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.

13 Comments

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  • This is superb coverage! Maybe I’ll remember to mention this video-event to one or 3 Sikh friends I hope to get know in the near future, who’ll have a back-&-forth discussion of their beliefs/practices. And of course mine, too, if they’ll let me. Thanks for this, Kimberly.

  • Or “remind him (or her)”, you mean?

    Or, more to the point, what Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) did to Canadian Sikhs on Air India Flight 182, you mean?  I already know what you’re referring to, so why don’t you try The (Canadian James) Corbett Report, June 16, 2007, to which I’m referring, if you don’t already know about that tragedy?  It’s still on YouTube, I think.

    Anyhow what’s your point?  Because Kimberly’s is religious tolerance.  Mine too plus a real interest in exploring Sikhism per Jesus Christ and exploring Jesus Christ per Sikhism because I just don’t know where or how to begin such a conversation.  Do you know?

    Never mind, I get it.  You just can’t tolerate these religious people.  Why don’t you just say so?

    Then again, everybody’s guilty of religious intolerance at some point in life.  Which, therefore, you must agree, makes this news from Kimberly a delightful “read”.  I still think so.  And even more so now because of your self-declared religious intolerance.

  • How wonderful – not just words but action! Congratulations to the Mayor of Whitehorse for standing up for inclusion and diversity. It doesn’t change or make up for our turning away Sikh and other refugees in the past (especially the people on the Komagata Maru in 1914), but it certainly shows that Canadian values have changed for the better over the past 100 years. Many thanks for posting the story.

  • I can remind you what Christian missionaries did in South America, or what Catholics did to Protestants in France…where should we start ?

  • (1) “prog(ressive)s … define ‘intolerant’ as ‘anyone who doesn’t think like I do.'” (Theo, RNS Comments, January 13, 2017)

    (2) “Without PROGRESSIVE thinking and movements, our nation might still be sanctioning discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs. As a PROGRESSIVE faith community, we (Midway Hills Christian Church) challenge what seems unjust while maintaining core religious beliefs. … We define RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE as a stubborn, entrenched religious position that defies reasoned argument or contradictory evidence. We respect the rights of individuals and institutions to take different positions on important issues, but we reject an attitude that communicates, ‘I’m right, anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, and I’m so certain of those facts that I will not consider the beliefs or perspectives of others.’ Our Creator gave us the ability to think and reason, and those gifts are best used by considering different viewpoints, even those, and perhaps especially those, that challenge our core beliefs.” (Midway Hills Christian Church, undated, retrieved January 13, 2017)

    (3) “RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE … Definition … The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs are incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance (i.e., ideological intolerance). RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE, rather, is when a group (e.g., a society, religious group, non-religious group) specifically refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds.” (Wikipedia, last modified on 13 October 2016)

    (4) “Definitions … RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE … a) Refusing to acknowledge and support the right of individuals to have their own beliefs and related legitimate practices. b) Also, the unwillingness to have one’s own beliefs and related practices critically evaluated. The following do not constitute RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE: … Excercizing the right to challenge a religion’s claims (e.g. regarding alleged compatibility with, or superiority over, other religious beliefs) … Condemning and disallowing illegal practices … Rejecting a movement’s claim to be a ‘religion’ when there is sufficient evidence showing religion is used as a cover (e.g. the Church of Scientology).” (Apologetics Index, undated, retrieved January 13, 2017)

  • Like all bigots you employ the ridiculous, “why don’t you tolerate my intolerance” bullshit argument. If you talk about “playing the race card” after employing a patently racist argument you can fill my nonsense conservative phrase bingo card.

  • It was the whole point of your comment. Now go back to the trees with the rest of the poo flinging chimpanzees.

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