Sikh Federation UK – Sikhs from across Europe meet in the European Parliament to agree a 2-year strategy for measures to safeguard the Sikh identity before the UK exits the European Union

London, 19 July 2017. Sikh representatives from across Europe met at the European Parliament yesterday and agreed a number of actions aimed at safeguarding the Sikh identity in Europe.

The conference also specifically touched upon the Kirpan issue in Italy, developments of the World Sikh Parliament and the political campaign for establishing a Sikh homeland.

With the UK setting in motion negotiations to exit the European Union the Sikh Federation (UK) convened an urgent meeting of Sikh representatives from across Europe to start developing a strategy in relation to defending the Sikh identity.

It was agreed that similar Europe-wide conferences should be organised by the Sikh Federation (UK) to take place at least every 6 months for the next two years. To aid discussions and develop a strategy countries across Europe were divided into four categories:

* Countries with well established Sikh communities where Sikh identity issues are reasonably well understood by respective governments, but individual cases of discrimination remain e.g. UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

* Countries with secular policies where Sikhs have been experiencing significant difficulties with respect to the Sikh identity in schools and the workplace e.g. France and Belgium.

* Countries with Sikh communities that are growing and been establishing themselves in more recent times and where the majority faith has a important role and stories often emerge of restrictions and fines eg Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

* Countries with governments that have right wing policies and practices where Sikhs need to remain vigilant e.g. Austria and Switzerland.

Using the above groupings the challenges faced with regards to the Sikh identity were explained by representatives from each country. It was clear the challenges faced by Sikhs in each country were different and required a variety of interventions.

This led to an agreed action that named individuals in around a dozen countries will produce by the end of September the first draft of a standard position paper on the situation in each country to discuss and agree at the national level.

These position papers should set out:

– The specific challenges faced with respect to the Sikh identity and the impact;
– The situation as regards hate crime, including the impact of 9/11 and more recent terrorist attacks and mistaken identity;
– Best practice on what an individual Sikh and the local community should do when faced with a specific challenge; and
– Relevant public organisations at the local, national and European level involved in such matters where relationships need to be developed and those that need to be lobbied.

The dozen or so agreed national position papers would then be consolidated into a Europe-wide report that can be used at the national and European level to highlight best practice.

This report would be the basis for the next Europe-wide conference that would look to invite non-Sikh representatives from relevant organisations and political representatives to agree on a sensible way forward at the national and European level.

Sikhs from Italy representing the National Dharam Parchar Committee gave an historic perspective on the Kirpan issue and the more recent controversial developments.

They provided useful evidence on the lack of iron content of the Kirpan that has been proposed compared to existing Kirpans that made it absolutely clear that Giani Gurbachan Singh should never have even entertained the current proposal.

They also indicated the extremely contentious nature of the individual who has made the proposal for personal gain that Sikhs should shun. It was made clear that no Sikh has the authority to compromise the Gurus gift of the Kirpan and unnecessary restrictions imposed on the Kirpan by any government would always be opposed by Sikhs.

Sikh representatives from the UK, Punjab, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands in turn spoke to unanimously condemn the controversial Kirpan proposal from Italy.

Any Gurdwara or Sikh organisation in Europe that had not yet contacted Giani Gurbachan Singh and the President of the SGPC to condemn the proposal were asked to do so as a matter of urgency.

It was also agreed organisations like the Sikh Federation (UK) should explain to the Italian authorities the inappropriateness of individuals like the one with the Italian proposal who are closely associated with the Indian authorities.

Harpal Singh Cheema, the President of Dal Khalsa, then spoke about the political situation in Punjab and touched upon the much needed and exciting development of the World Sikh Parliament.

The Sikh Federation (UK) proposed a number of actions at country level linked to support for the right to self determination and political campaign for establishing a Sikh homeland, Khalistan. These focused around developing links and collaboration with:

* Well respected and recognised nationalist movements that have credibility in respective countries, such as the Scottish National Party;
* Three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, directly in the UK and France and via respective embassies for these countries and the USA in individual countries, the next conference in six months time would elaborate on links with the other two permanent members, China and Russia that are currently being progressed by the Sikh Federation (UK); and
* Politicians and political parties on the right to Sikh self determination setting out the historic and based on experiences the current case for Sikh independence.

Once again Sikhs from across Europe were grateful for how the authorities in the European Parliament fully respected the right of large numbers of Amritdhari Sikhs to enter Parliament openly wearing their Kirpans despite increased security following several terrorist incidents across Europe, including Brussels.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

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