Sikh ‘kadas’ are okay, even Monty wears one, British court told

June 18th, 2008 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown

London, June 18 (IANS) The ‘kada’ is not a piece of jewellery - it is an important religious symbol worn by Sikhs, including the England cricketer Monty Panesar, a British judge was told. The High Court judge in London was told Monday that the ‘kada’ holds the same religious significance for a Sikh teenager, who has been excluded from her school for wearing it, as it does for the famous England spinner.

The argument was made by the lawyer acting for Sarika Watkins-Singh, a 14-year-old girl, who has been excluded from her school in the province of Wales for wearing a ‘kada’.

The action by the school, which forbids all forms of jewellery, has forced Sarika to temporarily move to another school nearby.

At the hearing, Sarika’s counsel Helen Mountfield showed judge Stephen Silber a photograph of Panesar wearing the ‘kada’ to illustrate her point about its importance for Sikhs.

Panesar is probably Britain’s best-known Sikh and a much-loved sporting hero who also wears a modified turban while playing.

In response, Silber said he would like to see an actual ‘kada’ during the three-day hearing.

Judge Silber last year granted schools the right to ban Muslim girls from wearing the full-face veil during lessons, dismissing a schoolgirl’s claim that the move violated her human rights.

Sarika claims that she was the victim of unlawful discrimination when she was excluded from Aberdare Girls’ School last November after refusing to remove her ‘kada’.

The legal action is being supported by Liberty, a British human rights group, which says Aberdare Girls’ School is in breach of race, equality and human rights laws.

Mountfield said Sarika was taught separately for some months - “in educational and social segregation during school hours” - before being excluded for a day, then for five days and finally indefinitely.

“At the heart of the case is a vital question about the extent of the protection to be afforded to the rights to cultural expression of members of minority ethnic or religious groups in the school setting and possibly beyond,” she said.

Mountfield also referred to a House of Lords decision 25 years ago that found that a Sikh boy was subjected to indirect race discrimination in being told he could only attend a school if he cut his hair and stopped wearing a turban.

Sarika’s case hit the national headlines in Britain last week when her family travelled to 10 Downing Street to hand in a petition, calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to intervene in the matter “to show discrimination is totally unacceptable”.

Her cause is supported by 150 gurdwaras, more than 200 Sikh organisations, more than 100 MPs and thousands of ordinary Sikhs.

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