Friday, August 31, 2007

Garda Turban ruling

A member of the Garda Reserve has been told he cannot wear his turban while at work. This has led to controversy.

Kevin Myers was interviewed on radio, claiming that adapting the uniform so Sikhs could wear a turban was an example of "multiculturalism" which had "failed" in the UK. He didn't elaborate on what he meant, but took it as read that people understood what he said. (Isn't it amazing how many people assume that once the dread word "multiculturalism" is used against their opponents, that they've won, no matter how vague they have been?)

Others claimed that the turban shouldn't be allowed on the grounds that it would somehow be a violation of secularism - this argument claims that this religious item of wear is a violation of separation of church and state. However, this is just one interpretation of secularism.

If secularism is that the state stays as neutral as possible in matters of religion, then it should treat all members of the Garda Reserve (or candidates for same) equally. To ask a Sikh man to give up wearing a turban is to ask him to either not practice his faith or to not work for the Garda Reserve. It is an act of indirect discrimination - rather than having a direct ban on someone of a given religion, it bans a practice - wearing a turban - that is essential to being a practicing Sikh man. This is against my understanding of secularism.

Fintan O'Toole recently wrote a column, saying that we should have a more secular society (I agree) but that he leans towards not allowing a turban as part of a uniform (this is one place where I disagree).

The turban doesn't prevent someone from carrying out their job, doesn't conceal the identity of the person in question (unlike the bizarre comparison some have made with the Burqua). Therefore, in the name of a more equal society, we must accept the turban, otherwise we exclude some people who are qualified for the job.

Discrimination must not be part of society, especially government institutions.

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