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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Sikhs lobby MPs about terror laws
Sikh representatives
Sikhs gathered at Westminster to lobby MPs
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John

Sikhs from across Britain gathered at Westminster on Wednesday to lobby MPs and members of the House of Lords about issues concerning their community.

Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh representative from Southall in west London, said top of their agenda was a recent decision by the Department of Transport concerning kirpans - Sikh ceremonial swords.

In the wake of the terror attacks on the US the Department of Transport ruled that kirpans can no longer be worn at airports.

Five Ks of Sikhism
Kirpan (sword)-
to fight injustice
Kesh (uncut hair)-spirituality
Kanga (comb)-hygiene & discipline
Kara (steel bangle)-devotion to God
Kasherra(breeches)-self control

But Mr Singh told BBC News Online that wearing a kirpan was a requirement of the Sikh faith.

He said it was one of a number of items a Sikh had to carry or wear always.

"It's part of our religion, one of the compulsory five Ks that a good Sikh always adheres to.

"We can understand the reasons for the ban but we do feel that there should have been consultation," Mr Singh said.

Satnam Kaur Khalsa from Hounslow in west London said she had come to lobby her MP because she feared the ban might be extended.

Kirpan
Wearing a kirpan is a requirement of the Sikh faith

"It concerns me very much that I should have the right to wear the kirpan to my workplace or anywhere without any restriction," Ms Khalsa said.

Sikhs were also concerned about an upsurge in the number of attacks on their community since September 11, said Mr Singh.

He said Sikh men's long beards and turbans meant they could be mistaken for followers of Osama Bin Laden.

Sikh agenda

Dabinderjeet Singh of the Sikh Secretariat, an umbrella body for Sikh groups, said getting the ruling on kirpans reversed was their number one priority.

Dabinderjeet Singh
Dabinderjeet Singh: "Important for Sikhs to have a voice"

But he added they would also be following up on an agenda recently presented to the government which outlined the needs of the 600,000 strong Sikh community in the UK.

The Sikh agenda asks the government to meet the following requests within the next five years.

  • Ensure fair representation for Sikhs in the establishment
  • Provide funding for Sikh organisations
  • Help promote the Sikh identity and language
  • Provide funding for Sikh schools
  • Help preserve Sikh heritage
  • Help protect Sikhs' human rights
  • Help bring about self-determination for the Sikh nation
  • Rescind the ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation which was outlawed as a terrorist organisation

Mr Singh said: "We're hoping that members of Parliament and the Lords will act as ambassadors for the Sikh community and take forward the Sikh agenda.

"We are the largest community of Sikhs outside our homeland in the Punjab so therefore it's important we do have a very powerful voice in the UK."

See also:

15 Apr 99 | South Asia
Who are the Sikhs?
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