'It's part of our faith' - Sikh man turned away from South Auckland community club for wearing a turban

A South Auckland community club is under fire for turning away a patron for wearing a turban - and it's not the first time it's happened.

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Jagdip Bajwa told Breakfast the club said it violated the headwear policy, which includes hats. Source: Breakfast

Jagdip Bajwa went to the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club with some friends on December 1 when he was told his turban violated the club's ban on headwear.

According to the club's website, the dress code requires a "reasonable standard of dress… at all times". It says no "hats" are allowed, but allows headgear for "medical reasons" and "for special club events". It does not specify religious headgear.

Mr Bajwa explained to the person on the door that a turban isn't a hat, but a wound cloth, central to his religious faith as a Sikh.

"I understand why you have the rules to control the dress, a turban is a formal part of every dress code," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"People are going to the Queen wearing a turban, Parliament… everywhere."

His friend Inderjit Singh was also there and says it's not a hat.

"The turban is not a hat that can just be taken off and worn again, it holds way more significance and value. We won't take it off… it's part of our body, it's part of our faith, it's part of our culture."

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He explained to the doorman that a turban isn't a hat, it's wound cloth - and central to his religious faith Source: 1 NEWS

Around 40,000 New Zealanders follow Sikhism and it's the fifth most followed religion in New Zealand, according to the 2018 Census.

Mr Bajwa says one of his friends, who is not a Sikh, spoke to the person on the door.

"He said, 'This is Manurewa, one of the most diversified Indian communities in the country.' The guy told him if [we] had a medical certificate, [he] would let [us] in."

Mr Singh says he thought the behaviour was appalling.

"Especially in this modern-day society, especially in New Zealand where we're a multi-cultural society," he says.

"If you look at their name, it's 'Cosmopolitan Club'. 'Cosmopolitan' represents a diverse range of cultures and countries, and they're not living up to that brand."

This isn't the first time the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club turned Sikhs in turbans away, following incidents in 2009 and 2015.

The first occasion was a man being honoured for his service to the elderly, the second was at a lunch for local real estate agents.

Each time, they had the difference between a hat and a turban explained to them. In 2015, the club members voted to uphold the turban ban.

"I felt like this was directed and personally done [by the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club]," Mr Bajwa says.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon called the incident "ridiculous", telling Breakfast it's not a reflection of New Zealand.

The club says the rule is 50 years old.

It has been approached for comment.