World Sikh Or­ga­ni­za­tion suc­cess­fully ad­vo­cates for re­li­gious head cov­er­ings at World Karate Fed­er­a­tion

Asian Journal - - NATION -

Ot­tawa: The World Sikh Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Canada wel­comes the World Karate Fed­er­a­tion (WKF) ac­com­mo­da­tion of re­li­giously man­dated head­wear for male com­peti­tors. Prior to the change, only fe­male ath­letes were per­mit­ted to wear head cov­er­ings. The rule change, com­ing into ef­fect on Jan­uary 1, 2019, will al­low all Sikh com­peti­tors across the world to wear re­li­gious head-cov­er­ings while com­pet­ing.

The WKF has an­nounced that it has ap­proved a new ver­sion of its rules which al­lows all ath­letes to wear plain black head cov­er­ings dur­ing com­pe­ti­tion for re­li­gious rea­sons. The WSO had worked with Karate Canada to ad­vo­cate for the rule change at the in­ter­na­tional level. The WSO first ap­proached the WKF in 2014, re­quest­ing an ac­com­mo­da­tion for Sikh re­li­gious head-cov­er­ings, how­ever no re­sponse was re­ceived. In 2016, Jaikaran Singh Sanghera, a Sikh mem­ber of Karate British Co­lum­bia, was in Croa­tia to com­pete at a WKF Youth Cup tour­na­ment but was told that he could not com­pete with his patka or small tur­ban.

Based on a di­rect ap­peal made by Karate Canada Pres­i­dent, Craig Vokey, and Team Canada coaches to WKF of­fi­cials at the tour­na­ment, Jai was granted an ex­emp­tion that al­lowed him to com­pete at that event. When con­tacted by the Sanghera fam­ily, the WSO, in co­op­er­a­tion with Karate Canada, ad­vo­cated for a change to the WKF rules to al­low for the wear­ing of re­li­gious head gear for male com­peti­tors. The WSO pre­pared a brief that was sub­mit­ted to the WKF, along with sub­mis­sions by Karate Canada, on the sig­nif­i­cance and im­por­tance of the tur­ban in the Sikh faith as well as ac­com­mo­da­tion poli­cies in in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tions for foot­ball (FIFA) and bas­ket­ball (FIBA). Karate Canada’s sub­mis­sions in­cluded sup­port from the Honourable Kirsty Dun­can, Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Sport, Sport Canada, the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee Pres­i­dent Tri­cia Smith, Karate British Co­lum­bia, and many in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the Karate Canada Com­mu­nity who wrote let­ters of sup­port on be­half of Jaikaran. The new ver­sion of the WKF rules now read, “Com­peti­tors may use WKF ap­proved re­li­giously man­dated head-wear: A black plain fab­ric head scarf cov­er­ing the hair, but not the throat area.”

Jaikaran Singh Sanghera said on Thurs­day, “as a proud Sikh, it was never an op­tion for me to com­pete with­out my head cov­er­ing, so I was very pas­sion­ate that this rule change be adopted so that no Sikh male would ever again face this bar­rier on the wold stage of karate. I am very pleased that we were able to cham­pion the rule change, un­der the lead­er­ship of Karate Canada and WSO, with the sup­port of the Gov­ern­ment of Canada and all those who pro­vided let­ters of sup­port. The joint lead­er­ship on this cause is fit­ting given that ad­vo­cat­ing for equal­ity is com­mon to Sikhs and Cana­di­ans. I am thank­ful to the WKF for mak­ing the sport of karate more in­clu­sive and for al­low­ing ath­letes like me to com­pete with dig­nity.”

WSO Pres­i­dent Mukb­hir Singh said, “we wel­come the World Karate Fed­er­a­tion’s rule change now al­low­ing both male and fe­male com­peti­tors to wear re­li­gious head-cov­er­ings. Sikh com­peti­tors were be­ing un­fairly forced to choose be­tween their sport and their faith.

There is a grow­ing num­ber of Sikhs in Canada, and across the world who are tak­ing an in­ter­est in Karate and com­pet­ing in tour­na­mentsthis news is a wel­come change for them. Canada is a leader in the field of hu­man rights, in­clu­sion and eq­uity and so it is fit­ting that it was Canada that lead the charge to se­cure this ac­com­mo­da­tion for com­peti­tors across the world. We are thank­ful to Karate Canada for their strong sup­port on this mat­ter and to the Sanghera fam­ily for their ini­tia­tive in mak­ing this rule change pos­si­ble.”

Mukhbir Singh

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