Conspicuous Signs of Religion

PC Gurmeal Singh, a Sikh Greater Manchester policemen, has been awarded £10,000 compensation by an industrial tribunal for being required to remove his turban while on a riot training course. The tribunal found the police force guilty of indirect racial and religious discrimination and harassment when a trainer said “Can you not take that thing off… this is what you signed up for,” The Guardian reported.

(www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/oct/02/sikh-police-turban-tribunal)

In the UK, the law permits Sikhs to wear turbans on motorbikes and they are excused from standard police helmets. In France the situation is very different. In 2004 France prohibited the wearing of conspicuous signs of religion at school and children are not allowed to wear them. Sikhs must also remove their turbans for passport photos. In Belgium schools have banned the Muslim headscarf and Sikhs are worried the rule will apply to them.

The universal declaration of human rights states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” (Article 18)

European countries apply this right in quite different ways when it comes to conspicuous signs of religion.

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