A 22-year-old turbaned Sikh law student, Amrik Singh from Nottingham Trent University, was told that Rush, a bar in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK, had a “no headwear” policy. Initially, he was allowed in but was approached later and told that he had to remove his turban.
“I explained that a turban isn’t just headgear, but part of my religion and that I was allowed to wear a turban in public,” he said. The bouncer ignored this and said he needed to take it off. “I refused and was subsequently dragged away from my friends.”
Mr. Singh said he was eventually allowed back in but was warned that in future he would be barred.
“This experience ruined my night. It broke my heart.” he added, “I’m very fortunate that I’m well-spoken and I am able to stand up for myself. What if it was someone who wasn’t confident was told to leave? I am disgusted.”
Such objections to religious headgear stem from a lack of understanding and inclusivity, of another person’s religious belief. Although the bar has apologized and confirmed that the staff member had been suspended, the problem is far from over.
In Europe, there has been an upward trend of limiting women wearing headscarves and Muslim veils, such as the burqa and niqab. In fact, several countries like France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Turkey, Switzerland, and Congo-Brazzaville have imposed a complete or conditional ban on women from wearing headscarves (full face veil) in public or private places.
In fact, the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron had said in January 2016 that he would back institutions with “sensible rules” over Muslims wearing full-face veils but ruled out a full public ban. “In our country, people should be free to wear what they like,” Cameron said while adding that he would “..back the authorities or the institutions that have put in place proper and sensible rules.”
In December 2016, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel had said, “The full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible.”
Even the European Court of Justice ruled in March 2017 that employers can bar staff from wearing visible religious symbols.
The only inclusive action seems to have come from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), in May 2017, which allowed basketball players to wear head coverings – a result of years of campaigning by the athletes.
The legislation seems to be perplexing as they are being cited for security reasons but restrict the personal liberties and religious sentiments of the citizens. The freedom of practicing their faith and being able to be part of a secular community seems like a distant dream for the likes of Amrik unless the legislation and the society can find a way to accommodate all of their people equally.
Snigdha is a 'closet' writer with unapologetic opinions on life and people around her. She supports the cause of protecting endangered civil rights like free speech, equity, equality, and most importantly common sense.