Club ready to fight legal action over Sikh's turban

By James Ihaka

The Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club. Photo / Herald on Sunday
The Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Members of a South Auckland club that denied a Sikh man entry because he was wearing a turban say they will fight any legal action against their rules.

The Sikh Council of New Zealand is seeking Human Rights Commission action against the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club after volunteer worker Karnail Singh was barred entry because his turban breached its no-headwear policy.

But longtime members say the club "has access to barristers and solicitors like anyone else" and will fight any moves to enforce changes.

"To me it would appear the feeling is quite clear that we are a private club with its own rules much like many other clubs throughout the country," said Peter Kelly, a member for 43 years.

"But if there is an enforcement on this particular issue on the Manurewa Cossie club, it surely will have repercussions on other clubs and some of their rules in general.

"I think we would fight - why wouldn't we ?"

Mr Kelly, 75, said the headwear issue was raised at the club's annual meeting last Sunday, where only five of the 304 people attending voted to amend the policy of excluding religious headwear.

"I daresay that if I went down to the Sikh temple I would take my shoes off ... that is one of their conditions I believe, so if it is I would just comply," he said.

"All we are saying is just comply with the rules of the cossie club."

Con Linton, another member since the late 1960s, said the issue was not one of racism. He said the makeup of the club's 3500 members was varied with Pakeha, Maori, Pacific Island, Asian and Iraqi members - many of whom had strong feelings about the issue.

"You could possibly stereotype us and say we are rednecks with people who do not like turbans but that would be democracy at its worst.

"Where it [the headwear policy] originated I don't know but people have never found it hard to conform with - until lately," he said.

Sikh Council spokesman Verpal Singh believed at least one practising member of the Sikh community had entered the club wearing a turban, but this was denied by the club's manager, Patricia Rangi.

"We had asked them to resolve this anomaly and bring their definition of headwear in line with the courts of law and RSAs and other cosmopolitan clubs which would not bring the turban under the curfew on headwear rules that they have," Mr Singh said.

He would not comment when asked if the issue was one of intolerance towards other cultures.

- NZ Herald

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