News Revelations

Canadian mayor dons turban and dances for religious tolerance

The video of writer Gurdeep Pandher, right, teaching Mayor Dan Curtis how to wear a Sikh turban has gone viral from the town of Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory capital, in northwest Canada. Screenshot from video

(RNS) A Canadian mayor did not know what he was getting into when he agreed to meet with a local Sikh constituent — a viral video of the pair tying a turban and dancing to Indian music.

Dan Curtis, mayor of Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory capital, let Gurdeep Pandher, a local writer and Indian dance teacher and performer, show him how to wear a Sikh turban, the sacred headwear worn by Sikh men.

Sikhs have been the victims of hate crimes and are often targeted for their turbans, which many people mistakenly believe are a sign that they are Arab. Last April, a Sikh man had his turban kicked off and his face punched in a hate crime in Quebec.

Sikhism originated in the Punjab state of India and there are now millions of Sikhs living in Canada and the U.S.

Curtis thought there would be a few still shots taken of their meeting in an otherwise empty City Council chamber. But a video was made instead, showing the two men stretching, twisting and wrapping a scarlet cloth on the mayor’s head.

At the end, Pandher breaks into Bhangra — a traditional folk dance from the Punjab region — and Curtis gamely follows, despite his portly figure and business suit.

The video ricocheted around Canada and then overseas via BBC News. It has been viewed more than 4.5 million times.

“I had no clue,” Curtis told CBC News. “I was out of my comfort zone, to be honest. No one with my physique is that comfortable with juggling around.”

Pandher said his goal was to promote the idea that “we are one Canada.”

“I feel that when we know about different cultures, we connect better and it brings us together,” he told CBC News. “And as Canada is a multicultural country, I strongly believe this is the best way to deal with the hate and racism.”

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About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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