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Gurdas Mann Concert Cancelled Due To Kirpan


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A concert promoter is threatening to sue a Calgary venue for abruptly cancelling a concert after a Sikh patron refused to hand over his ceremonial dagger to security.

About 2,500 people were packed into a sold-out Calgary Telus Convention Centre on Sunday, waiting for Indian superstar singer and actor Gurdas Maan to take the stage, when management decided to shut the show down.

Centre spokeswoman Heather Lundy said a patron had refused to hand over his kirpan, a ceremonial dagger male Sikhs are required to wear at all times.

When security told the man he would not be admitted, “the people started to get all riled up,” she said.

“With the safety of our patrons foremost in our minds, the difficult decision was made to cancel the event, prior to Gurdas Maan taking the stage,” Ms. Lundy said in a statement Tuesday. “We take very seriously our responsibility to provide all our visitors with a safe and non-threatening environment. Regrettably, some attendees refused to allow us to meet that mandate.”

Ms. Lundy said all promoters are made aware of the centre's security policy, which prohibits sharp metal objects.

Conveners are also asked ahead of time to advise the centre of any cultural or religious matters that need to be addressed, but Sai Productions Entertainment's Nirmal Dhaliwal mentioned no such issues, she said.

Sai Productions Entertainment's Nirmal Dhaliwal, who organized the event, conceded the contract did include a clause prohibiting weapons. But he maintains that the kirpan is not a weapon.

He has said that he intends to sue the convention centre for loss of income incurred as a result of the cancellation. Ms. Lundy said the centre has consulted its lawyers.

Sikhs are required to wear the kirpan at all times, even when sleeping. It becomes part of a man's body, explained Ajit Singh Sahota, director of administration for the World Sikh Organization. He noted that he visits Parliament every few months and that nobody there has ever questioned his right to wear the kirpan.

Mr. Sahota said the Sikh community has been a victim of racism under the pretext of safety.

“It's a horrible thing they have done,” he said. “They have no business doing this to the Sikh community in Calgary.”

Calgary's Gurmail Singh Bhattal was one of the disappointed concertgoers.

He paid $800 for tickets for himself, his wife and his two sons to see Mr. Maan.When he made it to the front of the line at the venue, he found the entrance shuttered.

“I was really, really disappointed,” Mr. Bhattal said. “The whole community was very upset. The security guards should have known.”

While Mr. Bhattal did attend a make-up concert at a park in northeast Calgary on Monday, he said it just wasn't the same.

“It wasn't close to what it would have been,” he said. With a report from The Canadian Press

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Respect diversity, accept the kirpans

By Naomi Lakritz, Calgary HeraldAugust 5, 2009 2:02 AM

What is all the fuss about kirpans? And why did they suddenly become an issue at Gurdas Maan's concert at the Telus Convention Centre when they've never been an issue at public venues in Calgary before?

Sunday night's concert was halted because 10 elderly men arrived wearing kirpans under their clothes, as is required by the Sikh religion. So what? No doubt Calgary Sikhs have for years attended plays at Theatre Calgary, concerts at the Jack Singer, Flames games at the Saddledome and so on. No concert by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, no play and no hockey game have ever been shut down because of a Sikh in the audience, wearing his kirpan.

People are entitled to wear religious symbols. That means a Sikh should be as free to wear a kirpan as a Christian is to wear a crucifix around the neck. If we're not prepared to accept this in Alberta, then the next skid mark down the slippery slope to outright xenophobia will be for us to be like Quebec, whose government is being pressured to ban the wearing of religious symbols by civil servants, including teachers and doctors. Oppress one, oppress all is their motto.

France has long since gone that way. Let's not follow. In 2004, the French government banned visible religious symbols in public schools, including Sikh turbans. Just before the ban came into effect, then-president Jacques Chirac said: "Secularism is one of the great successes of the republic. It is a crucial element of social peace and national cohesion. We cannot let it weaken."

Chirac didn't weaken it. He destroyed it. Secularism should not involve suppression of people's religions or enforced cohesion; it should acknowledge people's individuality, respect their personal choice to wear a given religious symbol, and treat them all the same regardless. Secularism should make no big deal out of diversity. Otherwise, it becomes the great oppressor, not the great leveller of society, and its own dubious practice of equal opportunity oppression is far worse than the harmless wearing of religious symbols.

Kirpans have sharp points, which is why Transport Canada regulations require them to be taken on a plane in checked baggage, rather than carried on board. One can only imagine the harm a kirpan could do if it were wrested away from a Sikh passenger by some individual with terrorist leanings. But a concert hall is not an airplane, to be hijacked or crashed.

"The kirpan is no more symbolic (of) a weapon than the Christian cross is symbolic of a torture instrument," historian Sandeep Singh Brar explains on his website, sikh.org,which was the Internet's first Sikh site, and has been around for more than a decade. "To Sikhs the kirpan is religiously symbolic of their spirituality and the constant struggle of good and morality over the forces of evil and injustice, both on an individual as well as social level. The usage of the kirpan in this religious context is clearly indicated in the Sikh holy scriptures (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and wearing it is meant to inspire a Sikh in their daily life," Brar says. So if Sikhs do not regard kirpans as weapons, why should the rest of the world show an overweening concern about them? Live and let live. Brar makes an interesting point about the cross. If Christianity were not the majority religion in Canada, would its followers be roundly condemned as advocates of torture for wearing that symbolic "torture instrument" in public?

To see how ludicrous the to-do over the kirpans at the concert is, one need only reverse the roles, as I learned a few years ago when there was an uproar about Sikhs not wanting to remove their turbans to wear bicycle helmets. Much grumbling at the time seemed to focus on the grumblers' refusal to pay the health-care costs of a helmetless Sikh who might be involved in an accident. Happy Mann, a Calgary Sikh, phoned me to say that the public needed to be set straight. "Sikhs don't smoke, but we are paying for health care for smokers and they are the biggest burden on the system. Baptized Sikhs don't drink, either, but we pay for the drunk-driving violations, the cost of counselling, the health care. But, Sikhs never complain about any of that," Mann said.

What bothers me most is the indignity suffered by the 10 elderly men wearing their kirpans. They were ordinary folks who came to the show in anticipation of enjoying a pleasant evening at a concert, just as any Calgarian would. Prevented from entering because of a religious symbol that they carry to remind them to live in a godly manner, they ended up being treated like "the other." Their ouster resulted in the entire show being halted. Where was all the respect for diversity that we're constantly told is a basic tenet of this Canada we live in?


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Please add your comments in the discussion going on CBC on kirpans:


The kirpan really gets butchered in the comment section of these sites. It is unfortunate that the Sikhs living in Canada in such large numbers do not have a representation in Canadian media. I must say the Canadian media is VERY biased against the Sikhs. Kim Bolan and terri Melewsky are prime example of this biased reporting.

But this issue is about Calgary. Calgary is still redneck country. Up until a few years ago, there were hardly any visible minorities there. The rednecks there are still not used to the fact that so many south Asians are moving there.

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agree with Mithar, we could do with some "chilled out" practising Sikh parcharaks like Bhai Roop Singh of UK to go into Media & Schools and explain basics of what our dharam is about and challenge redneck mentality.

its a shame Gurdas Mann chose to remain silent over this, particularly as these were his fans from whom he has certainly made a lot of money over the years. i'm sure western singers wouldnt have stood by silently if their fans were treated this way.

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I just re-checked the comments on there guys, someone even posted sardar kapoor singh couplet on kirpan in the comments which is quite explicit listed below. Look lets just face it - main aim for kirpan is meant for defend the weak from oppressor. There is no denying there. I think our leaders abroad declaring kirpan being article of faith just symbol made a smart choice to push kirpan as ceremonial dagger as it has multi-purpose in gurdwara ceremonies.

But its very important for all Sikhs living abroad to consider kirpan as article of faith in public or outside and best fit to present that way instead of wearing 2 foot kirpans in public, now that quite evidently is perceived not as article of faith but weapon in public. I think there should be standard size of kirpans not small ones but to the extend where its not consider weapon in general paranoid public.

I think our leaders have done very good job presenting kirpan case in front of superior court of justice so all the amritdhari gursikhs can keep the maryada. With that being said, its extremely important for all Sikhs abroad to understand kirpan multi purpose and only use kirpan in ceremonies - karah parshad, langar, amrit sanchar. Also what we also need an article on kirpan for westerners which describes its multi-purpose.

A quote by Sardar Kapur Singh is instructive,

'... ( the sword) is by ancient tradition and association, a typical WEAPON OF OFFENCE AND DEFENSE and, hence, a fundamental right of the freeman, the sovereign individual to wear it. All governments and rulers, whether ancient or modern, have insisted and do insist on their right to control and curtail the right of a citizen to WEAR ARMS. Indeed, in the final analysis, a government or the State is sustained and supported by organized power and the exclusive right of possession or arms, a citizen's right to wear arms being conceded as only a permissive and licensed character. It follows from this that the measure of freedom to posses and wear arms by an individual is the precise measure of his freedom and sovereignty." Sardar Kapur Singh, from Parasaraprsna, pp.107-108

As Sardar jee states , a state’s power comes through its ability to limit the use of weapons by its subjects. The right to carry weapons is one that is solely open to the state, and to state authorities. Citizens that wish to carry arms, are either not allowed to at all , or are severely restricted in this right , and forced to carry licenses , have to fulfill strict requirements, have severe restrictions placed on the type of weapons they may own, and are limited in how they may go about carrying their weapons. Without this right , a state loses its legitimacy, and its right to govern. And it is here that the true revolutionary aspect of wearing a Kirpan comes to the fore.

The Kirpan is our way of showing to the world that we as Sikhs will never bow down to any state authority."


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