January 21, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Vancouver (January 21 , 2011): What started as a noble, legal and legitimate attempt to provide counsel on the issue of Bill 94 turned into a wanton game of political manoeuvring at the expense of the Sikh community and the integrity of the Sikh faith. Four Sikhs attempted to enter the Quebec Legislature on January 18th but were denied entry after refusing to take of their kirpans.
Though the Bloc have stated that this refusal was on the grounds of security, their subsequent remarks have followed a long historical narrative aimed at destabilizing minority rights and propagating a francophone exclusive atmosphere. This, coupled with the Blocs attempts to absolve minorities into the francophone majority, has created an atmosphere of fear not only from the communities’ targeted, but of their religious practices and customs.
“The Bloc Quebecois have disregarded an entire community’s sacrifices, laborious history, and utmost integrity in upholding Canadian values for cheap political gains and to cover up their obvious intolerance toward minority rights and religious freedoms,” said Moninder Singh, spokesperson for the Canadian Sikh Coalition. “Denying Sikhs entrance into legislature is denying Sikhs their inalienable right to democratic processes guaranteed by the constitution. The Bloc Quebecois have supported the right of Sikhs to wear the Kirpan in the past and this current situation brings new light to the politics of convenience.”
The present day relevancy of the Kirpan within Sikhism has not changed since it was bestowed upon Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh (10th Sikh Guru) during the formalized Sikh baptism ceremony in 1699. From then on, it has been a requirement of the faith that all Sikhs initiated through the baptism ceremony carry the Kirpan as a tool to use in the prevention of violence against defenceless persons when all other means to resolve the situation have failed. There should be no doubt that the Kirpan is an article of faith, which has the purpose of actively preventing violence against ones-self or others along with other ceremonial purposes.
“Statements made by Mr. (Tarek) Fatah are completely false, out of line and offensive towards the Sikh community. The Kirpan is not and has not been used as an offensive weapon throughout history and nor was its purpose to combat a specific people or community,” remarked Moninder Singh. “Mr. Fatah has referred to an entire community within Canada as stupid and chose to ridicule an inseparable article of faith which he obviously does not understand. It is shocking and disappointing to see such discriminatory and hate-filled remarks come from somebody representing a minority community within Canada.”
What is even more surprising is that Mr. Fatah’s comments in regards to the Kirpan are not in line with his previous stance on the issue of Kirpans being allowed into schools (which was ruled acceptable by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006) and the fact that Mr. Fatah agreed that individuals should be free to practice their faith:
“The issue of the kirpan’s threat to peace in the classroom was without justification,” said Mr. Fatah. “Small pens are sharp objects in the classroom, and not lethal. There is a religious angle, but students can’t be banned for carrying a kirpan into class. On the Sikh side, someone should not be banned for not carrying it, either.” Fatah added that his organization also opposed the French government’s banning of hijabs, traditional Muslim women’s head scarves. “One should be free to practice one’s faith. It is a right of Muslim women to wear it. We are for the right to wear it, and against segregation.”
The Canadian Sikh Coalition stands with minorities and religious groups being targeted by discriminatory bills that further disenfranchise them from participating in Canadian society, including the denial of Sikhs the right to enter legislature to participate in democratic processes with their Kirpans.
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