The Telegraphed Gazette: Column. 16 June 2013
The turban: an icon of the Sikh religion. People who practice this religion dawn this headdress much like Jewish rabbis dawn their garb before attending the temple prayers. This is – quite literally – a bite size bit of information to which most of you – if not all of you – are well aware of, especially if you live in a country that was once part of the British Empire. We owe much to their ancestors, the ones who formed regiments of 100,000 – varying in number here and there – in the name of queen and country, and who went forth when asked to, and never took a step back. Our unity is what made us powerful in the world, and it was with these fine men, along with the regiments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, British Africa, and her colonies in the orient that gave us this diverse population we have today. Yet – and much to my disappointment – I find myself talking about the turban in 2013; when we had this debate years ago when a young man sought to join the RCMP, and won the right to do so with his turban (the turban of course would be the colour of the Campaign Hat the Mounties wore to conform to their uniform dress code).
I pass by Sikh officers regularly: they wear the same uniform, hold the same ethics, adhere to the same code of conduct, speak the same language, drive the same cruisers, use the same equipment and weapons, and are physically fit. Therefore someone explain to me – and thoroughly I might add – what difference does it make if his head dress is not a damned peak cap or a campaign hat? Let me give you a fictional bit that everyone loves: Gears of War. Marcus Fenix wears a bandana in place of the standard issue COG helmet; however, there are ordinances in the COG military that set regulations for how the bandana is worn. Does the bandana make Fenix a weaker soldier? Does it make him less accurate, less disciplined, or less of a gear like the others? Coming back to reality, the Sikh turban is quite similar in that the colour of cloth is made to match with the uniform, the cap badge is on the front, and it is well kept, hygienic, and free of any signs of a lack of discipline.
Okay, so it could be a health hazard: make them sign a waiver. The Tough Mudder thing that has been the craze as of late makes their participants sign a waiver stating that any injury on the course is not their fault because A, B, and C. Should the individual hold their religion dear to the extent that they wish to not wear a helmet, waivers, waivers, bloody waivers for the man or woman!
Now some people might cry: “OH! BUT BURKAS! THEY WILL SOON LET BURKAS INTO THE SCENE!” Newsflash: Turbans still show the face, burkas do not. This would be like saying: “we let so many Polish people into this country, next thing you know they will form communities up north and refuse to speak English, eventually declaring independence, and subsequently taking up arms against our country.” Right, well we do have limits, and the turban is within those limits. Not all limits can be pushed, and nor should they be pushed. We also have to look at the reality, rather than a “what if” scenario, because everyone – anyone – can play the “what if” scenario for years, and not come up with a definitive answer to the questions in their mind. Therefore let me put in some reality checks here and there to help anchor things down to earth. FIRST, they speak our language, hold a strong sense of community, and are willing to serve in our armed forces. They are loyal to this nation, so relax. SECOND, they “can” trim their facial hairs to standards – and yes we do have ordinances in the military regarding religious facial hair and head dresses; same goes for the RCMP, and municipal police agencies. THIRD, sure they have their own little communities here and there, but so did the Irish, the French, the English, the Scottish, the Ukrainians, the Chinese; need I say more? FOURTH, Scottish soldiers wear kilts with their dress uniforms, and I do not see a public outcry over such a: “violation of our sacred uniforms!” They even wear a Balmoral bonnet in place of the beret on their field uniforms: your point people? Finally, they are our people, and if they were loyal to the union jack for decades – centuries even – they will be loyal to the maple leaf.
Some of you might be wondering what this is all about: I am disappointed to say that the Soccer Federation of Quebec has decided to re-open the discussion on the turban: more to the point they have flat out banned the head dress on their fields. I understand that integration is needed – I am a strong supporter of integration and assimilation; however these people who happen to be affected by the little ban, they are born and bred in Quebec. Right, so now they wish to dress me eh? First they wish to tell me what language to think in, now they want to dress me like I am some glorified mannequin?! What do I have to wear a 1700s French outfit with frills, cuffs, and high-heel men’s shoes? Do I need to tattoo the provincial flag to my shoulders, back, and rear end? Oh, and my glasses, do they have to be made in Quebec as well? The minerals harvested from her mines, the craftsmanship from a glasses maker in Quebec City, and finally the nuts and bolts hand-made by a blacksmith in the Eastern Townships. Yes? This is it right? Oh and my menu and diet; it has to be Oka Cheese, and fish from the St. Laurence river. This is not something I wish to go further on so let me end with this statement: the year is 2013, not 1962: grow up already people.
Disclaimer: The Soccer Federation of Quebec has reversed its decision to ban the turban earlier in the week. This article was written the week prior to the reversal of the decision: thank you for your understanding.