Make Us Your Home Page
What Is RSS?
Search
home page
 
COLUMNISTS
All Columnists
Newsletter
Name :
Email :
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Annual Brochure

itv_local


  up coming events

See Author Details
Government Ignoring Sikh Religious Needs
 

Government Code of Practice for Sikh Articles of Faith (5 Ks), promised by the Government 5 years ago, has been delayed.

On Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, Sikh organisations attended a meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to consider draft “Guidance on the Wearing of  Sikh Articles of Faith in the workplace and public buildings”.

The outcome is that there is yet further delay in what should have been a significant milestone achievement for UK Sikhs by now.

Sikhs remain greatly concerned that they may eventually end up with non-statutory guidance as the final outcome, while various Home Office and DCLG Ministers have continued to promise a statutory Code of Practice.

A statutory Code of Practice is passed by Parliament and, therefore, carries much more weight with judges, chairpersons of tribunal etc.

A number of concerns were raised at the meeting on 10 March. Officials at the EHRC and DCLG are under pressure to finalise the guidance, but are conscious that the guidance needs further changes and they are unlikely to be able to issue it prior to the General Election.  However, the Sikh representatives explained that their biggest concern was the non-statutory nature of the guidance, which is simply an update of earlier guidance produced by the CRE on Sikhs and Employment. That would not achieve the original purpose of a statutory Code of Practice, to try and prevent the difficulties for Sikhs wearing the Kirpan at the Passport Office, Immigration Service and other departmental and public buildings.
 
For that reason it was suggested that it was better for the EHRC and DCLG to delay any guidance and look at areas where there have been difficulties wearing the Kirpan and ensure through various other means e.g. discussions by them with relevant public bodies, and through ministerial direction etc., to secure changes in practice to enable Sikhs to freely wear the Kirpan.  In the Sikh view that would be a much more positive move and could be announced alongside or before the issue of any guidance.  Probably, pre-recess 2010 is a more realistic target for the issue of any revised guidance, which should take into account the amendments already suggested.

Sikhs also objected to references in the Guidance to outside websites, which can change, go defunct, and may even give controversial information on the significance of Sikh articles of faith. For example, in one such websites (http://www.bscf.org/node/114), the kirpaan gatra is linked to the Brahmanic Jeneu (ceremonial thread symbolising caste), by out of context quotation of Guru Nanak Sahib’s Jeneu related panktis in Asa di Vaar (“Dya kapah santokh soot....Eh Jeneau ji ka....”). Advice from Sikh representatives is to refer to SGPC website, if needed. Otherwise, further guidance can be sought from the main nationwide UK Sikh organisations, whose contact points can be appended to the Guidelines.   

In April, 2005, it was a Home Office Minister who first mentioned a “Code of Practice” in response to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) for wearing the kakkaar - no doubt on the advice of civil servants – because of the difficulties Sikhs faced at the Passport Office, Immigration Service and other government and public buildings. Different approaches by Government Departments to the wearing of the Kirpan were revealed in PQs. 

Soon after, the following Early Day Motion (EDM) was tabled by Rob Marris MP, Chair APPG for UK Sikhs to encourage the Government to extend the Code of Practice to all Sikh articles of faith:
EDM 558 - CODE OF PRACTICE ON SIKH ARTICLES OF FAITH
That this House welcomes the Government's announcement in April 2005 that it will be drawing up a Code of Practice concerning Sikh articles of faith, in recognition of the Sikh's right to religious freedom and the need properly to protect the Sikh identity and articles of faith; urges that this Code of Practice covers all Sikh articles of faith and all Sikhs; and calls upon the Government to consult with the All-Party Parliamentary Group [APPG] for UK Sikhs to learn more of the views of Sikh organisations representing the grassroots opinions and views of Amritdhari (practising) Sikhs.

Progress has been painfully slow, despite the matter having been raised during Parliamentary debate, numerous letters from Rob Marris MP on behalf of the APPG for UK Sikhs and one incident after another in the last 5 years, ranging from the high profile Kara case in the High Court involving Sarika Singh to numerous Kirpan cases at school, DVLA, Asda, the London Eye etc.  Responsibility for the Code of Practice has shifted during this time from the Home Office to DCLG which has not helped.  However, in a letter from a junior DCLG Minister, Shahid Malik MP of 17 November 2009, whilst reference was made to “the Code of Practice concerning Sikh articles of faith”, he concluded that the EHRC was leading to produce guidance that would be issued in early 2010.

The above is the current situation. It is far from satisfactory, but at least this issue is moving forward to try and ensure the difficulties experienced by Sikhs can be better understood and addressed.

There is also the European aspect for the Sikh desire to have a statutory Code. Rob Marris MP, Chair APPG for UK Sikhs had suggested a Code of Practice on Sikh articles of faith which could be used to educate those working in the security industry and be used by the UK Government to have a more effective dialogue with other EU Member States where Sikhs have been experiencing difficulties with the turban and Kirpan. 

The Sikh view is that a statutory Code of Practice will be necessary as Sikhs will continue to experience difficulties. However, if the Home Office, DCLG etc. are sincere about responding to the difficulties experienced by Sikhs regarding the Kirpan in certain government buildings like the Passport Office, Immigration Service, DVLA centres etc., there is no reason why they should not issue guidance to the security staff without any delay.  


Report collated by Gurmukh Singh  
for The Sikh Missionary Society UK Regd
Tel: 020 8737 0866
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk
The Sikh Missionary Society UK (Regd)
Tel: 020 85741902
E-mail: info@sikhmissionarysociety.com
 

OTHER ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................
...........................................

POST YOUR COMMENTS
Name:
Email*:
Location:
Submit your comments:
  characters left

* We will not publish this. Please remember that the submission of any material to emgonline.co.uk is governed by our Terms And Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these terms and conditions.

 
 

 
Video Section
 
  Jobs
  Find Your New Job:
 Job Title
  e. g. secretary
  Industry
  Locations
  
 
© Copyright 2008 Eastern Media Group. All rights reserved.