Tejwinder Singh Rai was not surprised when children at Saw Mill Road Elementary School made fun of his son's flowing black hair and the white cloth that covers it, calling him a girl. After all, how would kindergartners know that the Sikh religion requires unshorn hair and a head covering?
So, on a September day two years ago, he paid a visit to the North Bellmore school and did some teaching of his own. "I explained to the teacher, and the teacher explained to all the kids," he said.
Rai never thought he'd have to give that same lesson to the federal government.
Until last month. That's when the Wantagh resident got a letter in the mail from the U.S. Department of State rejecting his son Arunvir Singh Rai's application for a passport, in part because his son, now 7, was wearing a religious head covering known as a rumal in his passport photo.