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Press Release: Friday, 6th May 2005, (Vaisakh 23, 537 NANAKSHAHI)
UNITED SIKHS Legal Director Harpreet Singh was invited to attend meetings with the following organizations:
1. US Commission on Religious Freedom
2. Helsinki Commission, an organisation that monitors human rights, security and economic issues in Europe
3. The Heritage Foundation, Washington-based leading conservative think- tank
4. U.S. Congressional Working Group Meeting on Religious Freedom
In meetings with the above organizations, Harpreet Singh presented the current situation of the Sikhs in France. The organizations were made aware of the regrettable decision of the French courts in supporting the ban of Sikh students from wearing their turbans while attending French schools. Singh also apprised the organizations of the case of Shingara Singh, who has been banned from obtaining a French driver's license because of his insistence of wearing a turban in a driver's license photo. The turban is a required article of faith for practicing Sikhs. In the same vein, Singh also presented the situation of Ripudaman Singh, who is fighting to wear his Kirpan without sanction in Denmark.
Lastly, the incident relating to Mejindarpal Kaur, Director of UNITED SIKHS, was detailed to the various representatives of the organizations. Kaur, while on a trip to Belgium, was detained by police for wearing the Kirpan, a required article of faith for practicing Sikhs. Kaur was informed that a swiss knife was allowed in a public place but not the Kirpan. After an extensive discussion with the Belgian authorities, Kaur was released without charges but her Kirpan was confiscated. This incident points to the disturbing trend in Europe towards restrictions on religious freedom. The attending organizations were consulted on the steps that UNITED SIKHS could take regarding these issues.
During these meetings, representatives of Voices For Freedom and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), a panjab-based Sikh political party, were also represented.
April 28, 2005 - Meeting With the Director of the Smithsonian Museum.
Harpreet Singh met with Dr. Paul Taylor, the curator of the Sikh exhibition in the Smithsonian museum and expressed his deepest respect and sincere appreciation for Sikh exhibits displayed at the most prestigious museum in the United States of America. Singh thanked Dr. Taylor for showing Sikhism in its true form for the world to see and be educated by. The exhibition has done much to dispel ignorance towards Sikhism and has enlightened many people with the basic understanding of the Sikh culture and religion.
April 13, 2005 - Meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice
Harpreet Singh was also invited to meet with the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the issues facing the Sikh community in the U.S. Singh was invited to discuss various issues of the Sikh community at the Muslim-Arab-Sikh Department of Justice Meeting. The U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a special visit to the meeting and displayed a genuine interest in the concerns of the Sikh community. In addition, he looked forward to working with UNITED SIKHS and other Sikh organizations on future Sikh community endeavours. Other government agencies in attendance were the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Department of Homeland (DOH), and Department of Transportation (DOT).
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UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.
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Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
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