Sikh policeman wins turban case

A US judge has ruled a Sikh traffic policeman, who was forced to leave his job because he insisted on wearing a turban, should be reinstated.

Sikhism’s Five Ks

Wearing a turban is one of five symbols that define Sikhs, said Amandeep Singh Sidhu, regional director of the New York City-based Sikh Coalition and a student at the University of Richmond’s T.C. Williams Law School. They are:

Kesh – uncut hair covered by a turban

Kirpan – a small sword raised only in defense

Kara – a metal bracelet that is a reminder of the Sikh’s responsibility to faith

Kanga – a comb that serves as a reminder to always be neat

Kaccha – special underwear that is a reminder of a Sikh’s responsibility to family

Jasjit Singh Jaggi had accused the New York Police Department (NYPD) of religious discrimination.

He said he was forced to resign because he refused to remove his turban or shave off his beard.

Judge Donna Merris found that Mr Jaggi had been “discriminated against based on his religious beliefs”.

In a preliminary ruling, the judge said he should be reinstated and allowed to wear a turban and grow his beard.


Mr Jaggi said he was looking forward to returning to his old job and described the judge’s decision as a “victory for Sikhs”.

“It is our identity to have a turban and a beard,” the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

White turban

Mr Jaggi made a complaint to the New York Human Rights Commission in July 2002 after he was told by the NYPD that he would have to remove his turban and trim his beard or face dismissal.

He offered to wear a white turban with a police badge on it, but this was rejected.

Reacting to the ruling, the NYPD said it hoped to convince the commission that every traffic officer should wear an eight-point hat.

It had argued that wearing religious headgear could hamper traffic officers’ work.

“He would not be recognised as a traffic agent and he could not put on a gas mask in an emergency,” it said.

The commission has not said when it will issue a final ruling on the case.

Sikh policemen in other countries – such as Canada and Britain – are allowed to wear traditional beards and turbans while on duty.

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Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
BBC, UK
Apr. 30, 2004
news.bbc.co.uk

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