2019 as the year of Guru Nanak brings cheer to the Sikh world on many fronts. From 1 January 2019, The World Karate Federation has accepted the Sikh request for accommodation of Sikh headgear -the small turban, called Patka or Dastar for male competitors during competitions.
The WKF has now announced that it has approved a new version of its rules which allows all athletes to wear plain black head coverings during competition for religious reasons. The new version of the WKF rules now read, “Competitors may use WKF approved religiously mandated head-wear: A black plain fabric head scarf covering the hair, but not the throat area.”
Since 2014, the World Sikh Organisation of Canada has been working with Karate Canada to advocate for the rule change at the international level.
The WSO policy of advocacy not agitation is paying rich dividends, not only in multicultural and overwhelmingly tolerant and inclusive Canada but also across the world spelling an example for other Sikh organisations to follow, especially in homeland Punjab and the Indian Sikh Diaspora.
It is noteworthy that in 2016, Jaikaran Singh Sanghera, a Sikh member of Karate British Columbia, was in Croatia to compete at a WKF Youth Cup tournament but was told that he could not compete with his patka or small turban. Based on a direct appeal made by Karate Canada President, Craig Vokey, and Team Canada coaches to WKF officials at the tournament, Jai was granted an exemption that allowed him to compete at that event.
WSO cited the significance and importance of the turban in the Sikh faith as well as accommodation policies in international federations for football (FIFA) and basketball (FIBA) to the WKF which were supported Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, Sport Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith, Karate British Columbia, and individual members of the Karate Canada.
Jaikaran Singh Sanghera was ecstatic about the development and told media that, “I am very pleased that we were able to champion the rule change, under the leadership of Karate Canada, WSO and the government.”
I am thankful to the WKF for making the sport of karate more inclusive and for allowing athletes like me to compete with dignity.”
WSO President Mukbhir Singh welcomed the decision of the World Karate Federation which now allows both male and female competitors to wear religious head-coverings. This is a welcome change for the increasing number of Karate players worldwide.”
Ottawa, 3 December 2018, WSN News Desk