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Turban issue in Belgium


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    Submitted by: A Kaur

    Guru Nanak Sikh Society

    It is indeed very surprising to see that in an advanced and modern country like Belgium, students are denied proper education because of their cultural and religious background. In Belgium, Sikh community has been facing discrimination because of their identity (Sikhs are easily recognizable by their colorful Turbans).

    It was in 2001 when we first came to know about this problem. Simrant Singh was denied admission for first year of Middlebare School in Hasselt. Luckily, there is one Catholic school named Sint-Jozef institute Bokrijk Genk, which allows the students to get their education with the color of their culture.

    This year in 2005, two other Sikh students are also facing the same problem named Pawandeep Singh (15 yr) and Jaswant Singh (16 yr). Before this, Pawandeep Singh studied for two years as vocational student and this year suddenly without any notice he has been given a choice either to remove his turban or be expelled from the School Koninklijk Technisch Atheneum, Speelhoflaan 9 Sint-Truiden.

    It is quite noteworthy that most of the schools allow the students to come with turban unto the primary level. And same schools make problem from the middle standard. It makes no difference, whether it is a private school or state school. Both of them behave in the same way i.e. the dress code forbids head covering. We tried everywhere around Hasselt but got same answer. To maintain and keep their Sikh Identity, these students now have to go to Stedelijk institute voor technisch beroep Aarschot to continue their education. The distance between the school and residence is approx 50 km and moreover there is no direct transport. They have to change two trains or buses. This dress code (under which no turbans or Dastaars – small sportive head coverings usually worn by Sikhs during sporting are allowed) is also imposed on the players in the sports field. So Sikh children are deprived of all out door activities. Although Sikhs are citizens of this land, they are discriminated at every phase of life, schools, playground and work places.

    It is a serious problem for Sikhs. Sikhism is a practical religion with its own ideology including the doctrine " Do not be afraid and nor do frighten others". A Sikh is known with his turban. A turban is tied to protect and cover unshorn hairs which are one of the most important part of Sikh faith. Unshorn hair are the seal of Sikh Gurus. To Sikhs, their turban is sacred. Turbans are the crown bestowed upon them by their Gurus and many have sacrificed their lives to protect its honor. For a Sikh, wearing a Turban is not an optional but mandatory requirement of the Sikh faith

    It is an important question for Sikhs how to save their identity. We could not understand the compulsion of not to cover the head in school or on other places OR how wearing a turban could be harmful to others? It's an irony that Sikhs were allowed to fight for Belgium during 1st World War (for eg in Ieper/Ypres - with their Turbans but now suddenly some people in Belgium have realized that turbans are not Ok. In this 21st century, people have such narrow mindedness; it indicates that we still did not understand the real meaning of education. A well educated person lives together peacefully in the society, respecting the values of all cultures. It is an urgent need of the time to protect cultural and religious values of every nation.

    If we fail to understand each other, then there would be no difference between an animal and human. The Whole Sikh community of the world appeals to other communities to go hand in hand to build a healthy society by solving the problems in a proper way, so that everybody could enjoy the life with his own meaningful culture and live in peace together.

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