So the latest news is this big barney about the Sikh reserve garda who wants to wear his turban, only to find that the Boys in Blue aren’t having it. Incredibly, the claim from the guards is that the turban isn’t allowable under the National Action Plan Against Racism.
My view on this is very simple. I think this fellow should be allowed to wear his turban. While there are Sikhs who wear turbans as a cultural symbol, my understanding is that the man in question is a baptised Sikh, which makes the uncut hair and turban a very big deal in religious terms. Now, almost everywhere you go in the world where there is a Sikh community, there are Sikh cops. You see them in India and Pakistan, of course. You see them in London. You see loads of them in Vancouver. Yet the gardaí, it seems, are the only police force in the world that can’t accommodate a turban-wearing Sikh.
There are some objections that could be made, that I don’t think hold much water. One is that we should support secularism – well, the 1937 Constitution does separate church and state, but it doesn’t enshrine the sort of hardcore secularism they go in for in France. In any case, if there are religious pressures on the Irish state, they don’t come from the 1500-strong Sikh community. Then again, this is an area where enforced uniformity doesn’t help minorities – Sikhs, Muslims and Orthodox Jews may have religious dress codes, but Catholics don’t. Not unless they’re clergy, and even then it’s sometimes hard to tell these days.
It’s a bit of a test for modern anti-racist Ireland, not to mention a bit of a test for the guards. I mean, the cops have been trying to build bridges with the Sikh community for a while now. They can’t very well square their community relations programme with not cutting Garda Singh a bit of slack.
More on this from Wednesday.
Rud eile: Liam has an entertaining account of Swiss Toni’s address to the broad masses last week.