Turban Falklands - Army with kids and signs

Turban Day in Falkland Islands

 

A Sikh in the British Army raised awareness of the Sikh faith in one of the most remote parts of the world, having held a Turban Day event in the Falkland Islands.

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Manpreet Singh tying a dastar on a colleague.

On the 5th October 2017, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Manpreet Singh Lally organised a the event at the Mount Pleasant School, with over 70 personnel taking part. A serving Sikh soldier, LCpl Lally has been part of the British Army for the last four and half years where he serves as a Communication System Engineer in the Royal Signals and is currently posted to the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI).

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LCpl Lally said of the event, “I organised the Turban Day in order to educate BFSAI personnel and their families about Sikhi, to tell the audience about the importance of the dastar (Sikh turban), and to raise awareness about Sikh history. The event was the first time that a Turban Day has been celebrated in British Army history.”

LCpl Lally, assisted by SAC Sarah McGhin from the Royal Air Force, tied dastars from 10am until 12.30pm. The event has hosted by headmaster Gary Margerison and was attended by the BFSAI Chief of Staff, Group Captain Jim Frampton and BFSAI Padre, Squadron Leader Rebekah Cannon.They were among more than 50 people, including students, teachers and service persons, to wear a dastar, which is a new record for the Falkland Islands. Leaflets from Sikh educational organisation Basics of Sikhi were also distributed to the audience. The material for the dastars and the leaflets were donated by Mr Sarabjit Singh of England, a volunteer of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara of Bradford.

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The event concluded with LCpl Lally delivering a presentation about Sikhi which discussed the importance of the dastar, contributions of Sikhs from all across the world and a brief look into Sikh history. Amongst those LCpl Lally talked about were Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptural Guru, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, Fauja Singh the world’s oldest marathon runner and Harman Singh, a New Zealand man saved a child’s life with his dastar.

LCpl Lally also talked about the contribution of Sikh soldiers in both World Wars, in which a staggering 83005 Sikhs lost their lives, and finished by talking about his brother Ajay Singh, the taxi driver who made national headlines for his role in rescuing and transporting people injured people during the Manchester Arena attack.

Turban Falklands - cute kids

Sukhdeep Singh, an educator for Basics of Sikhi said, “It is great to see that in this most remote part of the world this Sikh has spent so much time and effort into ensuring he educates people on his faith.

“Sikhs can stand out so much that our physical identity, which was gifted to us by our Guru, can naturally prompt questions from those unfamiliar with Sikhi. This is why these events are important, so that people understand what the physical identity represents, and thus what they should think of when they see a Sikh.”

JetSingh Gym - Arjan speaking

Sikh UFC Fighter opens up new MMA Centre

A brand new MMA (mixed martial-arts) centre in Wolverhampton funded by the Jet Singh Trust was opened last weekend by UFC star Arjan Singh Bhullar.
JetSingh Gym - cutting ceremony (Credit Punjab2000.com)

Picture courtesy of Punjab2000.com.

The Canadian former Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Olympian wrestler was invited by members of the Sikh ethos charity the Jet Singh Trust to open the centre on Heathmill Road on October 8th before dozens of supporters of the charity. Sikh community figures from across the UK were in attendance.

Arjan Singh Bhullar is the first ever competitor of a south-Asian background to compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships), the leading MMA organisation and one of the biggest sports brands in the world. As a Sikh, he decided to stop off in Wolverhampton where he has a large fan-base within the heavily Sikh populated city. Currently undefeated in MMA with a 7-0 record, Arjan Singh has often spoken of his Sikh faith helping to inspire him to reach the top level of the sport.
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Arjan Singh in action on his UFC debut, a unanimous decision win.

Arjan Singh said, “I was honoured to be invited to the opening of this new gym. I commend the amazing community work of the Jet Singh Trust and it is because of this I wanted to be here today. MMA, wrestling and sports in general are a great way for children to learn discipline and remain fit and active. Any way we can encourage youngsters of all backgrounds to get involved needs support.
JetSingh Gym - Arjan with children
“Especially for Sikhs, with our Gurus so strongly advocating wrestling, it is important to support groups like the Jet Singh Trust, an organisation named after a great Sikh wrestler.”The Jet Singh Trust was founded after the passing of Wolverhampton local Jet Singh, a former eight-time British wrestling champion. The MMA centre is just one of many community and charitable initiatives the charity have set up. More information on the group can be found here.

JetSingh Gym - gym
Devinder Singh of the Jet Singh Trust said, “We really want to encourage children and even adults of all backgrounds to get into sport. MMA is a route to both health and discipline. Arjan Singh coming down was brilliant. He spent time with the children, teaching them some skills, and he also took a picture with every single person who attended. We hope his presence will serve as an inspiration to people to get involved in MMA.”The creation of this gym is a fitting tribute to the name of Jet Singh, someone who would have loved to be training in such a facility.”

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The Journey to Food & Freedom: An update from Zero Hunger with Langar

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Jagjit Singh

Last year lifelong Birmingham resident Jagjit Singh detailed his charitable work on the ITV website during Langar Week, an international awareness campaign about the practice of langar; free vegetarian food served on the streets and in every Gurdwara by Sikhs all over the world. Jagjit Singh here updates us on how his project Zero Hunger with Langar, which has taken this concept to Malawi, Africa.



Zero Hunger - with kids

Since Langar Week last year, many memorable things have happened during the Zero Hunger with Langar project. Many I have documented many in my daily banter blog.

One of the most memorable things is missing my daughter’s birthday.

 

Zero Hunger for Langar started in 2016 after I watched Sikh community leader Bhai Mohinder Singh’s UN speech on building bridges through religion. In Sikhi (Sikhism) we have a natural bridge builder in langar; a free vegetarian food service, open to all for both consumption and voluntary service.

 

A quick google search showed me langar would be most useful in poverty stricken African nation Malawi. I went to see Bhai Mohinder Singh at Soho Road Gurdwara to humbly suggest something be done to take langar there. He sent me packing. Literally. Within the week I was in Malawi.

langar in malawi

There, in an impoverished village, I met a charming boy called Fraser. In conversation, I learned Fraser didn’t know when his birthday was. I asked him what he would want if he could have anything in the world to celebrate his birthday. “I just want a fanta” he said.

 

That year I went home from Malawi for my daughter’s birthday. I told her about Fraser not having a birthday of his own. “He can have my birthday daddy” she responded.

fraser

So this year I fulfilled her wish by spending her birthday with Fraser. And a can of fanta of course.

 

Just like my daughter did for her 10th birthday, Fauja Singh, the oldest marathon runner in history, pledged his 106th birthday to a Malawian child, raising enough for 75,000 meals. International model Pardeep Singh aka Singh Street Style did the same and raised enough for 26,000 meals. Dozens of others have done the same. You can too. Click here for more information.

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The Journey to Food & Freedom, Custard Factory Exhibition.

The Zero Hunger with Langar project held an exhibition this week in Birmingham’s Custard Factory, letting people know that gestures like the above have contributed to us serving over 1.2million meals in Malawi so far, as well as purchasing a farm there to ensure the langar will be sustainable. The meals are served in schools, helping children stay in school rather than being forced out to work to earn money to eat, ensuring a brighter future for all.

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But we need more, because they need more. Find out how you can help by clicking here.

SFUK Logo

Sikh group accuse UK government report of discrimination

SFUK state the Prime Minister “gave the green light to discriminate against the Sikh minority community”.


The Sikh Federation UK, a faith based political lobbying group, have accused a recent UK government race disparity audit report of neglecting Sikhs, “despite protection under race laws”.

The audit, a report aimed at exposing inequalities in areas such as policing, housing, education and health, was released two days ago and immediately drew criticism from Sikhs, including Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur who questioned the issue in parliament.

SFUK are an organisation that have long lobbied for separate Sikh government classification. The group cite the fact it was established in the 5:0 ruling in the House of Lords in the Mandla v Dowell-Lee case in 1983 that Sikhs were a legally recognised racial group with respect to ethnic origins. More than 15 years ago following the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) in July 2002 amended its guidance ‘CRE Ethnic Monitoring, A guide for public authorities’ to make specific reference to Sikhs due to the legal position.

Check out the full statement from SFUK here.

france turban ban

British Sikh student refused placement in France due to turban

A Sikh student of Kings College London (KCL) has had his degree put in jeopardy after a French school he was due to work in for an overseas placement refused his position.
On October 3rd M.Singh Pandhal was told that due to strict application of Laicité, the French secularist law, his role as a teaching assistant was rescinded. As a Sikh, M.Singh wears a dastar (Sikh turban). In order to complete a degree in French and Management, KCL students must spend one year studying abroad in a French speaking environment.

“I feel disappointed and frustrated with this situation. French authorities allowed me to settle here, knowing what I came for, without telling me anything until I walked into the school. When I came in the headmaster did not even greet me, he just began questioning me on my dastar. I was later told I would not be allowed to work in any public school in France.”

M.Singh is currently speaking with both the Sikh Federation UK, who have long lobbied the UK government to challenge the discriminatory European law also observed in countries such as Belgium and Turkey, along with the Representative Council of Sikhs of France (RCSF), in order to remedy the situation and allow the British student to complete his degree.

With his application to work abroad as part of his degree going through the British Council, it leaves questions as to how much responsibility the educational institution will take in ensuring all British students – including Sikhs – get a fair chance to use their services.

 

KCL released the following statement to the Sikh Press Association regarding the situation:

All King’s College London students studying or working abroad through our schemes are made aware of legislation in country and of local customs which may affect them.

As an institution the safety and welfare of our 30,000 students and staff is paramount.  King’s is proud of its diverse and inclusive community, which comprises students and staff from more than 150 countries, from all backgrounds and faiths. We are committed to respect for all of our students and staff.

Our procedures are under regular scrutiny and a review of this case with the student involved is already underway.

Ranjit Singh, director of RCSF, who is taking up the issue with French authorities, stated, “Our goal is find an alternative solution with the French academy. We thank KCL for their support during this period. We are seeking support from any organisations that believe in freedom of religion.

“Sikhs once proudly wore their daastars, refusing helmets, to fight for the freedom of France in both World War One and World War Two. It is disappointing it is now seen as a barrier in working for the state, whereas once it symbolised protection of the state.”

Earlier this year, the French turban ban was criticised by newly elected Slough Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, a dastar wearing Sikh, in his maiden speech, calling it a “warped interpretation of secularism”.

For more information on this story or to arrange interview opportunities, please email Media@SikhPA.com.

Grooming headline - INdy

“Grooming gangs are more organised than the Govt understands” – SYUK

Following news of stats showing a 62% rise in cases of child sexual exploitation, social reform community group Sikh Youth UK released a statement on the issue.

The award winning Sikh ethos group regularly tackle cases of sexual grooming and feel the UK Government are unable to deal with the problem because of a lack of understanding about how the gangs operate. See below for the statement in full.

SYUK Statement – 09/10/17.

“The issue of grooming gangs in the UK is worse than even the recent statistics show. The fact is, these gangs are more organised and more strategic than it seems UK government authorities understand. In many situations they are simply able to work within the law, leading to a grey area which has allowed this most callous and seedy of practices to spiral out of control.

“This is why the problem is neglected and this is why we have hundreds of families turn to us to help tackle this issue. Many have seen first hand the devastating impact of a vulnerable young girl becoming the target of a grooming gang; whether it’s to brainwash them into going to join ISIS in Syria or simply coerced into a life of prostitution.

“Sikh Youth UK work with social workers and counsellors within the framework of a Sikh ethos support network to provide the help these girls need to escape the hellish clutches of a grooming gang. We will continue to do so and urge any victims or concerned families to come forward to us.”

LW17 - Saka Panja Sahib

When Sikhs sacrificed their lives for Langar – #LangarWeek

Langar as an institution is so important to Sikhs that they’ve sacrificed their lives in order to maintain it.  – an article by Shamsher Singh of NSYF.


 

On 31st October 1922 as ਸਾਕਾ ਪੰਜਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ (Saka Panja Sahib); ਸਾਕਾ (saka – historic event where rare courage and valour was displayed). This saka (demonstration) displayed the indomitable spirit of the Sikhs in a unique and explicitly Sikh way.

It personified and made tangible the sovereignty of mind and body that was bestowed upon the downtrodden people of Punjab when they became the Sikhs of the Guru; it displayed the transformation of an individual Sikh into a member of the Khalsa Panth and the price we will willingly pay for the love we bear for the Guru and his beloved Sikhs.

When the Sikhs that lived around Panja Sahib heard that the train carrying the prisoners from the morcha (protest) would be passing through the nearby town of Hassan Abdul, they gathered at the station in the early morning with langar. They were told by a colonial station officer that the train would not be stopping and that they were wasting their time. The gathered Sikhs asked the agent of the occupier if the train could be stopped briefly so that they could serve langar to the elders.

As all requests made to the oppressor, this one too fell on deaf ears. Bhai Karam Singh (in his late twenties) sat down on the tracks. It is recorded that Bhai Karam Singh said, “Guru Nanak stopped a boulder with one hand, there’s so many of us here today, we can easily stop the train“. Bhai Partaap Singh (aged 24) sat down next to him.

My parents told me that before long Sikhs were fighting to sit at the front near Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Partaap Singh. Mothers were sitting down with their children. As the train approached the Sikhs were shouting jaikareh.

Like all machinery of the oppressor, the Train only stopped when it couldn’t get through the mangled bodies of those that resisted.

The word ਲੰਗਰ (langar) has it’s origins in the Punjabi word for anchor. Shaheed Bhai Karam Singh and Shaheed Bhai Partaap Singh realised the significance of langar; it’s what rooted them to the ground in front of that train.

Whether it was in the 18th century when Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh gave langar to Sikh jujaroos and was scalped for it, or the 20th century when Sikh families in Punjab served langar to Khalistani freedom fighters only to become targets of state terror, langar has always gone hand in hand with Sikh revolution and Sikhs have willingly embraced it’s reality as active participants within the sangharsh (struggle for liberation).

Arjan Singh jab

Sikh fighter wins UFC debut & says “I want to bring awareness to what my people are about”

This weekend the first ever South-Asian to compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) won his debut fight and declared his determination to “educate people” on the Sikh faith.

Arjan Singh Bhullar took his MMA (mixed martial-arts) record to 7-0 following a three-round unanimous decision points win against Brazilian contender Luis Henrique at the UFC 215 event in Edmonton, Canada. In a post fight interview (shared below) the former Olympic level wrestler attributed his fighting prowess to his faith.

“The founders of our religion practiced wrestling. Those that know me know my blood burns hot. My lineage comes down from the Sikh warriors…this life (as a professional combat athlete) is a no-brainer for me.”

Arjan Singh also spoke of his desire to create more understanding about the Sikh identity, and plans to do so by wearing a turban during his ring entrances, something he has previously done.

“It (the turban) is symbolic of the Sikh people. You look at our defence minister (Harjit Singh Sajjan of Canada), he wears a turban, that’s what Sikhs are. I want to educate people and bring awareness to what my people are about.

“It is something I am prideful for. When I walked out to the Olympic games (representing Canada in 2012) I was front-row next to our flag bearer and I had my turban on and people around the world recognised, ‘that’s one of our people’.

“The founders of our religion do that (wear turbans) because as a people we standout, we are unique, and that’s something I want to empower people to be. Be unique, standout. You see a guy with a beard and a turban and you know he is a Sikh.”

Check out the full interview here.

NOTE – The term for the Sikh turban is Dastaar. Practicing Sikhs will not remove the Dastaar in public except in extreme circumstances.

Lord Singh

Lord Singh expands on concerns about “too much political correctness” regarding grooming gangs

Yesterday evening Lord Singh joined Sikh Youth UK on the Sikh Channel to follow up on his letter to The Times and discuss his belief about “a problem with the Pakistani Muslim community”.

Calling in to the weekly Sikh Youth Show, crossbench peer Lord Singh of Wimbledon spoke with sevadaars (selfless volunteers) of SYUK, along with Sikh Channel TV presenter and Sikh community figure Kam Singh, relaying his belief that Sarah Champion was sacked by the Labour Party for “simply speaking the truth” and “daring to speak up for victims”.

On the show, available to view via the link below, Lord Singh stated on the issue of grooming gangs in the UK,  “If we don’t look at what is happening we will never get anywhere. There is a problem with the Pakistani Muslim community. That is not to say that all Muslims are guilty, that is absolutely wrong. It is a small proportion of Muslims that behave in that way. But if anyone says it they are immediately branded a racist”.

Lord Singh was also damning of the Sikh community regarding perceived hesitations against speaking out about grooming gangs.

“Within our own Sikh community people play to political correctness or political affiliation before they dare say anything. We are Sikhs; we should be honest and speak for truth and justice. I speak up for all sorts of communities because human rights should be respected. It is obligatory for Sikhs not to put their head in the sand.”

Check out the full show here – https://youtu.be/lCoxy-pZFAQ (Lord Singh interview starts from 8.30 minutes in).

Lord Singh

Lord Singh speaks out against grooming gang roots cover-up

Letter from Network of Sikh Organisations slams Labour Party for  “the betrayal of victims, who are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness”.


Lord Singh of Wimbledon commended those “speaking up on a clear trend” of “the conviction of men of largely Pakistani Muslim heritage in sexual grooming cases” in a letter published in today’s Times.

The letter, which came via the Network of Sikh Organisations and was cosigned by six other religious groups, commended Sarah Champion and Amina Lone for highlighting the role of Pakistani Muslim men in cases of sexual grooming gangs, whilst also condemning the Labour Party, who sacked the two former members for speaking out.

Sikh organisations and individuals have openly claimed Sikh girls have been targeted because of their faith for decades, something addressed in the letter, with Lord Singh declaring “For decades, Hindu, Sikh, and Christian organisations have raised concerns about grooming gangs. The latter have plagued our communities, so much so that a BBC documentary on the targeting of Sikhs was aired a few years ago”. This is an issue that organisations like Sikh Youth UKSikh Helpline and Sikh Awareness Society (who cosigned the letter) still tackle to this day.

In the letter crossbench peer Lord Singh goes on to call Labour leadership “weak”, declaring “It’s not racist or Islamophobic to raise a matter of significant public concern” and that “we cannot ignore the race of the perpetrators, but neither can we ignore the fact that victims of sexual grooming gangs are almost always non-Muslim”.

The statement was welcomed by many within the Sikh community, much of whom feel tackling sexual grooming gangs is one of the most important issues of the public in the UK.

For more information or quotes from Sikh organisations named in this article, email Media@SikhPA.com.

Letter in full

Sir, 

We commend Sarah Champion and the Muslim councillor Amina Lone for speaking up on a clear trend in criminality: the conviction of men of largely Pakistani Muslim heritage in sexual grooming cases. Despite being sacked from the shadow cabinet, Champion continues to make a courageous stand (‘Left turns a blind eye to sex crimes, says MP’, Sep 2, ands ‘I’d rather be called a racist than turn a blind eye to child abuse’, Saturday interview). Rochdale, Rotherham, and recently Newcastle are examples of a significant number of convictions, highlighting an obvious pattern. However, it’s not just white girls who fall victim. For decades, Hindu, Sikh, and Christian organisations have raised concerns about grooming gangs. The latter have plagued our communities, so much so that a BBC documentary on the targeting of Sikhs was aired a few years ago. The common denominator is that victims almost always tend to be non-Muslim girls. We are dismayed by the Labour leadership’s weak response. We are not willing to see the betrayal of victims, who are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. It’s not racist or Islamophobic to raise a matter of significant public concern. Smearing those speaking an inconvenient truth is unacceptable. Champion is undoubtedly right that we cannot ignore the race of the perpetrators, but neither can we ignore the fact that victims of sexual grooming gangs are almost always non-Muslim.

LORD SINGH OF WIMBLEDON, Network of Sikh Organisations; MOHAN SINGH, Sikh Awareness Society; WILSON CHOWDHRY, British Pakistani Christian Association; SATISH SHARMA, National Council of Hindu Temples; ANIL BHANOT, Hindu Council UK; TRUPTI PATEL, Hindu Forum of Britain; ASHISH JOSHI, Sikh Media Monitoring Group.