Sikh Federation UK – 18 July conference in EU parliament

During the conference problems around wearing turban and 5 K’s in various EU countries were discussed. Belgium and France are two countries where Sikhs face very serious challenges. Underneath a write up I produced after the conference. 

The part about Belgium is going to be the basis of a position paper on the Belgian situation, France of course has to be dealt with by the French Sikhs.

Any comments and suggestions are more than welcome !
Man in Blue

Belgium – France: Fundamentalist Secularists

I expect we will get further input from people like Ranjit Singh and Gurdial Singh. We must not forget that in France it is not just in education that Sikhs face very serious challenges, but also in the workplace, about pictures on driving licences, ID cards and passports and even when entering town halls and other public places.

In Dutch speaking Belgium the community (GO) schools have banned all religious symbols, some municipal schools allow turbans patkas, and there is a lot of hesitation and fear of the unknown in the Catholic schools in spite of its coordinating director being in favour of dialogue between Christians and people of other faith and beliefs.

Here in Gent I have been successful helping parents to find a place in some schools, but nothing is easy. The situation in Antwerp, which has a big Afghan Sikh community, is dire, as the three main networks (Community, Municipal and Catholic schools) have agreed to follow the bad example of the Community schools and ban all religious symbols.

Throughout Dutch speaking Belgium there are some Muslim schools, mainly of the Gülen movement and an independent one in Antwerpen. They would accept Sikh students, but they do not cover the full range of secondary school studies offered in this country.

Anybody with a Sikh, Muslim or other ‘exotic’ first and/or last name will have difficulty to find employment and to rent an apartment. I could only find an apartment in Sint-Truiden and Gent through Sikh house owners, not through the normal channels.

When speaking by phone with my nice Netherlands accent and presenting myself as C H S Heule the estate agents were happy to deal with me, once they saw me and my full name on my ID card there were no apartments available.

With a letter from a Gurdwara stating that you are a member of the Sikh community you are allowed to have a picture with turban/patka on your passport, driving licence and ID card.

Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: