Many of you will remember that at the beginning of January, I advertised and held a policy discussion on ‘Secure State Protects Civil Liberties’ at Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Bradford. 35 people attended the discussion and a full five page report has been submitted for a response.
We looked at various topics from the use of CCTV, balancing secure state with civil liberties, why individuals like Brar is allowed in the UK and balancing our identity with schools and the workplace uniform.
Thank you to all that came and gave their ideas. Some really good ideas were put on the table and I have already received some preliminary responses from the Conservative party and they like what they have recieved.
The full report can be viewed here >>>>
(An overview of the report is available below)
I was surprised that the vocal Gursikhs that I know, and have had conversations with on these topics in the past, didn’t turn up. I thought that they would have wanted to have their voice heard. To progress and have the Sikh identity known in British Parliament (and more widely in Great Britain) we need to speak up and have our voice heard.
If we don’t speak how are we going to be heard!
How else are we going to get justice for 1984? How are are we going to get the punj kakaar accepted in schools and the workplace? How are we going to prevent Sikhs from being targeted for stop-and-searches by the police?
Guru Sahib gave us democracy. They taught us to stand up for righteousness and the truth. In this country, to stand up for righteousness we use the voting system – we no longer need to battle hand-to-hand combat. We have a battle of minds and words. Unless we get involved and talk about these issues, we will lose the battle.
I hope more sangat will turn up to the next policy discussion. We must speak and have our voice heard!
Bhal chuk maf (forgive me for any mistakes)
Photos can be views here >>>
Overview of the report
How can we strike the right balance between national security and civil liberties?
The group liked the idea that is implemented in the US where anyone entering has their fingerprint taken and are kept on record.
The group acknowledged that the Sikh community’s crime rate is quite low so keeping of the fingerprint and other such data would be of little consequence to the majority of the community. Although, since we have seen corrupt police officers in the news recently, this caused concern for the group.
How effective are police powers to stop and search in preventing and detecting crime and anti-social behaviour?
We looked at case studies in this section – both good and bad case studies. (See document for details of these case studies).
There was a concern from that group on the topic ‘are the police above the law.’ There was genuine appreciation that the group felt majority of the police force were upholding citizens and did not bend the rules or abuse their power.
A few individuals from the group mentioned that they had been stopped on many occasions particularly whilst driving at late evening or night. Although the group felt that if a police officer pulls you over or searches you then usually have a good reason too, but some felt that the police officer should then leave a receipt with their badge number or name and time/date of the search just so that if one was unfairly searched, at least that officer could be asked questions about it in an internal review or monitored.
Should the Government add other bodies to the list of relevant authorities to which the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice applies? Should the Surveillance Camera Commissioner be granted greater powers to enforce the Code?
How extensive should local government’s surveillance powers be?
This topic strayed slightly onto personal data. Many individuals in the group asked ‘what is legal?’
Various members then suggested a staging process before going straight for CCTV; say a tiered approach may work better. Try prevention methods first before going to CCTV as; one they are expensive and secondly, there is always data leakage or mistrust and the footage could potentially land in the wrong hands.
By the local authority not upholding certain principle, it lowers the quality of living in the area. A motto that came out was it should be used as ‘local things for local people’ meaning that if it benefits local people then it should be put into place and monitored.
Can we strike a balance between schools ability to decide their uniform and being able to wear the Kara (bracelet), Dastar (turban) and Kirpan (sword)?
In this section, case studies were given again where civil liberties and ones identity was a dividing factor in schools. (See document for details of these case studies).
Need a sensible approach and as long as the child or family are not going over the top (i.e. wearing a really big dastar or kirpan, or even wearing more than one kara then should be allowed to). These articles of faith are not intrusive to a person nor does it hinder one-to-one contact. Although the group understood the reasons of caution around the niqab, both for security and how it may jeopardise a child’s education, they also felt that this could potentially allow schools to ban the dastar or any other religious items.
The conversation then lead onto that Britain is a multi-cultural community so why is this an issue?
As a solution to this mis-identification; the group felt that all major 6 religions should be taught to all school years up until the age of 16 (and 18 if continuing studies in a Sixth-Form or college).
Should Halal meat be served in schools?
Even though the majority of Sikhs are vegetarian – in schools, the group felt that each child’s parent should be asked.
This section was filled with case studies from schools, hospitals and the workplace where people took ‘vegetarian’ to mean ‘halal’ food is acceptable. (See document for details of these case studies).
Striking a balance in the workplace
This topic was not looked at in depth as the group was informed of the progress made by the current Government, in particular the Conservative Party, on the searching of dastars at airports, wearing hardhats at work and on high-risk environments. It was also stressed that in the past 13 years under Labour, there was very little done for the Sikhs and under 3.5 years as a coalition government a lot of progress has been made.
Why are individuals like Brar allowed in the UK?
There are many individuals that the Sikh Council UK (SCUK) has brought to the attention of the Government that if these people are allowed in the UK then it would cause distress to many Sikh, Tamil and other ethnic minority families because of the human rights atrocities carried out against family members and the community in India.