Sikhs’ Image Marred : Group

Sikhs' image marred: group
Violent acts not a true reflection of faith, organization says

Linda Nguyen
Canwest News Service:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Violent incidents at two Sikh temples this month in Brampton, Ont., along with a controversial decision over the weekend to

allow photos of leaders from banned terrorist groups onto a float in the annual Vaisakhi parade in B.C., have marred the image of the Sikh-Canadian community, according to one group.

“Sikhism stands for peace, equality, democracy and all these beautiful values,” Amanpreet Bal of the World Sikh Organization of Canada said Monday. “And yet you have these handful of people bringing a bad name to the entire community.

“These people may look Sikh from their appearance, but they do not represent Sikh values.”

On Sunday, four people were taken to hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries after a brawl involving as many as 100 people broke out inside the Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre in Brampton, about 45 kilometres west of Toronto.

The fight, reportedly involving machetes, knives and construction axes, was the result of a long-standing disagreement between two groups from the temple.

When the fight broke out, there were between 300 and 400 people at the centre.

Peel Regional Police have arrested and charged three men — Harvinder Pal Dhaliwal, 41, Tehal Shergill, 60 and Satwant Deol, 25. The charges include assault, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon.

Officials from the temple refused to comment Monday.

Several police officers were at the centre before the incident Sunday afternoon. They had been called to monitor a meeting that was taking place.

Peel Const. Samantha Nulle said the recent incident was connected to another stabbing at a temple earlier this

month, but she could not say if a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger carried by devout Sikhs, was used.

“We will not tolerate violent behaviour,” she said. “It's against the law, and anybody who refuses to comply with the law will be charged and be dealt with appropriately.”

Officers with the diversity unit of Peel Police have been in contact with temple members in hopes of preventing another attack. The investigation is continuing and more people may be arrested, said Nulle.

In early April, prominent Indo-Canadian lawyer Manjit Mangat was stabbed multiple times in the torso outside the Sikh Lehar Centre, another temple in Brampton. The weapon used was a kirpan.

Sukhwant Singh, 52, from Brampton, has been charged with attempted murder in the attack.

The stabbing was allegedly related to Mangat's decision to invite a controversial Sikh preacher to speak at the temple.

Bal said these attacks have “no doubt” hurt the struggles by the Sikh community to have the kirpan accepted into mainstream society.

“[These incidents] are a setback to our overall image. Actions like these will harm the next generation. There is outcry in the community.”

Bal also said parade organizers who allowed a pro-Khalistan float in the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey over the weekend were asking for trouble because they were mixing politics with celebration.

The float carried Khalistan flags and photos of leaders from banned terrorist groups, who are part of a movement for an independent Punjab region, separate from India.

Tens of thousands of people still attended the event, but organizers caused an even greater stir when they told Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh and Liberal MLA David Hayer they were not invited to the parade and they would attend at their own risk.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell boycotted the celebration, and federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called for an apology from the organizers.

The kirpan is typically a six-to nine-inch dagger, sheathed and worn in a fabric holster close to the body at all times.

In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against restrictions or a ban on the ceremonial dagger in public places.

The issue came up after a 17-year-old Montreal student was kicked out of school because the school board claimed his kirpan was a dangerous weapon.

The court ruled that there were no violent incidents involving the kirpan in the century that Sikhs have been carrying them to classes.

Bal said the law needs to come down hard on the perpetrators in these incidents, as an example to the community that violence over political or personal beliefs will not be condoned.

“We still have work to do,” said Bal. “We need to isolate and eliminate these bad apples in our community.”