New Zealand |18 June 2015 | Asia Samachar
A Sikh real estate agent was barred from from entering a Cosmopolitan Club for lunch this week with colleagues because he was wearing a turban, according to local New Zealand media reports.
Gurpreet Singh, 30, who works at Ray White Papatoetoe, is taking his complaint against the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club for religious discrimination to the Human Rights Commission.
“I tried to explain that the turban is part of my faith and it is not a headgear that I can take off, but the reception just refused to accept that.
“I don’t know whether it’s being racist or ignorance, but what they did left me shocked and insulted,” Gurpreet was quoted in a NZ Herald report that appeared today.
The incident comes just a month after a New Zealand based Sikh student made worldwide news when he did not think twice about removing his turban to cradle the bleeding head of a 5-year-old who had just been hit by a vehicle on his way to school.
Harman Singh’s story went viral on the social media and was picked up by many media channels.
This is not the first time the Manurewa club has been embroiled such a controversy. In 2009, the club kept Karnail Singh out of a function held in his honour because he would not remove his Sikh turban, insisting that his turban breached its no-headwear policy. [See NZ Herald report here].
The NZ Human Rights Commission had called the “a blast from the past” and “deeply” disappointing”.
Despite that, the South Auckland’s Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club voted overwhelmingly in June 2010 to keep the ban that prevents Sikhs from entering its premises.
In the latest incident, Gurpreet is reported to have lodged complaints with the commission and the police because he wanted the club to change its “discriminatory” policy.
A commission spokeswoman said it had received Gurpreet’s complaint and was now in “confidential mediation”.
Club manager Patricia Rangi would not comment yesterday except to say the matter was going through the processes before the commission, the report said.
It added that the club’s policy banned entry to all people with headgear, including those wearing them for religious reasons.
Sikh Centre chairman Verpal Singh was also quoted in the same report as saying his group had asked members of the local Sikh community to stay away from the club since the 2010 case to avoid a repetition of the incident.
“Our purpose was to defuse the situation and not let those who shout ‘go back to where you came from’ or ‘our country our rules’ [have] any platform to spew their venom.”
The report also quoted Professor Andrew Geddis of Otago University law school as saying the club appeared to be acting unlawfully, noting that under the Human Rights Act one of the grounds under which you could not discriminate was religious belief.
“Because wearing the turban is a non-negotiable part of the religion, if you have a rule that you’re not allowed in here with head coverings, you’re discriminating against people of that particular religious belief.”
But to find out for certain a ruling would need to be made by the Human Rights Review Tribunal, it added.
NZ Sikh uses turban to comfort accident victim (Asia Samachar, 16 May2015)
Sikh turban victory against U.S. army (Asia Samachar, 15 June 2015)