29 July 2008

Sikh News Update - Victory and Great Sadness

It is hard to believe that two such different stories could be breaking at the same time.

First, the tragedy.

Ishmeet Singh is dead. Our strong, handsome young lion prince drowned in the swimming pool at his hotel in the Maldives. Here is the latest, as I write from the online magazine from Maldives, The Furaavaru:

LATEST UPDATE 23:20 Maldives Time

An exclisive interview given by the Assistant Manager to TheFuraavaru.com Stated that Ismeeth and his coluge friends whom any one dosent know how to swim and was given a baby pool for them to enjoy. Also was requested not to go to Adult pool which was very deep, but ismeeth went to the adult pool. As a result an unconssisous incidence was happed and his friend reported to the resort managment. Said Robert the A.Manager of Chaayaa dhonveli to TheFuraavaru.

"We understand that he did not know how to swim and had been advised by his friends not to get to the deep end," a hotel official said to

Stay tune with us. TheFuraavaru reporter is covering is reporting us live from ADK where ismeeths dead body was kept for further investigations. His coluges are still in a deep shock and they are inside the room with ismeeths body.

We are trying to get the pictures of the resort. We will upload the pictures from the hospital as soon as possible

After that, I suppose none of us really feel like celebrating, but we did win a large victory today.

Sarika Singh has won her case. She was the young lady in Wales who refused to remove her kara in compliance with her school's dress code. Here is what I just read in The Langar Hall:

Moments ago, the BBC reported that the UK's High Court affirmed her case, stating that the dress code unfairly burdened Singh's freedom of religious expression. Both advocates and the court expressed frustration with the school, stating that the issue had been clearly defined in U.K. statutes and case law for over 20 years. This judgment opens the door for students of all religious backgrounds; in addition to the banning of the kara, other UK (private) schools have moved to ban the crucifix, the hijab, and the yarmulke. Against this "confining" interpretation of secularism (an interpretation more common on the European continent), the UK courts have clarified the intent of the country's inclusionary and anti-discriminatory legal framework.

This comes from Times OnLine:

Sikh teenager Sarika Watkins-Singh wins right to wear bangle
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

A Sikh teenager won a legal battle yesterday over her right to wear a bangle that she holds central to her faith.

Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, had been excluded from school for breaking a “no jewellery” rule by wearing the bangle, known as the kara.

But the ruling by a judge in the High Court means that she can return to Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales in September wearing the kara, a slim steel bracelet.

Her lawyers told Mr Justice Silber that wearing the kara was “extremely important”, just as it is to Monty Panesar, the England spin bowler, who has been pictured wearing the bangle.

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Yesterday the judge condemned the “seriously erroneous attitude” of the school, which had equated the wearing of the bangle to displaying the Welsh flag - ignoring its religious importance.

However, Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that he was disappointed.

“The school had offered the student reasonable alternatives to accommodate her religious beliefs, such as wearing the bangle, but not so that it was on display, and it is frustrating that the courts did not find this acceptable.”

The ruling appears to run contrary to recent rulings that give schools discretion on religious dress or items of jewellery. However, it is in line with a 25-year-old law lords ruling allowing Sikh children to wear faith items, such as turbans, to school.

Jack Rabinowitz, a lawyer and expert in education law, said: “We have had a House of Lords ruling in favour of a school that would not allow a girl to wear the full Muslim veil and also a ruling in which a girl lost her case against being banned from wearing a chastity ring.

“The House of Lords said that schools needed to have very clear guidelines but subject to that, there was no reason why they could not ban whatever they wanted to.” That ruling still stood, he added.

Mr Justice Silber made clear in a summary yesterday that the case was specific to its own facts and did not involve a wider issue of “whether the kara should be permitted to be worn in other schools”.

Sarika, from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, who is of mixed Welsh and Punjabi origin, was at first taught in isolation and was excluded eventually for refusing to remove the bangle, in defiance of the school's policy, which prohibits the wearing of any jewellery other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs.

The judge upheld her claim of indirect discrimination on grounds of race and religion and declared that the school had failed in its positive obligation to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations.

He said that there was “an enormous difference” between rulings allowing schools to ban the Muslim niqab (full veil) or jilbab (long coat-like garment) and the “unostentatious” and “very small” bangle.

After the judgment, Sarika's mother, Sinita, 38, said: “It is just such a relief.”

Sarika said: “I am overwhelmed by the outcome and it's marvellous to know that the long journey I've been on has finally come to an end.”

She added: “I just want to say that I am a proud Welsh and Punjabi Sikh girl.”

Anna Fairclough, legal officer of Liberty, who acted for the family, said: “This common-sense judgment makes clear you must have a very good reason before interfering with someone's religious freedom.

“Our great British traditions of religious tolerance and race equality have been rightly upheld today.”

After being permanently excluded last November, Sarika was enrolled at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School, where she was allowed to wear the kara. The judge said that the Aberdare school had offered to take Sarika back.

The judge said the school's governing body accepted that the way it conducted the appeal was unfair. He refused the school permission to appeal, although it can still seek permission from the Court of Appeal.

The kara is one of the five Ks of Sikhism, the others being the kesh (uncut hair), the kanga (wooden comb), the kaccha (specially designed shorts) and the kirpan (sword).

The governors and head teacher of the Aberdare school said they would take time to consider the judgment. “The decision to defend this action was taken after careful consideration by all concerned, and in good faith. It was not taken lightly. We regret that this action became at all necessary.”

If Sarika wished to return, she would be offered help and support to reintegrate her.

Oh, yeah, I bet she'd really be welcomed back with open arms! *rolls eyes*



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