Press Release: Sikhs [in UK] Fear Discrimination with New Knife Ban

I don't have time to blog about this extensively, but I thought i would raise the issue as the symbolic and religious uses of certain items--from kirpans in the UK to hijab in France--continue to raise the problem of how people are going to negotiate their faith with the state's rules. It's a reminder that though India and other countries may be censoring on grounds of freedom of press (e.g. Taslima Nasreen), these things occur rampantly under different guise in Euro- and settler colony countries as well. And not just to desis--just yesterday I was thinking of how offensive inappropriate it is that Rastas aren't legally allowed to smoke weed.

In any case, here's the relevant text and the link (Note, this is edited for formatting):

Press Release:
Sunday, 7 May 2006
24 Vaisaakh, Samvat 538 Nanakshai

UK Sikhs Fear Discrimination as Knife Detectors Introduced at Train Stations

Community Ask for Police Assurance that Knife Detecting Measures Will Not Infringe on Kirpan Wearers Rights

London, United Kingdom: The British Police have been asked for a public assurance that Kirpan-wearing Sikhs will not be discriminated against as knife detectors are introduced at train stations. UNITED SIKHS highlighted their concern last week in letters to the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Police, the West Midlands Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers. Under Operation Shield, knife detectors which have been used in London, Birmingham and Liverpool train stations since February, will eventually be used at all stations across the United Kingdom. To read the letter to Police click here.

Whilst the Sikh community recognises and supports the campaign to promote and establish a safe society, the letters urge the Police to treat Kirpan-wearers fairly and respectfully. In the UK, Sikhs have a legal right to wear the Kirpan (one of their five Sikh articles of faith) by key legislation such as Section 139 (5) (b) and (c) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty, and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the latter of which protects and allows individuals to practice and observe their chosen religion.

Kirpan-wearing Sikhs are requested to report their grievance and experience in dealing with the knife detectors by clicking here. UNITED SIKHS shall provide enforcement agencies with feedback from the community.

In the letter, UNITED SIKHS has also requested the police to provide further information regarding:

1. All the courses of action that will be taken to ensure that Kirpan-wearing Sikhs are not discriminated against;
2. The procedures and policies implemented by the Police in relation to the knife detection methods and how they will affect the wearing of the kirpan;
3. The awareness and training given to police officers regarding the Kirpan;
4. The guidance given to officers regarding searching Kirpan-wearing Sikhs.

UNITED SIKHS eagerly awaits for responses to the issues raised within the letter and is confident an amicable arrangement can be reached.

Issued by:
Jaspreet Kaur
Legal Officer
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy

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