United Sikhs offer legal representation to Aussie Sikhs affected by school turban discrimination

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| Australia | 5 Feb 2017 Asia Samachar |
Sagardeep Singh Arora

International civil rights and humanitarian non-profit organisation United Sikhs plans to provide legal representation to Sikh families affected by the ‘school turban discrimination’ in Australia.

The organisation is ready to raise this issue in the interests of all religious minorities, who face discrimination while trying to admit their children to schools, reports SBS Punjabi radio station.

The organisation says it has vast experience in providing legal representation to religious minorities with a special focus on the Sikh community.

The response comes after SBS Punjabi shared the story of six Sikh families who claim that they were forced to abandon the school of their choice due to their religious beliefs.

“As we prepare for Sidhak Singh’s case, we have been contacted by many Sikh families who want to be part of our legal campaign,” United Sikhs’ international legal director Mejindarpal Kaur told the Aussie radio station. Listen to the podcast here.

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In Jan 17 2017, SBS Punjabi broke the story that a school in Melbourne’s western rural–urban fringe had refused entry to a turban wearing Sikh student to maintain its position on its current uniform policy.

Melbourne’s Melton Christian College (MCC) has provided a written response to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) in which the school refused to include any additional items amid the existing permitted uniform protocol, the report said.

The Sikh family of a 5-year-old boy claims that the institute’s uniform protocol inflicts indirect discrimination against their religious belief. In an interview with SBS Punjabi, the boy’s father Sagardeep Singh Arora alleges that MCC has discriminated against his son by placing uniform conditions on his enrolment.

In response to the incident, Mejindarpal told the same radio station: “There should be a political will to resolve this issue. It is not just one school but a trend. So, rules need to be put at a government level and political leaders should set it as an example to support religious freedom and freedom of education.

“We have lot of faith in Christianity’s principles. It is not against any other faith or any other human being.

“Jesus Christ is well known to have sported long hair and wore a turban. So, to blame Christianity for it or Christian schools for it, the people who do so, even the schools themselves, are actually staying shy of Christ’s own teachings.”

The Malaysian-born advocate also shared her experience in Malaysia.

“I attended a convent school in Malaysia and we went to catechism classes and we even went to chapel.  But that didn’t make ourselves less Sikh or less humans.

“In fact, we now know more about the Christian faith to be able to say that it’s not Christianity to reject someone or put down their faith.”

She added: “I would also like to make a reference to a similar case from UK, known as Mandla (Sewa Singh) v Dowell-Lee [1983]. It was about what the Melton Christian College is saying to Sagardeep’s son, and on the facts both these cases are identical.”

“It’s beggar’s belief that 33 years later in the country which still deems the Queen as the head of the state, and which is a part of Commonwealth, and is subjected to same jurisprudence that we should have schools, whether they are Christian schools or whether they are non-faith schools, who should discriminate a child based on religious preference.”

Mejindarpal is a full time pro bono lawyer with United Sikhs since the past 14 years. She feels that cases like these also need a constructive discussion within local communities, the report added.

“We don’t fight these cases on an individual’s basis but from a community point of view as they set a precedent for coming generations.”

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

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1 COMMENT

  1. The support for this cause by U SIKHS may be misplaced as it may create another avoidable controversy and bring ridicule to Sikh attire.
    Better option may have been to teach the young to tie turbans instead of Phatka which may have be due more to convenience or some fathers who may be without turbans or may not know how to tie turban.
    I have observed some adult Sikhs wearing phatkas in Gurdwaras when they could have been with turbans.
    Apologies if disagree but no malice intended.
    Gur Fateh

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