Letter regarding 5ks

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Sikhs and their “Articles of faith”

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The Sikhs and the Brits have a long history together and since 1849 their history is joined as part of the British Raj. During the two World Wars, many hundreds of thousands of Sikhs voluntarily and willingly fought with the Allies against the Nazis and the Japanese - who were common enemies of freedom, democracy and free religious expression. Sadly many thousands of these brave Sikh died on European and Allied territorial soil with their allied partners.

During these periods of confrontation, the Sikhs were encouraged to practise their faith and freely wear their five articles of faith – also called the 5 K’s. These are:

  • Kesh: uncut hair
  • Kanga: wooden comb
  • Kara: steel bracelet or bangle
  • Kachhera: a cotton underwear
  • Kirpan: a small sword

Since 1699, all practising Sikhs must wear these 5K’s as ordained by their tenth and final spiritual master, Guru Gobind Singh. The wearing of the 5Ks is not optional but mandatory for a practising Sikh – So the non-informed readers needs to address this question in that context!

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The Sikhs and the Brits have a long history together. Since 1849 their history is joined as part of the British Raj.

During the World Wars, many hundreds of thousands of Sikhs voluntarily and willingly fought with the Allies against the Nazis and the Japanese – these were common enemies of freedom, democracy and free religious expression. The Sikhs fought wearing the turban instead of a steel helmet. Many thousands of these brave Sikh died on European and Allied territorial soil with their allied comrades.

During these periods of confrontation, the Sikhs were encouraged to practise their faith and freely wear the five articles of faith – also called the 5K’s. During these times of need, there was no restriction on the Sikhs from wearing these symbols!

These symbols are:

  • Kesh: uncut hair – Turban is worn by men to cover the kesh
  • Kanga: wooden comb
  • Kara: steel bracelet or bangle
  • Kachhera: cotton underwear
  • Kirpan: a small sword

Since 1699, practising Sikhs MUST wear the 5K’s as ordained by their tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh. The wearing of the 5Ks is not optional but a necessity for a practising Sikh. One cannot be a proper Sikh without wearing the 5Ks!

In other faiths, the wearing of their symbols is not a requirement; it is an option.

I kindly ask everyone to only make a comment on this matter armed with the facts and with the proper knowledge of past history!

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The Sikhs and the Brits have a long history together and since about 1849 their history is joined as part of the British Raj. During the first and second World Wars, many hundreds of thousands of Sikhs voluntarily and willingly fought with the Allies against the Nazis and the Japanese - enemies of the west. Sadly many thousands of these brave Sikh soldiers died on European and allied territorial soil with their allied partners.

During these periods of confrontation, the Sikhs were allowed and encouraged to practise their faith and wear their five articles of faith – also called the 5 K’s. These are:

  • Kesh: (uncut hair) A Sikh is to maintain and adorn this natural God-given gift.
  • Kanga: (wooden comb) for the maintenance and ongoing upkeep of Kesh.
  • Kara: (steel bracelet or bangle): Symbolises an unbreakable bond with God. It is a constant reminder that the Sikh is a slave of the Lord.
  • Kachhera: (cotton underwear) Standard, dignified attire reflective of modesty and control.
  • Kirpan: (a small sword) A sign that a Sikh is a soldier of God.

Since 1699, all practising Sikhs must wear these 5K’s as ordained by their tenth and final spiritual master, Guru Gobind Singh.

Sikhs under British (1849-1947) Having witnessed the bravery of the Sikhs during the Anglo Sikh wars, the British recruitment many thousands of the Sikhs into their armed forces. Sikh valour while defending "Saragarhi" in Afghanistan on 12th September 1897 is well known to the British Parliament, which gave a standing ovation when the unprecedented bravery of all the 22 heroes was narrated to them. During the First World War while fighting in the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey on 3rd and 4th June 1915, the 14th Sikh Regiment lost 371 brave officers and soldiers. Not an inch of ground was given up and not a single straggler returned from the battlefield. The ends of the enemy’s trenches were found blocked with the bodies of Sikhs and of the enemy who died fighting at close quarters. This was the high spirit and the iron determination of the turbaned Sikh soldiers. During the First and Second World Wars, 83,055 turban wearing Sikh soldiers laid down their lives and 109,045 were wounded when fighting under the command of Allied Forces. For reference one may read "British Empire, 1914/1920 War", page 237 and "Casualties in the Second World War 1939-45", published in 1951. Sikh soldiers also died while defending the British ruled territories – Burma, Singapore and Papua New Guinea, etc. At no time during the World Wars were the Sikhs required or forced to wear the helmet instead of the turban. The Allied forces recognised the fact that the Sikhs were duty-bound by their faith to wear these symbols of their faith and Sikh solders were freely allowed to wear their 5Ks.

Modern history and the 5Ks (1948 to present)

In modern times, the Sikhs, especially those outside India, have struggled to retain their right to wear the turban and their other articles of faith. The following are important landmarks in this struggle:

Sikhs who wear Turbans need not wear crash helmets when they ride Motor Cycles or Scooters. They have been allowed to wear turban as their only headgear. In accordance with the Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976 passed by the British Parliament in 1976, Section 2A "exempts any follower of the Sikh religion while he is wearing a turban" from having to wear a crash helmet.

In 1982, the headmaster of a private school in UK refused to admit an orthodox Sikh as a pupil, unless he removed the turban and cut his hair. This led to the long legal battle, Mandla v. Dowell Lee where the Law Lords rule in favour of Mr Mandla and against the school that refused to admit him.

Section 11 of the Employment Act 1989 exempts turban-wearing Sikhs from any requirements to wear safety helmets on a construction site. Where a turban-wearing Sikh is injured on a construction site liability for injuries is restricted to the injuries that would have been sustained if the Sikh had been wearing a safety helmet.

In 2002, Jasjit Singh Jaggi, a Sikh traffic policeman employed with the New York Police Department (NYPD), was forced to leave his job because he insisted on wearing a turban on duty. He petitioned with the New York Human Rights Commission in July 2002, and in 2004, a US judge ruled that he should be reinstated.

“Sikhs fought bravely for the British, wearing their turbans instead of steel helmets, for centuries. If they now wish to wear their traditional attire in civilian life, we should not hinder them”, said Anup Singh, head of a Sikh charity group.

Hari Singhtalk 14:08, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

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