Sikh Council plans legal action over turban ban

By Michael Dickison, Katherine Irvine

Karnail Singh was barred from attending a function in his honour. Photo / Greg Bowker
Karnail Singh was barred from attending a function in his honour. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Sikh Council of New Zealand is taking legal action against the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club after the club voted against changing a policy that effectively bans turban-wearing Sikhs from its premises.

Secretary Verpal Singh said the community would seek legal representation from the Human Rights Commission following an incident last November when a Sikh, Karnail Singh, was refused entry to a function in his honour at the club because his turban violated its "no headwear" rule.

Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club manager Patricia Rangi said she was not aware of any legal proceedings and would not comment until she had heard more.

Mrs Rangi said it was up to members to decide whether they would revise their definition of headwear to exclude turbans in order to avoid legal action.

On Sunday, members voted against amending the policy, thus endorsing the ban on religious headwear.

Verpal Singh said the Sikh Council did not want to take legal action but felt it had to on behalf of the entire Sikh community. "We cannot let it stand that we are being excluded."

Verpal Singh said Sikhs wanted the club's definition of headwear to be brought in line with the rules of the courts, the Returned and Services Association and Aviation Security, which allow turbans.

"We hope the human rights tribunal takes into account our right to practise our religion."

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said legal action was the avenue now open after mediation between the club and the Sikh Council fell through. "This is a simple matter of recognising religious diversity and, in particular, religious beliefs.

"We have police who wear turbans. This is uncaring and disrespectful."

Nearby clubs said they had no problems with Sikhs or turbans.

The Pukekohe club said Ganges Singh was an important member and his turban had never been a problem. But a spokesman declined to comment further, saying it did not want to get involved in the politics.

Papatoetoe's president, Ray George, said his club had discussed the issue and decided headgear would be allowed for religious or medical reasons. It would not think of banning turbans.

When Manurewa barred Karnail Singh, the function he was to attend had been organised to recognise his contribution to the community.

- NZ Herald

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