Kounteya Sinha, TNN
London, 31 May 2013. Ireland is once again in the eye of a storm involving an Indian citizen.
Still reeling under a controversy surrounding Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, an Irish court on Thursday has squashed an appeal by a Sikh man to be allowed to wear the turban while on duty for that country’s police force.
High court Judge Kevin Feeney in Ireland dismissed the appeal by Ravinder Singh Oberoi to be allowed to wear the turban while on duty for the Garda Reserve, a volunteer group formed to assist the police force of Ireland. Garda Reserve comprises around 1,000 volunteers.
Oberoi appealed under the country’s Equality Acts after he completed all the three stages of his training but was told that he has to take off his turban as it does to comply with the full Garda uniform. Oberoi also complained of being “treated less favourably” for wearing the turban in the job market.
The ruling was given in favour of the Garda and will now allow Oberoi to wear his turban.
However, Indian Sikhs based in the UK — a large vote bank that will have a major say in the next British general elections in May 2015 – have found more support from British MPs on the controversial issue of wearing the turban and kara in airports or to work and also carrying the Kirpan to public places.
A one-and-a-half-hour debate in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament recently saw Don Foster, the minister for communities and local government in David Cameron’s cabinet saying “UK is working very closely with European colleagues to persuade them to accept the Sikh identity.”
Foster said his department was working to enable Sikh turban-wearers not to have to wear hard hats to work after several MPs raised concerns over discrimination at work against Sikhs with turbans. Foster added “Freedom of worship is core to the British way of life.
Public displays of religious belief, such as the wearing of faith symbols and clothing are all vital aspects of religious freedom and we are keen to do all we can to support that freedom.”
John McDonnell, Labour MP gave examples to show how Sikhs have been turned away at the London Eye, from concerts at Wembley and Madame Tussauds for carrying a kirpan. He said the government needs to bring about standard guidelines for individual organisations to follow.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South said more needs to be done to tackle discrimination against Sikh workers in the workplace and ensure employers understand the relevance of the Sikh turban.
Another Labour MP Anas Sarwar said how a high street operator recently refused to employ a Sikh because he wore the Kirpan.
He added “I was interested to hear the concern raised about a member of the Sikh community not being allowed to serve on a jury because he was wearing the Kirpan. If Anas Sarwar can provide me with details about it, I would take it up.”
Over 50 MP’s recent took part in the debate at the British parliament raising concerns about discrimination against Sikhs during the debate.