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
harjindersingh_amritsar@yahoo.com

Het Nieuwsblad – Sikhs vochten samen met Vlamingen in Eerste Wereldoorlog

Historicus Dominiek Dendooven houdt lezing in De Bogaard

Een heel goede lezing door onze vriend Domeniek Den Dooven op 30 mei 2012
A very good lecture by our friend Domeniek Den Dooven on 30 May 2012

Sint-Truiden, 29 May 2012. Lang voor de Sikhs in de jaren ’80 aanvankelijk als politieke, later als economische vluchtelingen naar de fruitstreek kwamen, doken ze op het Europese continent op. In de eerste Wereldoorlog vochten ze mee in de Vlaamse loopgraven.

Over die minder gekende episode uit de aanwezigheid van de Sikhs in ons land houdt historicus Dominiek Dendooven woensdag 30 mei een lezing in cultuurcentrum De Bogaard.

In het eerste jaar van de Eerste Wereldoorlog verbleven verschillende duizenden soldaten uit toenmalig Brits India in de loopgraven van Vlaanderen. In afschuwelijke omstandigheden ondergingen ze er enkele bloedige veldslagen.

De Indische soldaten werden niet alleen geconfronteerd met de modder en de gruwelen van het slagveld, maar ook met de plaatselijke zeden en gewoonten. Europeanen en Indiërs bekeken elkaar immers met vreemde maar nieuwsgierige ogen. Van heel bijzondere aard was de situatie waarin Indiase krijgsgevangen terecht kwamen.

Het verblijf van die duizenden soldaten van het Indiase subcontinent in Europa was decennia lang vergeten maar staat sinds 1999 weer volop in de belangstelling.

Historicus Dominiek Dendooven van de Stedelijke Musea Ieper besteedt aandacht aan alle etnische groepen die deel uitmaakten van het Indian Army Corps: sikhs, hindoes, moslims en Gurkha’s (uit Nepal) .

De sikhs waren proportioneel sterk vertegenwoordigd. Tijdens de lezing wordt hun komst naar Europa en hun inzet op de Vlaamse slagvelden belicht. Speciale aandacht gaat naar de situatie van de Indische krijgsgevangenen.

Tot slot wordt de actuele herinnering aan die Indische militaire aanwezigheid, bijvoorbeeld op militaire begraafplaatsen en aan de Menenpoort besproken. Zo trekken sinds 1999 Haspengouwse sikhs jaarlijks naar de 11 novemberviering in Ieper.

De voordracht wordt geïllustreerd met tientallen unieke beelden en geluidsfragmenten, zoals opnames van de Duitsers met zang, muziek en verhalen van de Indische krijgsgevangenen.

De lezing is een organisatie van Erfgoed Haspengouw in samenwerking met het Rijksarchief te Hasselt en de Integratiedienst Sint-Truiden.

Info: Cultuurcentrum De Bogaard, zaal Club. Woensdag 30 mei 2012 om 19.30 uur. Toegang gratis.

http://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/bleli_20120529_001

Deredactie.be – Ieper klaar voor grootse herdenking bloedige Slag bij Passendale

In Ieper is alles in gereedheid gebracht voor de grootschalige herdenking van de Slag bij Passendale, een van de bloedigste veldslagen van WO I. De organisatie is een initiatief van de Britse overheid. Vanavond komen de Britse prins William en zijn echtgenote Catherine langs. Ook koning Filip en koningin Mathilde zijn te gast.

Op 31 juli is het precies 100 jaar geleden dat de Derde Slag bij Ieper, beter bekend als de Slag bij Passendale, begon. Met het offensief hoopte het Britse leger de Duitse vijand de genadeslag toe te brengen, vergeefs.

Toen de veldslag dik 3 maanden later was afgelopen, had die liefst 450.000 soldaten dood, gewond of verminkt achtergelaten. Het front zelf was nauwelijks opgeschoven. De Slag bij Passendale geldt hierdoor als hét voorbeeld van een zinloze aanval en staat symbool voor de uitzichtloosheid van WO I.

Vanavond (30/07) en morgen (31/07) staat Ieper uitgebreid stil bij de 100e verjaardag van de Slag bij Passendale. Op de Grote Markt vindt een groots herdenkingsprogramma plaats met muziek, woord en een indrukwekkende projectie op de Lakenhallen. Onder meer Helen Mirren en Geike Arnaert zullen optreden.

Hoge gasten

Ook de Britse prins William en zijn echtgenote Catherine maken straks hun opwachting, net als koning Filip en koningin Mathilde. Daarnaast zullen naar schatting 10.000 tot 15.0000 toeschouwers naar Ieper afzakken. 500 agenten leiden alles in goede banen en voeren veiligheidscontroles uit.

De BBC is in groten getale neergestreken en zendt het spektakel rechtstreeks uit. Ook Eén doet dat, vanaf 21.20u. U kan alles ook rechtstreeks volgen via een livestream op deredactie.be.

http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/regio/westvlaanderen/1.3035049

From Gent to Den Haag: Antwerpen Middenstatie and Den Haag Holland Spoor Tram-Station

Antwerpen – Middenstatie
08 July 2017

Platform 21 – Train to Brussel and Charleroi

Thalys TGV to Paris Nord

Track 22 – Thalys TGV to Amsterdam

Track 22 – Thalys TGV to Amsterdam

Den Haag – Holland Spoor
08 July 2017

Holland Spoor – Tram Station
All tram-tracks removed
New lay-out finished by December 2017

Holland Spoor – Tram Station
All tracks between Holland Spoor and the tram tunnel leading to Leeghwaterplein have also been removed

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

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)

From Gent to Den Haag

Braemkasteelstraat
08 July 2017

Waiting for the bus that never came !

I misunderstood the message on the bus stop
and missed my train to Antwerpen

Lokeren
08 July 2017

Gent-Dampoort – Lokeren Antwerpen
An hour later than planned

Antwerpen – Middenstatie
08 July 2017

Antwerpen Centraal or ‘Middenstatie’
Top level

Antwerpen Centraal or ‘Middenstatie’
Medium level

Antwerpen Centraal or ‘Middenstatie’
Looking up to the main concourse

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Gent Gurdwara – Verenigde Natieslaan

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
25 June 2017

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara

Reciting Sukhmani Sahib

Guru Granth Sahib
Granthi Singh

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 GentOost-Vlaanderen

Verenigde Natieslaan
26 June 2017

Verenigde Natieslaan

Verenigde Natieslaan

Yachtdreef – Bus 9 to Mariakerke Post

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara : Muinkbrug – Kanunnikstraat – Kortrijksepoortstraat

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara
25 June 2017

Muinkbrug
Bridge across the Muinkschelde

Kannunikstraat
From Kattenberg to Kortrijksepoortstraat

Kannunikstraat
Near Kortrijksepoortstraat

Kannunikstraat
Near Kortrijksepoortstraat

Kortrijksepoortstraat / Veergrep
Tram 1 to Sint-Pieters and Flanders Expo

Kortrijksepoortstraat
Kerk van de Zevende dags adventisten
Church of the Seventh day Adventists

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara : Ter Platen – Muinkbrug – Kantienberg

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara
25 June 2017

Ter Platen

Ter Platen – Kinepolis

Huis van de Mens – O L V Sint-Pieterskerk

Muinkschelde

Huis van de Mens – Kantienberg


Onze Lieve Vrouw Sint-Pieterskerk
Our Ladies Saint Peters Church

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara : Zuidparklaan – Leeuwstraat – Tijgerstraat

Walking from Gentbrugge to Gurdwara
25 June 2017

Zuidparklaan – Tram 4 to Muide


Zuidparklaan – Tram 4 to Moscou

Leeuwstraat – Many buses to Gent-Sint-Pieters

Tijgerstraat

Tijgerstraat

Kinepolis – Side entrance

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue