August 21, 2012
Devout Sikh males observe the “Five Ks”“the five “articles of faith” they are supposedly required to wear at all times. The special underwear, bracelet, and comb are of no interest to outsiders. However, two of them”kesh (long beards and uncut hair kept under a turban) and the kirpan (a ceremonial dagger) are a different matter.
With the Air India atrocity still fresh in Canadians’ minds, RCMP recruit Baltej Singh Dhillon appointed himself the Rosa Parks of the Mounted Police and campaigned for his right to wear his turban instead of the famous regulation hat. His victory was never in question: Turbaned Sikh soldiers have fought on the empire’s side with legendary distinction since before World War I, and come on”the Stetson’s not even Canadian.
For countless “old stock” Canadians, English, and French, none of that mattered. Herman Bittner of Calgary sold thousands of novelty calendars featuring cartoons of turbaned, dark-skinned Mounties and the slogan, “Is this Canadian or does this make you Sikh?”
Then there’s that troublesome kirpan. Depending on their opponent, Sikhs cleverly pivot on whether or not wearing it is a religious requirement. When France banned all religious accessories from public schools in 2004, some Sikh spokesmen argued (unsuccessfully) that the dagger is really a cultural symbol like the Italians’ gold Cornicello.
Back in Canada, however, there is no need for such fibs. Freedom of religion is a Charter right, and white guilt is the Anglo liberal elite’s sacred faith.
Being a “distinct society,” however, means Quebec gets to retain its legendary hostility to foreigners. The kirpan is unapologetically banned in its National Assembly. The so-called “kirpan case” went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2006, but it started in a Montreal schoolyard five years before. Had that Singh family lived in accommodating Toronto or Vancouver, an expensive, drawn-out Charter challenge would’ve been unnecessary.
So Sikhs can wear the kirpan in Toronto courthouses, even though their present day metal detectors were only installed in the first place after one Kuldip Singh Samra, “infuriated that his bid to stop an election at a Sikh temple was tossed out by a judge, took a .357 magnum into Osgoode Hall,” killing two men and leaving another paralyzed in 1982.
Some now suspect he’d also been planning to assassinate the father of official multiculturalism, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Yes, the tasteless jokes write themselves”except that if Herman Bittner were to print them on calendars, he’d be dragged before one of our Human Rights Commission tribunals.
But not, I suspect, before selling way more than a few thousand copies this time around.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock