Sikh veteran who fought for right to wear turban opposes ban on niqab

  • Gurpreet Singh, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 05, 2015 11:56 IST

A prominent Sikh World War II veteran, who once fought for his right to wear turban in Surrey Newton legion, has opposed the ban on niqab.

Lt. Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal (95) thinks that the ban on Muslim women wearing niqab at citizenship oath ceremonies is uncalled for and must be lifted.

Talking to HT, an ailing Jauhal said that the rules must be amended to accommodate Muslim women for the sake of their religious freedom, much as rules were changed for the turbaned Sikhs in Canada.

The Conservative government has banned niqab wearing Muslim women from taking citizenship oath. Although Federal Court of Appeals had recently ruled against the ban, the government has announced that it will challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The issue has polarised Canadian voters at the time of the upcoming federal election on October 19. So much so, a turbaned Sikh candidate of the Conservative Party from Surrey, Harpreet Singh, sees nothing wrong in the ban.

According to him, the niqab cannot be compared with turban as it hides the face of the women at the time of citizenship oath ceremony. He went on to say that Muslim women can walk around freely in public with their faces covered, but are only being asked to remove niqab for identification at the time of citizenship oath ceremony.

He denied that the Conservatives are trying to create animosity against Muslim minority.

Jauhal had shot into prominence for fighting against racism by the Surrey Newton Legion that once barred the entry of turbaned Sikh veterans.

Jauhal and other Sikh war veterans, who had served the British Empire during World War II, were denied entry into the Legion on the occasion of Remembrance Day in 1993. The legion officials insisted that they could be allowed in only after removing their turban as rules forbade veterans from entering the club with a headgear.

He wrote a protest letter to the Newton Legion detailing the sacrifices made by South Asian soldiers during World War II in a bloody fight against the Nazis. He also wrote to the Queen of England who is the constitutional head of Canada. Following the support he received from mainstream allies, the Legion was forced to apologise and amend its policy.

Jauhal also received threat letters and calls from white supremacists for raising the issue.

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