Thursday, December 18, 2003

Turbans and Anti-religious Dress

Subway is a store that produces submarine sandwiches. They also seem to be marketing anti-religion. According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, a Sikh owner of several Alberta Subway sandwich shops said recently that he has been discriminated against by the franchise after representatives told him he couldn't wear his turban while serving customers.

Hardip Singh Brah, 56, told a news conference in Edmonton that a local Subway representative called his religious head covering "a diaper on his head" and forbade him from wearing it.

"It was a very, very poor comment he had," Mr. Brah said. "Very bad language has been used on my turban. He said I cannot wear a diaper on my head . . . That is very bad."

Mr. Brah, who has run Subway franchises since 1991, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Last month investigators upheld it, calling Subway's policy discriminatory and suggesting that he be awarded $6,500 in damages.

Whatever the eventual ruling, it is clear that this is simply another example of anti-religion in the public square. Subway should know better than to hide such an anti-religious attitude behind a dress-code policy.

Canada has developed beyond this kind of "in your face" anti-religion, but Subway's head office in Connecticut appears to think that an "on your head" challenge is acceptable. It isn't. We allow Sikhs to wear their turbans in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and that is as it should be.

Part of being in a tolerant and diverse society is to recognize that religion and religious garb --as long as it does not pose a genuine health hazard to others, must be tolerated.

Iain T. BensonĀ©