New Zealand club ready to fight legal action over Sikh turban ban

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Auckland, June 21(ANI): Members of a New Zealand club have said that the club will fight any legal action against its decision to maintain a ban on wearing 'turbans' in its bar.

Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club held a poll during its annual meeting on June 13, in which about 75 percent members said that they wanted to maintain its policy forbidding the headwear.

The vote was held after Karnail Singh was barred from entering the club in November last year for not removing his turban.

After the poll, a disappointed 'Sikh Council of New Zealand', which was hoping for a reversal of the turban ban, had said that it would seek Human Rights Commission action against the move.

However, longtime members of the club said that the club "has access to barristers and solicitors like anyone else" and will fight any moves to enforce changes.

"To me it would appear the feeling is quite clear that we are a private club with its own rules much like many other clubs throughout the country," The New Zealand Herald quoted Peter Kelly, a member for 43 years, as saying.

"If there is an enforcement on this particular issue on the Manurewa Cossie club, it surely will have repercussions on other clubs and some of their rules in general. I think we would fight - why wouldn't we?" he added.

Kelly said that only five of the 304 people, who attended the club's annual meeting, voted to amend the policy of excluding religious headwear.

"I daresay that if I went down to the Sikh temple I would take my shoes off ... that is one of their conditions I believe, so if it is I would just comply. All we are saying is just comply with the rules of the cossie club," he added.

Another member since the late 1960s, Con Linton, said the issue was not one of racism.

He said the makeup of the club's 3500 members was varied with Pakeha, Maori, Pacific Island, Asian and Iraqi members - many of whom had strong feelings about the issue.

"You could possibly stereotype us and say we are rednecks with people who do not like turbans, but that would be democracy at its worst," Linton said.

"Where it [the headwear policy] originated I don't know, but people have never found it hard to conform with - until lately," he added.

Earlier, Sikh Council secretary Verpal Singh said they would ask the Human Rights Review Tribunal to overturn the club's decision.

"It's the next step in mediation that was started with the Human Rights Commission and as the logical next step we are going to the Human Rights Review Tribunal," Singh said.

"The Sikh community is disappointed at the club's decision. Issue is not that we want to go there to the club, but we don't want to be excluded," he added. (ANI)

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