donderdag 30 oktober 2008

Portuguese Police Recognise Religious Significance of the Sikh Kirpan

Portuguese Police Recognise Religious Significance of the Sikh Kirpan

Police did not charge Sikh for wearing his kirpan

Press Release: 29th Oct 2008, Wednesday 15th Katik (Samvat 540 Nanakshahi )

Lisbon, Portugal - Earlier this month, Portuguese police did not charge a Sikh for wearing his kirpan (a religious blade and one of the Sikh articles of faith), even though its blade exceeded the legal limit, because they recognised its religious significance.

Gurmail Singh had approached UNITED SIKHS for assistance in February this year after his kirpan was confiscated at the British Embassy in Lisbon, where he had gone to obtain a visitor visa. He was facing the possibility of a charge of carrying a weapon contrary to Portuguese law, namely Article 4 of Law 5/2006 of 23 February. He was summoned to attend the police station on 14th October for an interview for the police to determine if he was to be charged for carrying a bladed article that was 13 cm long, contrary to the law which allowed a blade less than 10cm long. UNITED SIKHS briefed Gurmail Singh's lawyer, Carla Grandela, on the significance of the kirpan to an initiated Sikh and also arranged for a local Portuguese Sikh resident, Satya Kaur, to accompany him.

After 45 minutes, the interviewing officer decided not to charge Gurmail Singh, an Indian national with a Portuguese residency card, saying that he knew that Sikhs were peace loving and hardworking people and accepted the religious significance of the kirpan. The police officer informed Gurmail Singh that he may wear a kirpan provided its blade is under 10cm long. He also informed Gurmail that on this occasion, he would not be charged but would be required to donate 200 euros to a registered charity within one week and not to commit any offences within a four month period, after which his file would be closed.

Gurmail Singh and his Portuguese lawyer Carla Grandela

"The interviewing officer was very receptive about the Sikh community and said that he respects the Sikh community. I am glad that Gurmail Singh's case has highlighted the law regarding the wearing of the kirpan in Portugal", said Miss Grandela.

"I am grateful to the Portuguese police for showing sensitivity and understanding about my religious requirements by allowing me to wear the kirpan. I am delighted that the outcome was for the benefit of all Sikhs and thank UNITED SIKHS for coming to my assistance," said Gurmail Singh

Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS's legal director, said, "Whilst we are very happy that Gurmail Singh wasn't charged by the Portuguese police, we are disappointed with the British Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Embassy, for allowing Gurmail Singh's kirpan to be confiscated on their premises."

"It's not against the law in the UK to wear a kirpan of any length. Demanding that Gurmail Singh removes his kirpan is akin to demanding a Christian priest to remove his or her crucifix. It also amounts to discrimination as this was an unjustified and disproportionate interference with his right to manifest his religious belief, which is a breach of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The security staff also acted disproportionately by calling armed police officers simply because Gurmail Singh was manifesting his religious belief."

The FCO and British Embassy have not given a satisfactory response to UNITED SIKHS's complaint, after sending a holding reply.

Gurmail Singh had entered the British Embassy to apply for a visitor visa when security staff at the entrance to the Embassy demanded that he remove his kirpan and leave it with them whilst he attended his interview. Gurmail Singh duly complied with their instructions and after his interview returned to the entrance find five to six armed police officers with their guns pointed towards him. Gurmail Singh tried to explain to one of the officers that he was an initiated Sikh and that the kirpan was an article of his faith. However, he was arrested and taken to a police station where he was questioned for two hours before being released without his kirpan.

Satya Kaur, who accompanied Gurmail Singh to the police interview recently, said, "There are few Sikhs in Portugal and even fewer initiated Sikhs. Hence, they do not constitute a pressure group in Portuguese society, for their right to exercise their religious life style. This will undoubtedly change in time."
Advice for wearing a kirpan in Portugal - • Sikhs are allowed to wear a kirpan in public places but only if the blade or "lamina" is less than 10cm. Please see diagram below. If the blade is equal to or more than 10cm, the kirpan would be classed as a weapon or "arma branca" (Article 2(1)(l) of Law 5/2006 of 23 February) and would render the wearer liable to prosecution. For a copy of the law (in Portuguese) , please click here:
• It is advisable to wear the kirpan underneath clothing so as not to cause alarm or unwanted attention. Sikhs are a small community in Portugal and are relatively unknown.
• If you are stopped for wearing a kirpan in Portugal or any other country, please report the incident to UNITED SIKHS by contacting us on +44 (0) 870 1993328 or email us at
• For information about the status of kirpan in other countries, please email

Issued By:Gurpreet SinghInternational Civil and Human Rights AdvocacyUNITED SIKHS+44

Our Mission

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.

woensdag 29 oktober 2008

Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish

Now, Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Hazur Sahib, October 26
It was the last wish of Baba Jee Singh, a Spanish-converted-Sikh, who suffered from cancer, to accomplish the sacred task of translation of Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish before his death.

It took him and his wife, Bibi Gur Amrit Kaur, also a Sikh convert, several years to complete the translation of the holy book, which has been published in four volumes. To fulfil the last wish of her husband, Gur Amrit brought four volumes of Guru Granth Sahib, with Gurmukhi, English and Spanish transliteration/ translation, for their release here to mark the tercentenary of Gurta Gaddi Diwas.

The Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh, who attended a function organised by the Guru Ram Das Sikh Mission of the US and the Sikh Dharma International here, appreciated their work. Gur Amrit reached Nanded along with Bibi Inderjit Kaur, wife of late Harbhajan Singh Yogi, and Satpal Singh, chairman of the mission. She said her husband joined Sikhism in the seventies under the guidance of Yogi Harbhajan Singh. Today, more than a million people speak Spanish as native language. Spanish or Castilian is an Indo-European language that originated in northern Spain and gradually spread to the Kingdom of Castile and other parts of the world.

Bhai Satpal Singh said the translation of Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish would be instrumental in spreading Sikhism all over the world. The mission had opened its chapter in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and other Latin American countries. The authenticity of the Spanish translation of the holy book had been checked by former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and other Sikh scholars. The mission would also present copies of the Spanish translation of Guru Granth Sahib to the Golden Temple authorities.

Meanwhile, the mission brought a kalgi (plume), studded with jewels on gold. It has been made with the donations from foreign Sikh sangat. It would be presented to Jathedar of Hazur Sahib and other high priests for preserving it at the Takht.

maandag 27 oktober 2008

Sikh's blijven vechten tegen tulbandverbod

Sikh's blijven vechten tegen tulbandverbod
MA 27 okt 2008 | 14.48

Leiders van de Sikh-gemeenschap in India hebben de Wereldraad van Kerken gevraagd hen te helpen in hun strijd tegen het verbod op het dragen van hoofdbedekking op Franse scholen. De Franse wet verbiedt ook het dragen van tulbands.

"Het dragen van een tulband is een fundamenteel onderdeel van ons geloof en wij voelen ons gekwetst omdat de Franse overheid onze religieuze gebruiken niet wil respecteren," aldus Gurbachan Singh, persvoorlichter van de Gouden Tempel in Armritsar, het heilige centrum van de Sikh-beweging. Dat zei hij tijdens een ontmoeting met dominee Samuel Kobia, algemeen voorzitter van de Wereldraad.

Sinds 2004 is het dragen van hoofdbedekking op Franse scholen bij de wet verboden. In dat jaar kwamen er veel protestacties van moslims en sikh's op gang. De sikh's willen die acties voort blijven zetten en hopen daarin steun te krijgen van christelijke organisaties. 

Samuel Kobia heeft hulp toegezegd: "We zullen gaan overleggen met de Franse overheid en met afgevaardigden van de Europese Unie".

Het dragen van een tulband is voor sikh's een religieus voorschrift. In Frankrijk leven enkele duizenden sikh's die nu de tulband thuis moeten laten.

Bron: IKON-E.J. Tillema

woensdag 22 oktober 2008

Actie mensensmokkel: "Politie wist niets van plechtigheid in tempel"

Actie mensensmokkel: "Politie wist niets van plechtigheid in tempel"

De agenten die zaterdag de huiszoeking uitvoerden in de Sikhtempel in Vilvoorde, wisten niet dat er op dat ogenblik een religieuze plechtigheid plaatsvond. Dat stelt het parket van Brussel dinsdag in een persbericht.

Onderzoek had uitgewezen dat de Sikhtempel in Vilvoorde in verband gebracht kon worden met een bende mensenhandelaars en daarom voerden agenten van de lokale en federale gerechtelijke politie zaterdag om 05.00 uur een huiszoeking uit in het gebouw.

De politie koos bewust niet voor een zondag aangezien Sikhs dan hun wekelijkse religieuze feestdag vieren, zegt het parket. Dat er zaterdag uitzonderlijk een religieuze plechtigheid plaatsvond was niet buiten de Sikhgemeenschap bekendgemaakt, klinkt het nog. De stad Vilvoorde was niet op de hoogte gebracht en ook de website van de tempel maakte volgens het parket geen melding van een bijzondere activiteit op zaterdag 18 oktober.

Ook tijdens de huiszoeking konden de agenten aan niets merken dat er een belangrijke religieuze plechtigheid plaatsvond, luidt het nog. "In totaal waren er 49 mensen aanwezig, van wie er 45 aan het slapen waren op verschillende plaatsen in het gebouw. Slechts in één lokaaltje, ingericht met onder andere een altaar, werden vier personen aangetroffen die wakker waren. Eén van hen las voor uit religieuze geschriften terwijl de andere drie aan het bidden waren."

Volgens het parket hebben de aanwezigen op geen enkel moment kenbaar gemaakt dat er op dat ogenblik een belangrijke religieuze plechtigheid plaatsvond. Dit werd voor het eerst aan de politie gemeld door de verantwoordelijke van de tempel die twee uur na de start van de huiszoeking ter plaatse kwam.

De huiszoeking bevestigde het verband tussen de tempel en de activiteiten van de mensensmokkelaars. De 49 aanwezigen in de tempel verbleven volgens de Dienst Vreemdelingenzaken illegaal in het land. (belga/jv)
21/10/08 20u37

Le Soir ( French Daily in Belgium) : Black day for the Sikhs



Below is an English translation of an article  in the Prominent French Daily news paper in Brussles, Le Soir, dated 21st October 2008. To read the French version click here. To read about the incident when Belgian police raided a Belgian Gurdwara last weekend click
Justice / No arrest made at the end of the Vilvorde raid

Black day for the Sikhs

The police raid at Vilvorde's Sikh temple has bruised the community. Which demands an apology.

Resham Singh is wounded. But the sparkle in his hazel eyes doesn't represent well the rancour that torments him. On Saturday. the Police beseiged the Sikh temple that he presides at Vilvorde, as part of the drive to break-up an Indian network of trafficking of human beings (Monday evening). An operation without consideration for the special ceremony that was being held there. "Black day", says Resham Singh, "that we will commemorate every year."

The Gurdwara Sahib is one of the four Sikh temples of the country. It has up to 900 devotees. A vast hangar at the heart of Vilvorde transformed into an Australian hype restaurant before being reconverted into a religious place. The entry gate, flanked by big wooden cases where the followers deposit their shoes evokes that of a mosque. The room has two levels, covered with Persian carpets… The space is traced with multicoloured paper garlands, plastic flags. Rainbow coloured balls dangle on ropes tied from one wall to another.

At the far end of the room, two enormous stuffed tigers – like those that can be won in lotteries in the fairs in the Midi – stand guard at the foot of the "palki", the altar of the temple, where two huge sports trophies are enthroned… "Gifts", Resham Singh seems to be excusing himself.

Nobody finds the apparent kitsch funny…. "Devotees have been reduced to tears here when we recounted yesterday's police raid… Do you realise", says Resham Singh, "Our temple is the only one in the world to have been subjected to this outrage… The only Gurdwara where the 48 hours of uninterrupted reading which was supposed to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the sacred texts of Sikhism have been savagely interrupted."

The facts tumble in the nervous remarks by Resham, his ally Malook, Amrik, the converted Sikh, and "Sunny", the Muslim friend, the only member of the group without the turban, the pepper and salt beard (never cut, like the hair) and the kirpan, the symbolic dagger with shoulder strap… The police which blocks the exits from 4.30 am. Brief negotiations to convince them to respect the ritual. The doors broken down at 5 am. The charge. Devotees, traditional singers and the "granthi", the prior of the temple taken in for questioning. The cupboard broken, from where the account books taken away. The inner ransacking of the place, from the roof to the cellar. The heavy noise of shoes, especially on the worn-out carpet. And the heads uncovered. As though out of provocation.

"A humiliation", resumes the old Malook. The ways that remind one of that fateful day when Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at the time, ordered the siege of the Golden Temple of Amritsar", the central place of the Sikh monotheism.
In less than 24 hours, the devotees taken in for questioning, numbering about 40, were freed. Sunday evening, the foreign office renounced the application of the only three orders issued to leave the country… The concerned persons (the singers having come from India to celebrate the "akhand path") had valid passports and visas. "Everything happened as though the Public Prosecutor's office, that did not arrest any of the alleged leaders of the network, felt obliged to justify the scale of the raid", comments advocate Inès Wouters.

Two days after the raid, still no explanation", observes Resham Singh.. "Why did the foreign office try to expel three visitors on a legal visit? What is the justification for this behaviour that the churches are spared, that nobody would dare to inflict on mosques, synagogues and Masonic temple? The Public Prosecutor in Brussels claims that the Gurdwara in Vilvorde is "regularly used for receives illegal immigrants". At the same time admitting that there was no proof to establish that the people in charge of the temple were implicated.
Illegal immigrants? "Everyone is welcome", reacts 'Sunny', "We do not ask for papers at the entry. And if we do give private individuals shelter, as is required by the Sikh tradition, it is for a maximum of one or two days… Only the "granthi" resides in the temple.
The case has disgusted the Sikh community in the four corners of the world. "We have written a letter to the Prime Minister, Yves Leterne, asking him to order an inquiry into the events at Vilvorde". confirms from New York, the lawyer of the United Sikhs , Mejindarpal Kaur. Others followed, like the religious authorities at Amritsar, as well as their representatives in United States and Canada. The Association of Sikh Temples in United States also saw sense in taking the matter before the State Department… "This temple is not a no-right zone, but for all that, it is not less of a place of respect", insists Ms. Wouters. "We are waiting for excuses: the Justice department has unnecessarily created the amalgam between criminal activities that must be prosecuted and the practice of Sikhism." Resham Singh, suddenly, becomes serious, "5,000 to 6,000 Sikhs live in Belgium. A peaceful, hardworking community present from 18 years… Every year on the 11th of November, at Ypres, we participate in the commemorations in the memory of the 35,000 Sikhs who shed their blood here, during the two wars. How can you expect us to understand the way the Police has treated us?"
The sweet milk tea has become cold in the metallic glasses kept on the ground. The vermicelli made of chickpea flour doesn't tempt anyone. In the galleries of the temple, a child holds an inflated ball in the air. Resham Singh has a thought for his four children. They live in Amritsar with their mother whom he visits five or six times a year. "I wanted them to learn Punjabi and to study the sacred book. They will come back to Belgium when they will be 13 – 14 years old. I hope that they will come back to a country which would have the dignity to excuse itself for an unjust affront."
Photo Caption: The Police raid carried out on Saturday at dawn in the Sikh temple at Vilvorde had nothing to show. But it has shaken the community, in the middle of a special celebration.

maandag 13 oktober 2008

SikhNet Launches Childrens Audio Stories

SikhNet Audio Stories for Children

SikhNet Youth Online Film Festival 2008

SikhNet Youth Online Film Festival 2008 Many of our SikhNet visitors have discussed with us and asked us, how can we give our values our virtues and our valor to our children? Why must we raise our children on Mickey Mouse and television cartoons? Soul Spirit and Reality - that's what our children really want from us as parents. As Sikhs of the Guru we have such beautiful stories of wisdom, valor, love, devotion and sacrifice which is a natural part of our heritage.

Here at SikhNet, we asked for storytellers. Storytellers raised their hands and came to our microphones to tell wonderful spiritual stories for our children. So, today we offer a new section on SikhNet called "Sikh Stories for Children." Just click and listen. Bed time stories or any-time stories. We'll be adding new stories regularly.