Diaspora

UN associated NGO calls for action following string of discrimination against Sikhs

Punjab News Express | August 10, 2019 11:04 PM

LONDON: Following two reported incidents of discrimination against Sikhs today, UNITED SIKHS call upon federal and local government leaders to implement public education programs that would promote awareness of the Sikh community's values, beliefs and many contributions to the country and world.

In the first reported incident, a West Midlands police officer wrongfully detained a Sikh man for carrying a Kirpan (religious dagger that must be worn at all times). As seen in an online video from Metro UK of the encounter, the man is seen telling the officer in Birmingham’s Bull Street: "I’m a Sikh, I can carry this [Kirpan] if I want to." However, the officer accused him of being aggressive and called for back-up. Ultimately, the officer released the man without any further action.

A Sikh man was detained by police in Birmingham for legally carrying a Kirpan (Picture: Deadline News).

According to the Offensive Weapons Act of 2019, U.K. law states if a person can provide justification and evidence their bladed article is used for religious reasons, only then it can be used as a defense should that person be charged with the possession of an offensive weapon.

"When it comes to Kirpans, comments such as 'People can find it intimidating. Keep it at home' have no place in society today," said Jagdeep Singh, UNITED SIKHS CEO. "It has been over a century since Sikhs have been contributing to the western world. Our community has been called upon to serve and defend the U.K. and its allies numerous times. Law enforcement should be well aware of the Kirpan without resulting to unlawful detainment for exercising religious freedom."

In the second reported incident this week, a 10-year-old turbaned Sikh girl named Munsimar Kaur was the victim of two acts of discrimination at Plumstead Adventure Play Centre in London. When Munsimar told her parents about her experience, they took to social media to post the message in her own words:

"On Monday, two boys who looked 14 to 17 and two girls who looked like they were in their late teens were playing a game. When I asked to play it — as the queue was a mile long — they said loud and clear 'No, you can’t play because you are a terrorist'," Munsimar said in a video on Twitter. "This obviously broke my heart, but I kept my head up and went away."

She then went back the next day and made friends with a 9-year-old girl, as reported in the Times of India. "After an hour, her mum called her and said she can’t play with me because I was dangerous. She said sorry, so I knew it wasn’t her fault," Munsimar said.

Munsimar Kaur shares her story in her words via Twitter

These incidents come after Jagmeet Singh from Wolverhampton was stopped by police for carrying a Kirpan at Gatwick airport earlier this year. Jagmeet has since called for more public education on the Kirpan and what it means to Sikhi.

"These latest acts of discrimination against Sikhs are deeply troubling, especially for two in a week to occur to a child in the very city that welcomed the U.K.'s first gurdwara," UNITED SIKHS CEO Jagdeep Singh continued. "Clearly, more public education is required. We look forward to working with our partners in government to ensure training is provided to law enforcement and airport personnel as well as small business owners."   

This year, MP Seema Malhotra set up the first debate in Parliament to discuss the positive contributions of the Sikh community over the last 70 years. UNITED SIKHS will work with MP Malhotra and others in Parliament to ensure public education programs are implemented across the country, beginning in areas where discrimination has recently taken place. We call upon all Sikh and humanitarian organizations to join in the call with UNITED SIKHS to help eliminate this ignorance.

To avoid incidents such as the ones highlighted here, UNITED SIKHS actively engages with policy makers by hosting Advocacy summits. We urge the community to stand in solidarity with those affected by these incidents, their families and send a strong message that such hate has no place in today's world. We also urge anyone who has experienced discrimination to report it to UNITED SIKHS legal advocates within their respective country or by emailing contact@unitedsikhs.org.

"The British people and the rest of the world owe it to the Sikhs to place trust in Sikhi and the discipline it commands from its adherents." -- Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

For more information or to get involved, please follow UNITED SIKHS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All advocacy efforts are made possible due to the generous contributions of our supporters. To donate, please visit: https://unitedsikhs.org/donate/.

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