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Respect Diversity, Accept the Kirpans

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Archived_Member16, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. Archived_Member16

    Archived_Member16
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    Respect Diversity, accept the Kirpans

    What is all the fuss about kirpans? And why did they suddenly become an issue at Gurdas Maan's concert at the Telus Convention Centre when they've never been an issue at public venues in Calgary before?

    Sunday night's concert was halted because 10 elderly men arrived wearing kirpans under their clothes, as is required by the Sikh religion. So what? No doubt Calgary Sikhs have for years attended plays at Theatre Calgary, concerts at the Jack Singer, Flames games at the Saddledome and so on. No concert by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, no play and no hockey game have ever been shut down because of a Sikh in the audience, wearing his kirpan.

    People are entitled to wear religious symbols. That means a Sikh should be as free to wear a kirpan as a Christian is to wear a crucifix around the neck. If we're not prepared to accept this in Alberta, then the next skid mark down the slippery slope to outright xenophobia will be for us to be like Quebec, whose government is being pressured to ban the wearing of religious symbols by civil servants, including teachers and doctors. Oppress one, oppress all is their motto.

    France has long since gone that way. Let's not follow. In 2004, the French government banned visible religious symbols in public schools, including Sikh turbans. Just before the ban came into effect, then-president Jacques Chirac said: "Secularism is one of the great successes of the republic. It is a crucial element of social peace and national cohesion. We cannot let it weaken."

    Chitac didn't weaken it. He destroyed it. Secularism should not involve suppression of people's religions or enforced cohesion; it should acknowledge people's individuality, respect their personal choice to wear a given religious symbol, and treat them all the same regardless. Secularism should make no big deal out of diversity. Otherwise, it becomes the great oppressor, not the great leveller of society, and its own dubious practice of equal opportunity oppression is far worse than the harmless wearing of religious symbols.

    Kirpans have sharp points, which is why Transport Canada regulations require them to be taken on a plane in checked baggage, rather than carried on board. One can only imagine the harm a kirpan could do if it were wrested away from a Sikh passenger by some individual with terrorist leanings. But a concert hall is not an airplane, to be hijacked or crashed.

    "The kirpan is no more symbolic (of) a weapon than the Christian cross is symbolic of a torture instrument," historian Sandeep Singh Brar explains on his website, sikh.org,which was the Internet's first Sikh site, and has been around for more than a decade. "To Sikhs the kirpan is religiously symbolic of their spirituality and the constant struggle of good and morality over the forces of evil and injustice, both on an individual as well as social level. The usage of the kirpan in this religious context is clearly indicated in the Sikh holy scriptures (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and wearing it is meant to inspire a Sikh in their daily life," Brar says. So if Sikhs do not regard kirpans as weapons, why should the rest of the world show an overweening concern about them? Live and let live. Brar makes an interesting point about the cross. If Christianity were not the majority religion in Canada, would its followers be roundly condemned as advocates of torture for wearing that symbolic "torture instrument" in public?

    To see how ludicrous the to-do over the kirpans at the concert is, one need only reverse the roles, as I learned a few years ago when there was an uproar about Sikhs not wanting to remove their turbans to wear bicycle helmets. Much grumbling at the time seemed to focus on the grumblers' refusal to pay the health-care costs of a helmetless Sikh who might be involved in an accident. Happy Mann, a Calgary Sikh, phoned me to say that the public needed to be set straight. "Sikhs don't smoke, but we are paying for health care for smokers and they are the biggest burden on the system. Baptized Sikhs don't drink, either, but we pay for the drunk-driving violations, the cost of counselling, the health care. But, Sikhs never complain about any of that," Mann said

    What bothers me most is the indignity suffered by the 10 elderly men wearing their kirpans. They were ordinary folks who came to the show in anticipation of enjoying a pleasant evening at a concert, just as any Calgarian would. Prevented from entering because of a religious symbol that they carry to remind them to live in a godly manner, they ended up being treated like "the other." Their ouster resulted in the entire show being halted. Where was all the respect for diversity that we're constantly told is a basic tenet of this Canada we live in?

    By Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald ( Alberta, CANADA )- August 5, 2009 7:55 AM
     
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  3. spnadmin

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    I am wondering if Gurdas Mann learned of the ouster of the 10 elderly men during his performance. If so did he "halt" it or "stop" it completely -- which he should have done in my humble opinion.

    There is not a single time when the official and legislated suppresion of religious identity, and curiously the oppression of first language, by government has ever led to social cohesion. It has led time after time to social divisiveness and in many cases outright war and rebellion. Any European with a sense of history should know this. And we here in the Americas should not follow their example.
     
  4. spnadmin

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    It was canceled. I have just discovered. Well it should have been. But not by management!!!!!!!!!! That was a dreadful dodge. “With the safety of our patrons foremost in our minds, the difficult decision was made to cancel the event, prior to Gurdas Maan taking the stage,” Ms. Lundy said in a statement Tuesday. “We take very seriously our responsibility to provide all our visitors with a safe and non-threatening environment. Regrettably, some attendees refused to allow us to meet that mandate.” This is the Telus Convention Center doing its best to get public sympathy while it can. Note "some attendees" are the elderly men who are amritdhari Sikhs. Is it possible that management is too ignorant to know about their wearing of kirpan? The more I read about this the angrier I get at the cunning of these people.

    If there was no way to admit those 10 men, then the performers themselves needed to speak out. Using safety as a reason is a feeble excuse and I guess we are looking at one more drawn out and un-necessary review of the right to wear a kirpan. :(

    Concert canceled over ceremonial blade - The Globe and Mail


    Promoter to sue Calgary venue

    BY JILL COLVIN
    Last updated on Wednesday, Aug. 05, 2009 04:02AM EDT A concert promoter is threatening to sue a Calgary venue for abruptly canceling a concert after a Sikh patron refused to hand over his ceremonial dagger to security. About 2,500 people were packed into a sold-out Calgary Telus Convention Centre on Sunday, waiting for Indian superstar singer and actor Gurdas Maan to take the stage, when management decided to shut the show down.

    Centre spokeswoman Heather Lundy said a patron had refused to hand over his kirpan, a ceremonial dagger male Sikhs are required to wear at all times.
    When security told the man he would not be admitted, “the people started to get all riled up,” she said.

    “With the safety of our patrons foremost in our minds, the difficult decision was made to cancel the event, prior to Gurdas Maan taking the stage,” Ms. Lundy said in a statement Tuesday. “We take very seriously our responsibility to provide all our visitors with a safe and non-threatening environment. Regrettably, some attendees refused to allow us to meet that mandate.”

    Ms. Lundy said all promoters are made aware of the centre's security policy, which prohibits sharp metal objects.

    Conveners are also asked ahead of time to advise the centre of any cultural or religious matters that need to be addressed, but Sai Productions Entertainment's Nirmal Dhaliwal mentioned no such issues, she said.

    Sai Productions Entertainment's Nirmal Dhaliwal, who organized the event, conceded the contract did include a clause prohibiting weapons. But he maintains that the kirpan is not a weapon.

    He has said that he intends to sue the convention centre for loss of income incurred as a result of the cancellation. Ms. Lundy said the centre has consulted its lawyers.

    Sikhs are required to wear the kirpan at all times, even when sleeping. It becomes part of a man's body, explained Ajit Singh Sahota, director of administration for the World Sikh Organization. He noted that he visits Parliament every few months and that nobody there has ever questioned his right to wear the kirpan.

    Mr. Sahota said the Sikh community has been a victim of racism under the pretext of safety.

    “It's a horrible thing they have done,” he said. “They have no business doing this to the Sikh community in Calgary.”

    Calgary's Gurmail Singh Bhattal was one of the disappointed concertgoers.

    He paid $800 for tickets for himself, his wife and his two sons to see Mr. Maan.When he made it to the front of the line at the venue, he found the entrance shuttered.

    “I was really, really disappointed,” Mr. Bhattal said. “The whole community was very upset. The security guards should have known.”

    While Mr. Bhattal did attend a make-up concert at a park in northeast Calgary on Monday, he said it just wasn't the same.

    “It wasn't close to what it would have been,” he said. With a report from The Canadian Press
     
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  5. vsgrewal48895

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    Dear All,

    IMHO it was the folly of the persons incharge in arranging the concert/what ever to check the local laws. They should have either made an effort to clarify the security laws or got permission or advised the Sikhs with kirpans of the local ordinance. Sikhs in general are peaceful but the track record of the Kirpans is not good in some instances. The persons responsible in arranging the concert are at fault IMHO.

    Cordially,

    Virinder
     
  6. BhagatSingh

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    Didn't it say on the ticket that "no kirpans and sharp metal objects are allowed"?
     
  7. spnadmin

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    Bhagat ji

    It does not say whether the tickets carried that request or not in any of the news articles. What has been noted is that Sikhs with kirpans have attended many kinds of cultural functions in the past and nothing was ever made of the kirpan at similar cultural functions in the past. Something very weird is going on in Canada (this does not mean weird things are not happening in the US - I am not saying that). Canada has historically been an "ideal" in the minds of many of us. In my experience it has been a land of open-minded people and comprehension of cultural values and diversity. That seems to be changing. It is disheartening to read and read about these things sitting here in the US. And what makes this particular story particularly disheartening is the fact that Sikhs in the Canadian diaspora have been in place many generations -- at least 5 generations. And across the breadth of the country from Nova Scotia to Vancover. Whatever Canada knew of the culture of Sikhism seems to be growing dim -- or something else :confused::confused::confused: "Kirpan" should be an old story by now, not a social and legal surprise to be dealt with.
     

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