June 25, 2016 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: (Press Release): Sikh Council UK notes the major democratic exercise held in the UK on 23rd June resulting in UK voters deciding to leave the European Union.
Secretary General of Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said, “Sikh Council UK, after very careful consideration of the arguments on both sides, took the view that, on balance, it was in the best interests of the country and the Europe wide Sikh community to remain in the EU and continue to pursue reforms. Whilst we did advise UK Sikhs to vote to remain in the EU, we fully respect the democratic decision of UK voters.”
He added, “We remain concerned about the plight of Sikhs experiencing religious discrimination and we will be considering how best to organise at European level in a sustainable manner so as to be able to continue the campaign for religious and human rights and to provide support to those experiencing discrimination.”
General Secretary of Ramgarhia Council UK, Narinderjit Singh Ubhi said, “The Ramgarhia Council UK is undoubtedly disappointed with the result of the EU referendum. However, we recognise and accept that it has been a decision made under a democratic process and fully respect that the British people have decided to take back control of the UK by voting to quit the European Union.”
Public Relations Officer of Ramgarhia Council UK, Lachhman Singh Bhambra said, “The Ramgarhia Council UK respects public opinion and in doing so pledges to work towards and support all efforts to shore up confidence in the UK, its people and its economy. It is important that we move forward collectively in a spirit of partnership and only by doing this will we be able to create sustainable and productive long-term working relationships with our neighbours in Europe.”
Spokesperson and Head of Political Engagement for Sikh Council UK, Gurinder Singh Josan said, “Whilst the exercise in democracy is to be applauded we are concerned at the tone of the debate particularly in relation to some of the hateful rhetoric towards immigrants and immigration. As a visibly identifiable minority community in the UK, Sikhs often suffer the brunt of racism and racist attacks. Any rhetoric that exacerbates this or enables these views to become mainstream political commentary is to be condemned. An extreme manifestation of the results of this was the murder of Jo Cox MP. We would urge all those involved in political discourse and social media to exercise care in their choice of words and in the views they espouse.”
During the course of the EU referendum campaign, the Sikh community participated in all aspects of the campaign and in all issues. One issue that Sikh Council UK came across repeatedly that was of particular importance to the Sikh community is that of protection of the right to wear articles of faith by Sikhs including the Dastar (turban) and five ‘Kakaars’.
In the UK, Sikhs enjoy some of the best legal, cultural and workplace protections for our articles of faith. There are real concerns within the community about the situation in other EU countries such as France, where the Dastar cannot be worn in public buildings including schools and offices.
Concerns were also raised during the campaign about an opinion provided by an Advocate General to the European Court of Justice that the requirement by an employer for an employee to remove articles of faith could be legal in certain circumstances.
Sikh Council UK is extremely concerned of the effects on Sikhs across Europe of any judgement that may be given by the European Court of Justice in line with the advice of the Advocate General. Sikh Council UK has written to Prime Minister David Cameron and raised the matter with officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government. In addition Sikh Council UK is seeking further advice and clarification from experts in this field and is seeking a meeting with Government officials.
Chair of the European and International Affairs Sub Committee of the Sikh Council UK, Paramjit Kaur Matharu said, “We understand there will be a process of renegotiating all EU legislation and regulations over a period of time. We will want to engage in these discussions to ensure that the protections Sikhs enjoy in the UK continue and that the work of generations of Sikhs to ensure the right to wear the Dastar and Kakaars at work, during travel and in other settings is not compromised. We also hope to encourage the UK Government to influence other EU Governments to develop protections in those countries and in the meanwhile we will continue working with Sikhs across Europe to assist with protecting their religious and human rights across Europe. We will continue pursuing this with vigour.”
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