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Friday, May 04, 2007

Restaurant sorry for 'alleged' turban ban

A Richmond Hill restaurant that initially denied claims it had refused entry to a Sikh man because of his turban has issued an apology of sorts.

In a news release sent yesterday by co-owner Andrew Taranowski, Marlowe Restaurant and Wine Bar apologizes "to all our customers or any individuals who were offended by the recent news relating to alleged racist comments made towards any individual which apparently occurred at our establishment."

Taranowski sought legal advice before drafting the release.

Gaurav Singh, who describes himself as a "proud turban-wearing Sikh," demanded the apology after saying he was denied admission to Marlowe last Saturday night because of his religious headgear.

Singh wanted to meet the owner-manager to "personally educate him about the Sikh faith, along with explaining to him the contributions Sikhs have made to Canada in breaking discriminatory barriers that apply to many immigrants."

Taranowski initially said yesterday he wouldn't agree to such a meeting.

"I don't feel that I have to, only because I don't feel I'm ignorant of their faith or any faith for that matter ..."

However, in a subsequent phone call, he said, "I would be open to anything really ... because I would really like to meet the gentleman."

Singh had threatened to go to the media unless Marlowe apologized by today, but his case gained international attention after a friend posted his letter, detailing the incident, on the Facebook website. He got more than 1,000 emails of support from as far away as the U.S., Britain and India.

The letter said that, after waiting in line for an hour at Marlowe to celebrate the birthday of a friend, he was told by both the doorman and the owner-manager, whom he does not identify by name, that he couldn't enter because of the restaurant's no-headgear policy. Marlowe's website stipulates a "no baseball hats" rule.

Singh explained his turban is an article of religious faith and shouldn't be considered typical headwear. Singh added he and other turbaned Sikhs that had been welcomed at Marlowe in the past, the letter states.

The owner-manager refused to budge, stating "this was his sandbox and he could do what he pleased," Singh wrote.

Singh sent copies of his letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Liberal MP Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Brampton South).

Bains, who also wears a turban, said Singh told him he plans to pursue the issue with the human rights commission. [Link]

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