COLUMN: Turban not the focus

The turban shouldn’t be pulled into a political debate

COLUMN: Turban not the focus

On the Spot by Ken Herar

Being Sikh and promoting diversity in our communities throughout the Lower Mainland and as the founder of Cycling4Diversity Foundation and a local columnist for the past 22 years, I have had the opportunity to listen and speak to many people on diversity-related issues and topics.

I have full respect for my community and those who wear turbans adding to our diverse political structure in the B.C. Legislature. Another newspaper interviewed Amandeep Singh, who is running for the NDP in Richmond, and Gurminder Parihar, who is running for the Liberals in Surrey, and both wear turbans. Both candidates mentioned they have no hypothesis as to why there hasn’t been anyone elected in the legislature as turbaned Sikhs, while across the country turbaned Sikhs have been elected at different levels of government.

No disrespect on this topic and to the candidates, but the focus always needs to remain on the issues first and not the other way around. Why even mention it at all? Let it be a natural process and there is much more beauty in sharing what the turban represents.

I fully support turbans in the RCMP and military and honour the past sacrifices made by turbaned Sikhs for our freedoms. The turban shouldn’t be pulled into a political debate. That is not the principle behind wearing one and it represents something much more meaningful than that.

When Naranjan Grewall, the first South Asian elected to public office in 1950 in Canada, was elected, he took a notice out in the local paper to thank the citizens of Mission City for this honour to serve and being the first Hindu, as he phrased it at that time, to public office. He shared this with the public after he was elected, not asking them to elect him to make history to become the first Hindu to public office in Canada. There is much more honour and respect when a candidate is genuine in his/her quest to become a public servant.

If the candidate(s) wearing a turban get the privilege and opportunity to serve on May 9, we look forward to their public service and trust. Parihar is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s about time now we see a turban in the legislature.” This kind of comment just further divides our communities and the cultural gap we are trying so desperately to close.

The turban should not be the focus or the reason to get elected. It just rubs the voters and people the wrong way, unfortunately. It’s not only in the political arena we’re seeing this kind of message, but in other careers as well. If there is any community that can break walls and barriers, it’s definitely the Sikh community and they have proved it time and time again around the globe. It’s about always remaining humble and equal to everyone around us and that’s the vision we want to create in our multicultural communities.

Where just talking about diversity at the present moment, we haven’t gotten to the stage of actually celebrating it, yet. That’s my hypothesis on this.