at Walmart, told Metro, “We sincerely apologize to any customers who may have been offended by this costume” and added that the costume was only available online and not in stores. Singh said he and the Sikh Coalition have been encouraged by the positive responses they have received from Rite Aid, Walmart and Sears.