A Sikh’s Rights

Lately there has been numerous stories affecting Sikhs around the globe, and an interesting number of them concern our innate rights as Sikhs. Sarika Singh, a 14 year-old Sikh girl living in Wales, was excluded from her school for wearing aKara. Last November a legal fight began for Sarika to be allowed back into her school, whom say she was “legally” dismissed due to violating their policy of “NoJewelry” to ensure equality for students. The school’s governingcommittee have yet to research the importance of theKaraand appreciate the significance it holds for Sikhs. Sarika has now filed hercasein a High Court.

Another ongoing issue concerns the French law passed which bans students from wearing “religious headgear” in schools. A great number of students have beenexpelledfrom class for not abiding with this ban, which in fact means Sikhs cannot wear turbans and Muslims cannot wear headscarves.(The Sikh schoolboys lost theirappealin a French court). I felt great disappointment and anger when this was passed in France, and I thought where are the rights of these individuals as Citizens of this country? Then I remind myself how Sikhs in the U.S. must have felt when the TSA was allowing the searches of theirTurbansin public. Thankfully with the perseverance of the Sikh community, and organizations like Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, and United Sikhs, we were able to “educate” people and facilitate an addendum to their policy. In1969Sohan Singh Jolly, a 66 year-old Sikh man living in theU.K., won a fight to wear his Turban on duty as a busman. I am amazed that we are still fighting for our rights as Sikhs, and yet we feel we have come such a long way. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to bring up the issueof this ban with French PresidentSarkozy, when he visits India later this month. Sikhs held apeacemarch to protest against the French turban ban earlier this week in New Delhi. (Now with India being tagged as one of the emerging economicpowersof the world, maybe Sarkozy will feel the need to make relations better with the Indian community, like Gordon Brown did earlier this week).

Tejinder Singh Sidhu wasdeniedentry into a Calgary court earlier this week due to wearing aKirpan. He had beensummonedby the court to testify as a witness, and was not allowed to fufill hiscivicduty and testify. Our rights as Sikhs to freely practice our faith arecontinuouslybeing violated. I am thankful that we have a great number of Sikh organizations that work incredibly hard to maintain and fight for our rights every day. But something is wrong in the world today where we are allowing such laws to be passed that discriminate, and areunjustified.

Maybe we fight more passionately for our rights becauseSikhiinstills values in us like equality amongst all people, respect and live by positive ideals, and fight for justice and fairness for all?


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4 Responses to “A Sikh’s Rights”

  1. Maestro says:

    Since many Sikhs wear their identity externally and visible to others, it is clear to me why intergration is more difficult for our community. Many European countries have trouble dealing with any sort of immigration so when they see visible signs of 'difference' they even less likely to be accepting of that. France has historically felt they are elite and the turban ban in that country is just another example of them imposing that attitude. I hope Manmohan Singh will approach this issue with Sarkozy.

  2. Maestro says:

    Since many Sikhs wear their identity externally and visible to others, it is clear to me why intergration is more difficult for our community. Many European countries have trouble dealing with any sort of immigration so when they see visible signs of ‘difference’ they even less likely to be accepting of that. France has historically felt they are elite and the turban ban in that country is just another example of them imposing that attitude. I hope Manmohan Singh will approach this issue with Sarkozy.

  3. sizzle says:

    i was once kicked out of a courtroom for wearing a turban…it was fairly ridiculous and was eventually resolved via the Bar Association’s intervention. it was mainly due to ignorance (and some hostility) of a senile municipal/traffic court judge. my attitude to such things? it’s not going to get better until we’ve reached a level of exposure where such ignorance or misdirected hostility would not occur. we’re not even close to being there yet, as evidenced by the numerous courtroom incidents reported in the last couple years. but, we’re fighting the good fight and the mentioned organizations have been fantastic. just have to tackle each incident one at a time.

    as for France…that’s a whole other ball game. i spoke with one of my law professors in detail about this. europeans, and in particular, the French, have an entire different conception of liberties and rights than we Americans, which is rooted most significantly in how religion has shaped their history. the french express the right to be free from religion rather than the right to practice religion. it’s an attitude and sense of liberty that permeates their everyday life. thus, public outpourings or displays of faith are frowned upon, and as religion is not held in such high regard (not a very religious society, generally), most are not about to be sympathetic to a practicing Sikh. and, yes, their massive influx of muslim immigrants who refuse to assimilate, a group with whom Sikhs are often lumped, is not helping things.

    my general impression of the europeans, their politics, recent trends, and their High Court…..it doesn’t look good for the Sikhs in France. even if the human rights court ruled in favor, if i were a french nationalist, i’d be putting up a hell of a fight against the imposition a european court’s decision on our frenchie way of life. also, who is going to be enforcing such positive judgment in France?

    as for the Kara – that’s an interesting case. similarly, the school does not permit the wearing of crucifixes on necklaces, even if they’re tiny. if anything, it’s a blanket rule where Sikhs are demanding an exception. there is a point to be made about it’s mandatory nature, that any practicing sikh wears the kara. if the school were challenged in an American court, the girl would absolutely win on equal protection grounds if the school were public. however, if the school were private, that’s another question. that distinction is huge , as is the English jurisprudence on religious freedoms. we’ll see how it goes down.

  4. sizzle says:

    i was once kicked out of a courtroom for wearing a turban…it was fairly ridiculous and was eventually resolved via the Bar Association's intervention. it was mainly due to ignorance (and some hostility) of a senile municipal/traffic court judge. my attitude to such things? it's not going to get better until we've reached a level of exposure where such ignorance or misdirected hostility would not occur. we're not even close to being there yet, as evidenced by the numerous courtroom incidents reported in the last couple years. but, we're fighting the good fight and the mentioned organizations have been fantastic. just have to tackle each incident one at a time.

    as for France…that's a whole other ball game. i spoke with one of my law professors in detail about this. europeans, and in particular, the French, have an entire different conception of liberties and rights than we Americans, which is rooted most significantly in how religion has shaped their history. the french express the right to be free from religion rather than the right to practice religion. it's an attitude and sense of liberty that permeates their everyday life. thus, public outpourings or displays of faith are frowned upon, and as religion is not held in such high regard (not a very religious society, generally), most are not about to be sympathetic to a practicing Sikh. and, yes, their massive influx of muslim immigrants who refuse to assimilate, a group with whom Sikhs are often lumped, is not helping things.

    my general impression of the europeans, their politics, recent trends, and their High Court…..it doesn't look good for the Sikhs in France. even if the human rights court ruled in favor, if i were a french nationalist, i'd be putting up a hell of a fight against the imposition a european court's decision on our frenchie way of life. also, who is going to be enforcing such positive judgment in France?

    as for the Kara – that's an interesting case. similarly, the school does not permit the wearing of crucifixes on necklaces, even if they're tiny. if anything, it's a blanket rule where Sikhs are demanding an exception. there is a point to be made about it's mandatory nature, that any practicing sikh wears the kara. if the school were challenged in an American court, the girl would absolutely win on equal protection grounds if the school were public. however, if the school were private, that's another question. that distinction is huge , as is the English jurisprudence on religious freedoms. we'll see how it goes down.